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A few ground covers will grow in hard, dry, inhospitable soil, but most
of them want something better. Some can be found, in nature, in porous
sand, whilst others require rich soil. In between is a range of plants
which do fairly well in mediocre soil and which may spread fairly well
even when neglected. All of these different types will, however, do
better if planted in soil to which humus, in the form of compost, old
manure rotted down with litter, or leaf-mould, has been dug in.
Ground covers are planted to beautify the garden not for a season, but
for as long as you wish to have them, and spending time and money on
the thorough preparation of the soil before planting will ensure
healthy, luxurious growth and reduce time and money required for later
The roots of the plants go down into the soil in search of nourishment
so it is advisable to see that the humus is incorporated in the ground
where the roots will settle that is 10 to 30 cm below the surface.
Prepare the entire area rather than dig holes for individual plants.
This will encourage the roots to spread rapidly and produce more
If the area to be planted is a large and steep slope it may be
necessary to take precautions to prevent erosion until the plants have
spread across it. First, where it is practical to do so, reduce the
angle of the slope, as a gentle slope looks better than a steep one. If
this cannot be done, make small ridges along the slope and set the plants
in rows just above the ridges, staggering the plants so that
those in one line are not immediately below those in the line above.
Should this not prove efficient enough to arrest erosion put a thin
layer of straw over the plants and cover the whole area with a light
plastic net for a couple of months during the season of heavy rains.
Ground covers which grow well create their own humus in time and so
continue to flourish, but, if the plants appear to be suffering from
malnutrition, sprinkle a little general garden fertiliser on the soil
between the plants and water it in. Poor growth and the yellowing of
the leaves of plants is usually an indication that the soil lacks some
element they need and calls for a pep-up in the form of fertiliser.
Those plants which like acid soil should, however, never be given a
general garden fertiliser, as their leaves tend to turn yellow because
the soil is not acid enough for them and the application of a general
garden fertiliser would make things worse.
Where the soil is even slightly alkaline it is inadvisable to plant
ground covers which like acid soil. There are many good ground covers
for soil which is not acid.
In some parts of the country the soil is strongly alkaline and this
makes it difficult to grow a wide variety of plants, as most of them
prefer a soil which is neutral or slightly acid. Filling beds with
leaf-mould and compost will make it possible to grow a range of plants,
but in time the alkaline water is likely to build up adverse
Inexpensive soil-testing kits are available and in regions
of alkaline soil it is wise to have one of these. Should a test reveal
that the soil is becoming too alkaline apply a light application (as
lightly as one would apply salt to food) of aluminium sulphate and/or
sulphur. Both may be used. Aluminium sulphate acts more quickly than
sulphur but the sulphur is longer-lasting in its effect. Always water
the ground thoroughly after applying them to produce a more speedy