Native groundcovers for garden ditch


Dear Master Gardener, do you know if any ground covers that would be ok in the ditch area of the garden. Ours is a ditch that gets flooded when it rains but soon dries. It’s a west facing garden ditch; in Etobicoke so sandy soil. Unfortunately all the neighbours north of us have blocked their drains☹️


Dear Gardener, thank you for this question which gives us the opportunity of discussing invasive species and  why it is important to plant native species in an area such as yours.

The Toronto Master Gardeners’ Invasive Species Initiative has received a microgrant from the Invasive Species Centre to publicize some plants that although still available commercially in nurseries, are taking up valuable space in our ravines, and competing with our Ontario native plants. As the website says: “Invasive plants degrade habitat, reduce biodiversity, and inhibit forest regeneration (the process by which new seedlings become established).”

The plants the Toronto Master Gardeners have identified that should NOT be planted in order to limit their spread are: Autumn Olive, Barberry, English Ivy, Euonymus, Goutweed, Honeysuckle, Lily-of-the-Valley, Miscanthus, Norway Maple, Periwinkle, Privet, Russian Olive, White Mulberry. Unfortunately, because of their “thug-like” vigorous and aggressive growing ability, these plants thrive in difficult-to-grow areas.

Toronto Master Gardeners have identified alternative ground covers that are preferable to grow. You have a particular environment with your west-facing ditch, that has sandy soil and intermittent flooding, but the following should still work for you.

Instead of English Ivy, Periwinkle, Goutweed, or Lily-of-the-Valley, the Toronto Master Gardeners suggested that you grow: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia); Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense); Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense); Woodland/wild Strawberry (Fragaria spp.); or Bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis).

Furthermore, my suggestion to you is to get a few sample plants from each of these groundcovers, and try and grow all of the plants this summer. During the year, assess which of them is the most successful, and maybe next year buy a few more of those to fill the spaces left by the less successful ones.

Happy Gardening