Some of you are beginning to think about repair to your fescue lawn, but that’s a job that should wait until about mid-February. That’s when people get busy with fertilizing and fixing bare spots worn down by feet or disturbed by a home-improvement project.
But now is an opportunity to get going on another aspect of lawn care: the selection and planting of permanent ground covers that will look good and solve problems.
Evergreen ground covers work especially well in areas where fescue grass struggles: slopes that tend to dry out quickly, the root zone of trees where grass doesn’t compete well for water and areas too shady for grass to prosper. Many choices exist in the marketplace.
Some, such as mondo grass, will create a smooth, low evergreen look with short, dark-green blades. Others, such as hardy ferns like the autumn fern, possess a dynamic look, with new fronds rising in spring and lasting through the winter. Others are the tassel and exquisitely beautiful Japanese painted fern. Even more, such as Lenten roses, produce beautiful long-lasting blooms starting in winter.
Those are certainly the leaders of the group. But they are not your only choices. A vigorous evergreen called ajuga makes a wonderful ground cover and bears pretty flowers in spring. It stays pretty flat and many choices in leaf color are in the marketplace. Some ajugas, such as an old favorite named Burgundy Glow with touches of purple, have interesting color combinations in their foliage. Chocolate chip has deep bronze-green leaves that at times look brown and are very different from other ajugas.
Another distinctive ground cover is creeping jenny, an evergreen that stays quite flat on the ground. The variety Aurea is a bright yellow-green. This is one of the ultimate low-maintenance plants. But will take space and grows vigorously into a mat. The light color looks especially good in shady areas because it stands out nicely, almost as a glow.
Nice winter weather is an invitation to get things planted, and ground covers are some the best choices for mid-winter work that will get you ahead when the spring rush starts in a few weeks.
Q. My African violets stopped blooming, and I don’t know why. What can I do to get them going again?
A. African violets will rest for a time after blooming, but they require fertilizer to encourage fresh bloom. Get a liquid fertilizer formulated for African violets and apply it at the timing and strength recommended on the label. I have had no luck in getting African violets to re-bloom without the help of this fertilizer.