Best Stepable Plants: Learn About Plants That Can Be Walked On
By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What are walkable plants? They’re exactly what you think – plants that can safely be walked on. Walkable plants are often used as lawn replacements because they are tough, drought-tolerant, and require very little maintenance. Keep in mind, however, that these plants to step on may not be as durable as traditional lawn, and many won’t hold up to heavy foot traffic.
Using Stepable Plants in Gardens
Some types of walkable plants are deciduous and die down in the winter, but many evergreen varieties are attractive year round. Walkable plants work well along a pathway or bordering a flower bed and many work well in stubborn spots where grass won’t take hold, such as a dry spot under a tree or shrub.
Most of the best stepable plants require absolutely no care once the plants are established, while others may need a trim once or twice a year. Keep in mind that many low-growing walkable plants can also be invasive.
Plants That Can Be Walked On
While there are a number of plants that can be walked on, below are some of the best stepable plants:
- Wooly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) is a type of ornamental thyme with fuzzy leaves and stems. This plant, which grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, withstands considerable foot traffic. One warning: wooly thyme sports tiny pink blooms that attracts bees. This may be a consideration if you have children, or if you enjoy barefoot strolls through the garden.
- Creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia) is one of the best stepable plants for zones 6 through 9. Creeping wire vine displays glossy green leaves. Although the tiny white flowers are insignificant, they are replaced in late summer with small white fruit.
- Blue star creeper (Isotoma fluviatus) is a hardy stepable plant that tolerates climates as far north as zone 5. This evergreen plant displays tiny blue flowers that last all summer. Blue star creeper isn’t the perfect solution for every situation because this rambunctious plant can be invasive.
- Veronica (Speedwell) “Waterperry blue,” suitable for zones 4 through 9, is a stepable plant with deep green leaves that take on copper and burgundy highlights when the temperature drops. The springtime blooms are bluish-lavender with white centers.
- Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), suitable for zones 6 through 9, is an aromatic, evergreen stepable plant with tiny lilac blooms that show up in summer. Corsican mint can be slightly invasive, but as a general rule, it tends to be better behaved than most of its mint-family cousins.
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12 Ground Cover Plants for Shade
Plants that perform well as ground covers in shady areas earn this reputation because they are extremely tenacious and able to thrive without much sunlight. But this virtue can lead to problems, since some shade-loving plants can overrun a landscape and may even escape a garden, naturalize, and threaten native plant species. Some plants, such as lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), have such a bad reputation that they don't even bear consideration. Lily-of-the-valley has overrun many abandoned homesteads in eastern North America, and many garden centers no longer even sell the plant.
Other plants, though, require some consideration. In this list of 12 common ground cover plants, the first five are well-behaved species that generally can be used without fear, but the remaining seven have a reputation for unruliness and invasiveness in some regions before using them, check with local experts to make sure they won't cause problems. Your local University Extension office is usually the best place for information.
Here are 12 common ground cover plants you should know about.
Part Shade Means Some Sun
A very common gardening error is to think that a plant that "tolerates" shade will grow in complete dense shade. This not true, as horticulturists define a "part shade" plant as one that requires 2 to 4 hours of sunlight each day. If you have a location with dense, full shade that gets no direct sunlight at all, make sure to choose plants rated for such locations—there aren't many of them, but several are described here. On the other hand, a ground cover with a reputation for invasiveness can sometimes be more easily controlled if you plant it in deep shade that is not its preferred environment.
The Garden.org Plants Database
Timer: 2.7 jiffies (0.026959896087646).
I just discovered the existence of this hybrid between two very similar genera of Gordonia X Franklinia of the Tea Family (Theaceae). My friend Christopher is selling several potted plants of this tree at his nursery near Downingtown, PA. Both parent species are native to the southeastern USA. The Loblolly or Red Bay of Gordonia lasianthus is the larger evergreen tree found in swampy soils in pinelands and bays along from southern MS to central FL up to southeast VA while the Franklin-Tree was found surviving in one spot in Georgia in the 18th century by Bartram.
This member of the Tea Family, along with Camellia, Franklin-Tree, and Stewartia, is an evergreen tree native to acid, swampy pinelands and bays along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico & the Atlantic from southern Mississippi to central Florida up to southeast Virginia. It has leathery, shiny, oblong simple leaves about 4 to 6 inches long x 1.5 to 2 inches wide with finely toothed margins, and the leaves turn red before falling. The long-stemmed waxy, white, fragrant flowers are 2 to 3 inches in diameter with 5 large petals with uneven edges. The dry fruit is a woody capsule about 0.8 inches long. The bark is reddish-brown with broken scaly ridges.
I bought this lily for the name. I live in Kentucky but glad I did. It grows closer to 5 ft for me. Love the freckles.
If you like doubles this is a good one to add. Very bright large showy blooms. Clumps at a good pace.
I bought A LITTLE PREGNANT for the name. One of my friends is a midwife. So far I have about 6 fans so I haven't divided it yet. Bright, colorful bloom, but it tends to be on the slow side for increasing.
This is a nice plant for the garden. So bright and multiplies very well. It draws attention to itself. I will always keep this one.
This one reblooms regularly in my zone 6 garden. So pretty in a clump
NIce bloom, similar to Beautiful Edgings but I like it better. A clump is so pretty
A great little mini daylily! Love the eyezone.
This plant has a uniquely colored bloom, grows well and polys.
Different Types of Mulch for Your Garden
There are two basic kinds of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include formerly living material such as chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, and even paper. Inorganic mulches include black plastic and geotextiles (landscape fabrics).
Both types of mulch discourage weeds, but organic mulches also improve the soil as they decompose. Inorganic mulches don't break down and enrich the soil, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're not a smart option for your garden. Case in point: Black plastic, a popular kind of inorganic mulch, warms the soil and radiates heat during the night, keeping heat-loving vegetables like eggplant and cherry tomatoes cozy and vigorous.
Here are the six most common types of mulch to choose between:
Wood Chips or Shredded Leaves
You can purchase bags of decorative wood chips or shredded bark from a local garden center to mulch your flower garden and shrub borders. For a less expensive option, call your local tree-care or utility company to see if they have any extra wood chips on hand. Or if you're really planning ahead, chip your Christmas tree instead of tossing it to the curb.
If you have trees on your property, shredding the fallen leaves creates a nutrient-rich mulch at no added cost. You don't need a special machine either: a lawn mower with a bagger will collect leaves and cut them into the perfect size for mulching.
Spread a wood chip or shredded leaf mulch anywhere on your property, but it looks best in flower beds, shrub borders, and garden pathways. Of course, it's right at home in a woodland or shade garden. Keep in mind that wood chips aren't a smart choice for vegetable and annual flower beds, since they'll get in the way as you dig the beds each year.
Grass clippings are another readily available mulch, although it's a good idea to save a portion of the clippings to use as a natural lawn fertilizer. When you have remaining grass clippings, use them as nitrogen-rich mulch in vegetable gardens.
Give your compost another purpose: If you have extra to spare, use it as mulch. It will enrich the soil and make plants happy, but keep in mind that when any kind of mulch is dry, it's not a hospitable place for plant roots. That means, you may want to reserve your compost to spread as a thin layer around plants and top it with another mulch, such as chopped leaves. This allows the compost to stay moist and biologically active, providing maximum benefit for your vegetables, fruits, or flowers.
Straw or Hay
If you're planting a vegetable garden, consider covering it with straw, salt hay, or weed-free hay. Not only does it look clean and crisp, but this type of mulch retains soil moisture, prevents weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil when it breaks down. Just make sure you opt for a weed and seed-free hay, and avoid piling it around stems of vegetable or fruit tree trunks to prevent slug and rodent damage.
Mulching a vegetable garden with sheets of black plastic film can do wonders. When it's spread tightly over a smooth soil surface, black plastic transmits the sun's heat to the soil beneath, creating a microclimate about three degrees warmer than an unmulched garden. Because the plastic film remains warm and dry, it protects the fruits of vining crops such as strawberries, melons, and cucumbers from rotting. And, of course, the mulch prevents weed growth and retains soil moisture.
Infrared transmitting (IRT) plastics cost more than standard black plastic, but they can result in even higher yields. These plastics warm the soil as well as clear plastic, but also control weeds as effectively as black plastic. In raised bed gardens, lay down a sheet of plastic over the entire bed. Bury it at the edges or weigh the plastic down with rocks. Then punch holes in it with a bulb planter, and fill with plants or seeds. Since water can't permeate plastic, you can't rely on rainwater to properly hydrate your plants. Instead, lay soaker hoses or drip hoses on the soil surface before you put down the plastic.
Be careful not to use mulch under shrubs, especially since plastic destroys the shrubs' long-term health. Because water and air cannot penetrate the plastic, roots grow very close to the soil surface — sometimes right beneath the plastic — seeking moisture and oxygen. The shallow roots suffer from lack of oxygen and moisture, and extreme temperature changes. Over time, the plants decline and die.
Geotextiles, also called landscape fabrics, let air and water through to the soil beneath while keeping weeds from coming up. But still, there are some drawbacks: When exposed to light, geotextiles degrade over time. To make them last longer, cover them with a second mulch (they're ugly, so you'd want to, anyway).
Similar to plastic mulch, keep geotextiles away from shrubs. Shrub roots and weeds grow up into the landscape fabric, which means you'll have to rip the landscape fabric upon their removal.
High Tunnel Gardening: What You Need to Know to Grow Successfully
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
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Are you familiar with the term high tunnel?
If you’ve been gardening very long, you may have heard commercial farmers or even avid homesteaders talk about their high tunnels.
A ‘high tunnel’ is a large cold-frame hoop house or greenhouse which is usually unheated. They use the sun to warm the crops and can be great for those who grow food in colder climates.
I’m going to walk you through how a high tunnel works, what grows best in a high tunnel, how you compensate for poor weather by using a high tunnel, and more.
Here’s how you can incorporate high tunnel production into your gardening:
How Does a High Tunnel Work?
A high tunnel is an elongated structure which covers a large area of bare soil. It is usually constructed out of metal or wood.
The structure is covered in one to two layers of greenhouse material. The greenhouse material could be hard plastic sheeting or thick sheets of durable plastic, which comes in rolls.
It doesn’t have a concrete pad beneath it. Instead, the structure is placed over bare land.
There are no lights or other fancy equipment to keep the high tunnel warm or to feed the plants artificial sunlight.
Instead, the structure depends on natural sunlight to keep the inside warm and meet the needs of the crops.
You don’t depend on any special gardening technique when growing in a high tunnel. There are no raised beds or grow tables.
Instead, the crops are planted directly into the ground and grow as they would in any typical in-ground garden.
The difference being, the high tunnel protects the crops from unpredictable weather such as frost, high winds, or an unexpected cold snap.
It’s also a great method of protection for your plants from pests.
High tunnels are great for many reasons, but one of the best reasons many commercial farmers use them is because they can lengthen the growing season of a specific crop by up to a month and bring the harvest in up to a month earlier.
This lengthening of the season enables farmers with high tunnels to be able to sell crops earlier, as well as later than most of their competition.
How Can I Incorporate a High Tunnel into My Garden?
If you aren’t a commercial farmer, you may not see the point in incorporating a high tunnel into your garden.
Yet, if you’re someone who likes to grow their own food, this could be a way to grow crops almost year-round (depending upon the climate where you live.)
Not only does this equate to a healthier diet for you and your family, but it will also help save money at the grocery store.
You can purchase a prefab high tunnel to make construction easier, or you can choose to build your own.
If you live on a smaller chunk of land, you may prefer to build your own high tunnel structure because you can make it a more exact size to suit your property.
The most important aspect of installing a high tunnel is to make sure it stays perpendicular to the typical wind pattern in your area.
If you don’t, the tunnel could easily become damaged.
Consider the layout of your homestead, when planning where to erect the structure.
Once you decide you’d like to grow more crops on your property for longer periods, and you find the perfect high tunnel for your set-up, you treat the crops as you would if they were in the ground in the open air.
It’s important to make sure the crops are watered properly, fertilized regularly, and the weeds are kept under control.
If you can do this, you should find great success in growing crops inside a high tunnel.
What Grows Well in a High Tunnel?
You’re sold on the idea of a high tunnel, but what should you grow? The wonderful news is you can grow basically anything you want.
- Root vegetables
- Zucchini and much more
In my own experience with a high tunnel, I was fascinated at how well my tomatoes did.
High tunnels are great at protecting your crops from cooler weather, but they’re also wonderful for adding the heat to the crops which thrive in it.
If you’re wanting to boost your tomato and pepper crop, a high tunnel could be the perfect solution.
As a general rule of thumb, as long as the soil is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re getting around 10 hours a day of sunlight, you’re good to grow anything you desire.
If the soil is cooler, or you aren’t getting as much sunlight, it’s best to stick with leaf lettuce, spinach, and root crops.
Heartier vegetables will be necessary for cooler conditions as they would be equally suited in any other planting scenario.
How to Grow Crops in a High Tunnel
High tunnels are simple to grow in, and they make gardening easier. I grew crops in a high tunnel for almost four years before moving to our new, larger farm.
It was great at protecting the crops from pests, frost, and yielding large quantities of food for my family. Though high tunnels are wonderful producers, the biggest mistake many people make is not caring for it like they would a typical garden.
Be sure to prep your soil as you would for your garden, keep the planting area cleaned out when you aren’t growing in your high tunnel, and follow similar planting times for your planting zone as you would for an outdoor garden.
You can plant crops up to a month earlier in a high tunnel without an added heat source in most cases. Obviously, if you’re planting tomatoes in your high tunnel a month earlier, keep an eye out for unusually cool temperatures as they’re sensitive to cooler weather.
If you’re running behind, you can plant crops up to a month later as well because they’ll be protected from potential weather fiascos in a high tunnel.
Otherwise, it’s as if you were planting anywhere else. You should have approximately three planting cycles in a high tunnel.
Plan on planting in early spring, summer, and for the fall. If you live in an area with a warmer climate, you may be able to grow year-round.
I live in planting zone seven and was able to grow heartier crops (such as spinach, lettuce, and radishes) throughout the winter.
High tunnels are also a wonderful place to start seeds and harden off seedlings before moving them outdoors.
Be prepared to use a supplemental heat source if you choose to start seeds in your high tunnel. Check out number 9 in our article on rocket mass heaters to see an idea for a heat source. Alternatively, if you do have power in your high tunnel, you could install a garage heater.
During the day, natural sunlight should be enough to keep them warm and safe.
Nights still get too chilly in most areas when starting seeds, and they’ll need a boost of heat to keep the seedlings from freezing.
Pollinating High Tunnel Crops
When growing crops in a high tunnel you may or may not have thought about pollination. This was a concern of mine when I first started raising crops in our high tunnel.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I found out. Though I began pollinating some of my plants by hand, I soon realized I didn’t need to.
I wrongly assumed pollinators wouldn’t come into my high tunnel. Oddly, I found they were drawn to it. I left the windows and door open on hot days and when I’d walk in the bees were buzzing all around my crops.
However, if you find you have a different experience and pollinators are avoiding your high tunnel instead of embracing it, don’t fret. You can pollinate your plants by hand. It’s a simple process and only takes a few moments of your time when you’re in the high tunnel caring for your crops.
Troubleshooting the Weather
Having a high tunnel can help you beat the weather in many ways, but you still must be prepared for the curveballs.
Keep an eye on the weather to be alert if a random hard freeze is headed in your direction. It may be necessary to add a temporary heat source not to lose an entire crop.
For instance, if a freeze is coming earlier than usual, and you still have tomatoes growing in your high tunnel, either harvest all the tomatoes ahead of the freeze (green or not) or add a heat source for the night such as a propane heater.
Most of us concern ourselves with our crops freezing, but you should be equally concerned about the crops receiving too much heat during the summer.
High tunnels should have vents in the ceiling, windows, and a door to help control airflow. During the steamy summer days, be sure to let air flow through your crops to keep them from cooking in the heat.
Being mindful of the weather will help your growing experience in a high tunnel be pleasant instead of one of frustration.
You’ve learned a great deal of information on how and why you may want to incorporate a high tunnel into your garden.
They’re handy in helping you make more money from your homestead or in helping you save money when feeding your family.
It’s our hope, this information will help you to become more self-sufficient over time and have more time digging in the dirt too.