Strawberries, A Great Ground Cover
Strawberries, A Great Ground Cover
I have been experimenting with turning my back lawn into a perennial garden. Key to this is berries. I have blueberries, wild blackberries, wild black and domestic red raspberries, along with other edibles like rhubarb, asparagus, apples, hickory nuts, chives and grapes. One of the easiest and my favorites is strawberries. It makes a great ground cover.
I have been gradually expanding the space in my lawn and garden that I have in strawberries. This has been happening partially by accident, partially on purpose.
I planted the first strawberries about five years ago, along the edge of my fence. It isn't a great spot, because it is covered with thick grass, but I dug the holes and put the plants in just sort of hoping they would take. They sure did, growing right up through the grass and gradually spreading out and taking over. They are even beginning to creep into the mowed lawn. Anyplace I don't want them to spread, I just mow over them.
I planted them because I love berries, but as they spread out I started transplanting the runners into more and more places, around the house, under the grape vines, against the back fence, around the raspberry vines. Anywhere, really, that there was space going to waste.
Strawberries grow best in full sun, so I didn't expect a lot of these transplants to grow very well. but I was surprised. Only those put in the deepest shade have failed to thrive.
Most recently I had to dig a shallow trench around the house to control drainage off my neighbor's property. I didn't want the water coming right up next to the house before it ran off. I was considering what to put in the trench, I had figured to spread lawn grass seed, but I had a lot of strawberry runners that I needed to clear away from my sidewalk, so I cut them off and casually buried the roots shallowly in the bottom of the trench, about a foot apart.
They nearly all survived, with careful watering, and are starting to grow. I expect that next year they will fill the entire space. They may even produce some berries, though it will probably be two years before they make many.
I am completely happy with these strawberries as a ground cover. They are tough and seem to survive almost any poor conditions, they fill in bare spots quickly, and they are a pretty plant. Best, they make delicious berries. If they grow somewhere I don't want them, they are easy to pull up, but then I have to figure out somewhere to plant the ones I pull out. It seems such a waste to throw them away!
There is one thing to remember, though. Since these berries are planted right into the grass, and are spreading in the lawn, I can't use weed killers on the lawn. Strawberries are a broadleaf, and anything that will kill thistles or dandelions will kill strawberries too. That isn't a big problem for me, I rarely use weed killers, except by hand in a spray bottle, if something really noxious comes in. I killed some poison ivy last year that way. Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are fairly resistant to 2-4-D, the most common weed killer, so you can use it if you are careful, but directly on the plant will kill, and a near-miss will stunt the plant and that year's berries.
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