Do groundcovers really stop weeds? I get asked this question very rarely, but it is the most important question when you begin to consider groundcovers in your garden.
Periwinkle makes a good shade groundcover.
The myth of the groundcovers stopping weeds.
The garden myth is that a groundcover stops weeds and eliminates the need for weeding. My sense of this is that it’s tremendous marketing.
In theory, this works by
- shading out seeds before they germinate
- outcompeting other plants for nutrients
The reality is somewhat different.
When groundcovers are young and newly established
My experience is when you first plant your groundcover you will have as many weeds germinate in that bed as you would any other bed. So you do have to go and weed out the grass, the dandelions, and any other common weed to your area.
How much weeding in a well-established groundcover bed?
The well-established groundcover bed will require fewer weeding hours than a garden with open spaces between the plants. And the main weeds you will find in this kind of bed are grasses.
This is because grass plants are the primary invaders of plant colonies to break them up and turn the ecology back to grassland. After the grasses are established, woody plants (shrubs and then trees) will appear to reestablish themselves in the plant cycle.
So, while there will be reduced weeding needed, you will have to go into the groundcover bed and pull the weeds out by hand.
As a helpful last note, I suggest you water this bed heavily before you pull weeds. This will make the weeds come out easier and helps prevent root disturbance on the groundcover plants.