Garden Q&A: Try these native groundcovers that will keep the deer away
By Ellen Nibali
For The Baltimore Sun|
Apr 26, 2018 | 9:00 AM
What native groundcovers can you recommend for shade? I've removed all the English ivy and need something before erosion starts. I like evergreen ones, and I also have deer problems.
Many of the following are deer resistant, if not completely deer proof. Allegheny pachysandra, for example, is a four season actor in the garden with quirky spring flowers and attractive mottled leaves that deer don't touch. Other evergreen choices include Christmas ferns, wood ferns (semi-evergreen), moss, golden groundsel (yellow spring flowers about 1-inch tall). Deciduous groundcovers can prevent erosion, too, as their roots hold soil even after leaves fall. Proven choices include: Canadian ginger, phlox stolonifera (purple spring bloom), tiarella (white spring bloom), iris reticulata (purple spring flowers) and many ferns including hay-scented fern. Matching plants to soil types can be crucial for success. An excellent reference is the free online "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed." It has color photos and growth conditions (soil type, sun and moisture levels) in an easy chart format. Temporarily lay timbers or branches across a slope to slow down run-off during plant establishment. Then supplement rainfall religiously for at least two years to get plants established.
I just bought a 5-gallon ceramic pot with a hole in the bottom. My mom said to put some rocks in the bottom and fill with potting soil. This is going to sit on my deck. I saw an online video that showed filling a planter mostly with packing peanuts to make it less heavy. Is this OK or is there a better way to fill a big planter?
Rocks in the bottom can be problematic. The intention is to keep the drainage hole open but, as long as the pot is draining well, rocks are not necessary. Your pot is not huge. It should be filled with growing medium, unless you plan to plant very small plants with shallow root systems. Packing peanuts can be used in a huge planter, but we recommend keeping it to a minimum. Big plants need every bit of space and soil. Fill with 100 percent compost or soil-less mix, or a mixture. These are not as heavy as soil. Do not use soil out of the ground. Search "soil for containers" on the HGIC website for options.
University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click "Ask Maryland's Gardening Experts" to send questions and photos.