Slow growing ground cover

(Question)

i’m a lazy north toronto non-gardener. my south-facing, very sunny 12×14 front yard patch was a dumpsite of topsoil, clay and some gravel after interlocking several tears ago. most of the neighbourhood lawns have developed at least a little clover, creeping charlie, thistle?, other purple flowers, dandelions, etc after the herbicide ban and mine is the weediest due to neglect. as I am both lazy and reluctant to expose my kids to any dangerous chemicals, I simply threw down some grass seed and now just pick off the heads of any dandelions which bloom or dig up the plant, in a minimal effort to avoid the wrath of my neighbors. I just leave the other weeds to battle with the struggling grass since they appear to spread more slowly. despite the unsightly appearance to a gardener, I seem to be winning the battle of not contaminating my poor neighbour’s lawns much. they often have more dandelions go to seed than I do. as a slightly higher level of minimum effort to improving the yard, I plan to hand weed a little more aggressively this summer, create a circular mound for interest of a few feet by a few inches and seed it, then plant over the entire space with a spiral for fun. I’d like to keep it as flush as possible so my kids can run over it without tripping. can you recommend a ground cover in a contrasting colour (preferably dark, eg blue, burgundy or green) that will grow slowly so the spiral won’t spread quickly season over season? any other gardening suggestions are welcome also. bit by bit…

(Answer)

The spiral does sound fun. We have a good publication on ground covers that can be used as lawn replacements and many of them will enjoy the full sun you can offer them. Some will creep a bit more than others but they can also be pruned and trimmed to shape as they grow. Sedum and Thyme for example would be lovely. http://66.209.177.85/~torontom/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Lawn-Alternatives1.pdf

The “Stepables” line of ground covers offer some fun options with various colours and good resistance to wear. They can be found in many garden centres.

You very likely need to improve your soil with organic matter to support your spiral. Fold in a few bags of organic compost before you plant.

Maybe once you get the spiral in place you will see how fun gardening is and you will be inspired to take on the rest of your garden!

Best of luck.