Full Sun front yard slope corner property with chain link fence surrounding – mulch & plants or ground cover? and best course of a
ction? I am first time homeowner and this year will be my second spring in the house. I am trying to plan the best course of action to replace the grass on the steep slope in my front yard with just about anything else. I am also a single female with limited funds so I need to determine the course of action that is simultaneously the cheapest and least amount of back-breaking to achieve my goal. That goal is essentially to never EVER have to use a lawn mower on that slope again, because it's murder, esp with the fence! I honestly don't care what goes there as long as it's low-no maintenance and the cheapest, easiest option. Last summer, I laid down sheets of black plastic to kill the grass, which, over the past year, has tattered in places where the grass is dead but weeds have started to spring up, even in winter, and I am anxious to get to business before they take over! The Landscape: Zone 7 (Philadelphia = both temp extremes in small doses, and lots of precipitation with some periods of drought in summer) Good drainage (too good, see erosion issues) Full sun exposure Fair amount of wind (Corner house) 750 sq ft total = 70+ft long and the slope is about 10ft high, give or take Yard is surrounded by a chain link fence, on the other side of which is concrete sidewalk On the front side, the slope comes down to a flat area before the fence On the side, the slope comes down directly to the base of the fence On that side area, erosion over the years has brought the lowest point of the soil/grass as much as 4-6 inches high against the base of the chain link. On the front side, I'd say it was no higher than 2-4 inches against the base of the fence First things first: I want to put edging there at the base of the fence because it's weed heaven, a nightmare to weedwhack, and last fall I made the mistake of allowing a rogue outbreak of morning glory vines to grow up the side fence (because, so pretty in summer right?), not realizing I had the brutal task of untangling a bunch of dead ugly intricately woven brown vines from chain link awaiting me come fall. BUT your average 5-6 inch tall edging isn't going to cut it. Which is why I'm thinking I want something like this 10 inch dig-in grass barrier: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B075NKYTV5/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=A39Q6Z6VPOQDNR&psc=1 Maybe instead/in addition, pouring salted vinegar along the edge so nothing grows there anymore? So far my plan of action entails: 1. buying a small electric trencher/edger and loosening the soil at the base of the fence (or maybe easier to do by hand, considering slope/fence situation? never used an electric trencher/edger) 2. digging up and relocating the soil at the edge of the fence onto the flat area on the front side of the yard - only enough that I can get that grass barrier in there about 5inches, leaving another 5 inches as a barrier against the base of the fence 3. Dig up the weeds that have sprouted through the tattered bits of black plastic sheets. 4. Remove the plastic sheets (no more trash bag lawn!) 5. ? At that point, the question becomes Mulch & Plants/Shrubs OR Full Ground Cover. Questions I'm asking: 1. Mulch: Taking 10-15 ft sections at a time (I'm only one person) should I leave the dead grass in place to prevent further erosion and simply cover slope with mulch? - Bark mulch or ground mulch, which is less likely to blow away and roll downhill? - How can I keep the mulch in place? Netting or fabric? I feel like netting will be cheaper, but maybe jute or straw/coconut fiber blankets will be more effective - What should I plant on the slope at that point, if anything at all? I'm very new to gardening and while I love pretty plants and would like it to look nice, I don't like any plant enough that I would take time to regularly tend it on an annoying slope. Pruning once-twice a year, sure. Anything more than that, ehh... 2. Ground Cover **this is what I'm leaning toward because mulch seems like it would be a lot of upkeep, plus it's expensive, heavy, and I've heard it can attract bugs, like termites and such, so if I go with ground cover, do I: - Plant by seed? Do I just dump a crap ton of seeds? Do I break up the dead grass with a bow rake just enough to "aerate" it, and then use a broadcast spreader to seed-bomb that area and pray to the landscaping gods that it takes hold before weeds do? Do I remove dead grass altogether? I understand that would be a bad idea on a slope since it's currently all that's standing between my yard and mudslide chaos after a heavy period of rain (and we get quite a few of those in spring)? Plus it might dig up weed seeds and such? OR - Cover slope with jute blanket (or not?), cut/dig/till & compost holes in evenly spaced intervals, and put in plant plugs? But that many plugs would be expensive too. Maybe I could start growing them in containers by seed first? If so, what's the hardiest ground cover that meets the conditions of the area, e.g. fast-spreading low-growing weed-choking full sun loving slope friendly zone 7 able to withstand extreme cold and extreme heat in small doses bonus points for not looking sad and dead in winter I've tried to be as detailed as possible, so please forgive the long essay, but I've scoured the internet for information and nothing I've come up with seems to be a silver bullet method specifically for my conditions. And I'm sure there are other factors I haven't even considered. Any help would be much appreciated!! Also, the attached photos are stolen screenshots from Google Maps dated from 2014 - the fence has since been fixed and repainted, and all those sidewalk weeds and gutter trash have been removed, so please don't think I'm that negligent!
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
I believe hillside ground cover will be your best option here. There are many ways to go about this. I will include a few articles to help: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/slope-hill/hill-ground-cover.htm
Have you done a google image search for erosion control. There are several products out there. The cheapest is at your big box store but it may not hold up. The DuPont GroundGrid would work. All these things add to the cost. You don't need to till if the grass is completely dead. It should rake right up. However, any dormant grass and weed seeds will pop up in its place. Consider creeping thyme, Thymus vulgaris. It is easy to grow from seed but takes 2-4 weeks for the seed to sprout. I would start it inside if you are going that route and plant the plugs every 24 inches. 2 inches of wood mulch in between, but not touching, plant stems. Boston ivy is an option. Avoid English ivy; it is invasive. There is mondo grass, liriope, Ajuga, Antennaria, Arabis, creeping phlox, catmint, sedum or just sow clover seeds. (You neighbors may not like the last suggestion.) There is also a no-mow product called Eco-Grass or something like that. Don't do any digging; it isn't necessary except for individual holes where you put plants. Start with the front and pay a teenager to mow while you are working on your solution.
Thank you for your answer Michigan Dot. First, like I said, the photos are from google maps 4 years ago and the fence has since been fixed and repainted. Please see the end of the post I wrote. The fence is fine. And a retaining wall will cost over a thousand minimum, and I haven't got that, it's simply not an option right now. Budget and ease are the top priorities, as I said.
Also, I am not worried about anything taking over the rest of my lawn, if I didn't have to mow at all, life would only be the better for it. So that's not a problem for me.
As I said, I already laid the plastic down last summer, the grass is already dead, and all I need to know is how to establish the groundcover on a slope. Compost or any other soil and tilling will only, I fear, run down hill after a good rain, which we get a lot of in Philly in summer.
No matter what you do, the fence along the sidewalk has to go. It is falling down anyway and you won't have the maneuverabiliby for any of the options you mentioned. Any ground cover that grows fast and chokes out all weeds will not politely stop when it hits the grass you want to keep. Vinca works but is horrible to remove if you change your mind. And to use plastic to solarize the lawn takes a full summer season. Salt and vinegar will not kill perennial weed roots. Your best option is to put in a retaining wall about 3 ft high. If it makes the stone on your house, all the better. You'll be left with a much gentler slope that I believe will be manageable. Get some quotes now before the spring/summer season heats up prices. Perhaps landscape crew can prepare the base and lay the first 2 layers. You can finish the rest on your own time. Killing grass without using glyphosate will be an exasperating experience. You can try 2 layers of clean cardboard, a layer of compost and topped with several inches of mulch. Sounds pricey and we haven't even gotten to buying plants. Total up all your groundcover-related costs and compare with retaining wall. In addition, you will have to weed the groundcover frequently while it gets established, the first 2-3 years. Here is a rundown on groundcovers for your zone 7. Also check your state's extension service for what works well in your area. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/gardening-by-zone/zone-7/zone-7-evergreen-groundcovers.htm
Thanks so much for your answer, I was definitely leaning toward ground cover, but my problem then is in 1. narrowing down which is the best ground cover for this location (there are so many options) and 2. the best way to establish this groundcover in my situation - i.e. dead grass on a slope - to till or not to till? disturb the grass a little or remove it altogether and risk a mudslide?