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November/December 2015

QuestionWe have a beautiful giant red oak tree in the front yard.  Unfortunately, the ground around it is almost bare.  Do you know
of any kind of grass that will grow in the shade of this tree?  My husband prefers to purchase blocks of sod grass from a sod farm because he has had success with these in another area of our yard; however, we could seed the shaded patch. We will appreciate your help very much.

AnswerShade is a wonderful commodity in an Arkansas summer, but it doesn’t bode well for lawn grasses.  The most shade tolerant lawn in central Arkansas is St. Augustine or Centipede and they need some filtered light.  They are not typically as winter hardy in NW Arkansas.  Tall fescue is the best option up there, but again, they are a struggle to grow in the shade. I would give up trying to fight it and put in a groundcover or simply mulch the area.    For groundcover options consider mondo grass which can look like grass, or sweet flag (Acorus species) another grass look alike, or  ajuga.  There are numerous evergreen groundcovers that can blanket the area although don’t tolerate high traffic. Stepping stones or a path put in the middle can help you have a path.  


(February 2011)

QuestionLast spring I planted bugle weed (chocolate chip variety) on steep slopes at each end of our house. They didn't seem to get a great start. I feel the hot, dry summer was a factor, even though I watered regularly to get them started. The winter weeds have been rampant now and other weeds have popped up. Due to my age and arthritis problems and the steep slopes, I'm not able to hand weed them. Is there a spray I can use to kill the weeds and not do damage to the plants?


AnswerBugle weed or Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ is a great groundcover, but I would suspect that last summer took its toll, especially due to the slope combined with heat and drought. Unfortunately, ajuga is a broadleaf plant, and anything that would kill the weeds that you have which are broadleaf plants too, would also damage the ajuga. If Bermuda grass or other grasses comprise the base of your weeds, then there is a grass specific herbicide that would kill the grass (once it is green and growing) without hurting the ajuga. Many of the winter weeds are annuals and will die with the heat of summer. See if you can get some mulch in there around the ajuga to help exclude more weeds, and fertilize it to get it kicked into gear this spring.


(April 2010)

QuestionI have tried and failed numerous times over the years to get either Zoysia or St. Augustine sod to grow on the north side of my home (in the alley between our home and the house next door). My wife and I have decided to consider a ground cover of some type in lieu of grass. Could you possibly point us in the direction of some appropriate types of ground cover for this area which has little, if any, sunshine, year round?


AnswerSeveral choices come to mind, including moss as mentioned in earlier columns. If you want a grass look-alike there is Mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and Liriope or monkey grass--if there are strong borders limiting growth you can use Liriope spicata--the running form, but it can be invasive; the clumping form is Liriope muscarii. Other options include Ajuga, pachysandra, and Creeping Jenny- Lysimachia nummularia--I really like the golden form. Mazus, pratia and ardesia are other choices.


(July 2006)

QuestionI need a good sidewalk border that will look good all year round with some.


AnswerDo you really need plants running the length of the sidewalk, or can the lawn be enough? If you think you need some type of planting, make sure there is a distinct border between lawn and plants. Many times you see monkey grass or daylilies flanking a sidewalk and they are a mess of grass and plants. A buffer zone that can be edged or weed-eated can help. You didn't mention if you had sun or shade. If you have sun, perennial verbena can be a nice addition, but usually won't live more than 3-4 years. Stella d'or daylilies can bloom for a long period of time and are only dormant for a month or two in the winter and candytuft is an evergreen perennial with beautiful white spring flowers. Monkey grass (Liriope) is evergreen and takes sun or shade, but isn't particularly colorful unless you go with a variegated form. You could always do a mass planting of low growing shrubs, but they usually aren't necessary the entire length of the sidewalk. For shade plants, try ajuga with great colorful foliage, heuchera--many different colored varieties to choose from and they are evergreen, or pachysandra an evergreen groundcover.


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