The Q&A Archives: Groundcover for Sandy Soil in Full Sun

Question: I have a long, narrow strip of sunny, sandy, weedy lawn that runs between the sidewalk and the street. It runs north/south and bakes all afternoon without a speck of shade. Now it is invaded by creeping veronica (I believe) which is pretty in bloom, but turns brown most of the summer. I would love to grow dichondra, but fear I am too far north. Would it be worth a try anyway? If not, what about crownvetch? How does it take to traffic? I understand it grows to 20 inches high; could I mow it without sacrificing the flowers? Would the flowers be likely invade the front lawn on the other side of the sidewalk, which is relatively weed-free? I'm also considering various herbs, including thyme, chamomile (is it German c. that is a perennial groundcover?) or mint. If I kept mint low, would it fill in like a groundcover?

Answer: I think dichondra would be a waste of time and effort so far north. Crownvetch will withstand traffic but has a somewhat rank growth habit and would look out of place in a residential area. (And yes, it can self seed and be a problem.) If your soil is sandy and well drained, a creeping thyme such as Thymus serpyllum would be a definite possibility, as would the Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Mint on the other hand would not. Mint requires adequate moisture and in fact appreciates a bit of shade.

No matter which plant you settle on, it will have a better chance of success if you work in a generous amount of organic matter when you prepare the soil for planting. You might also consider running a soil test to check both fertility and the pH since some of the herbs, including thyme, prefer a neutral to alkaline soil.

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