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GRR, Dealing With Invasive Ground Covers

November 8th, 2011

The people who built our house weren’t gardeners and tried to cut corners anywhere possible when it came to the garden. As a result, I have had to correct many problems in the garden. From the foundation borders around the house being backfilled with sand (yes, ridiculous I know) to covering the entire back yard with gravel and driving on it all the time compacting the soil. On top of all of these problems I find myself with several invasive ground covers that they planted, most likely because they wanted a “low maintenance garden”.

Since I’m an organic gardener, spraying the ground cover is not an option. I don’t even like to use organic sprays as I think they’re also hard on soil and insect life. As a result, I spent lots of time each gardening season yanking out invasive ground covers and at least trying to keep them under control while slowly eradicating them. In all I have about 700 square feet of invasive ground cover I’ve been working on eradicating.

On the back hillside, which I can see from my kitchen window, I spent a few years smothering it with tarps and leaves. I have almost eradicated the Japanese honeysuckle from that area. This past week I’ve been spending a good portion of my garden time pulling up the remaining vines. I’ll most likely have some to pull up next spring, summer, and fall. With that, it should be gone – WHEW. But then I have to move on to the front hillside which is planted in variegated vinca vine.

It’s been backbreaking work to be sure. Next spring when I see this hillside covered in hundreds of tulips, muscari, snowdrops, and other flowering bulbs I’ll be glad I spent so much time eradicating the ugly ground cover.

Have you ever had invasive species to deal with in your garden? Did you plant them or were they left by a previous gardener?

26 Comments to “GRR, Dealing With Invasive Ground Covers”
  1. daisy on November 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Whew! That’s a lot of work! Could you use the lasagna method to smother those invasives? It works for grass and weeds.
    I’m looking forward to seeing all of your beautiful bulbs coming up!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  2. tami on November 8, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Freakin Bermuda grass! Hate it, hate it, hate! I raised some beds and am trying the “no till – lasagna method” too. We’ll see.

    Reply to tami's comment

    • bonnie on November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      BERMUDA GRASS here, too!!

      Reply to bonnie's comment

  3. Mary W on November 8, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Bamboo! I took it out after an ice storm made the whole patch lean on the electrical wires coming into the house. Cut it down with a reciprocating saw and kicked the shoots the next few springs. Getting rid of it was a lot easier than I was led to believe. For a while, I had plenty of bamboo poles to use in the garden.

    Reply to Mary W's comment

  4. Daedre Craig on November 8, 2011 at 9:55 am

    You should see if you can rent some goats to clear it for you.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  5. Jaye Whitney on November 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Yes! Asian Jasmine (I think), I had planted it, not knowing what it would do, it took forever to pull it all out, I made my kids help. Even now, whenever any of us see it, we freak out a little in memory! LOL

    Reply to Jaye Whitney's comment

  6. goatpod2 on November 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

    We’ve had a lot of stuff that just took over!


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  7. Traci on November 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I have almost gotten rid of the vinca hill I inherited when we bought our house 15 years ago. It’s nearly impossible. And I am so irritated with myself for putting in australian violets. I thought they would be pretty popping out in between the rocks of a stone border we put in. They have taken over the entire beds. Like mint, which I love and use, I want violets as a part of my garden, they are very useful but… I’m working on relocating them as an understory in the orchard. That’s where I put mint and borage, calendula all of the invasive plants that are handy to have around. Yikes, sorry about the vinca!

    Reply to Traci's comment

  8. risa on November 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

    We successfully attacked vinca with cardboard. Our current troubles are wtih morning glory and Japanese knotweed. The latter will win — after our time — but at least it makes good kindling and beanpoles.

    Reply to risa's comment

  9. MAYBELLINE on November 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I planted Creeping Myrtle on the recommendation of my brother who was trying to get rid of some. It is planted in soil that is not friendly at all and has flourished. I tried removing it but gave up and decided to let it grow since nothing else can tolerate that soil.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  10. Val on November 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Sweet autumn clematis is pretty bad, but English ivy is the absolute worst! Not only does it invade my yard from both directions (where neighbors let it grow with abandon), I am allergic to it, getting a reaction much like poison ivy, so it is a double pain.
    I don’t care much about having perfect grass, but the creeping charlie that make up most of my “lawn” is a pain too.

    Reply to Val's comment

  11. maggiewann on November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I actually love my vinca, it’s the only thing that thrives in my landscape, although I would not like it in the garden. I’m forever trying to get rid of buttercups in the garden. I use old carpets covered with pine needles when I’m trying to smother big areas.

    Reply to maggiewann's comment

  12. Sofie Dittmann on November 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Ahem, I’m one of those “low maintenance gardening” people. There, it’s out in the open… :)

    Reply to Sofie Dittmann's comment

  13. Ashley on November 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    We moved into a house that was home to gardeners, so it was interesting to discover new things as we went along. I had never encountered purslane before I lived here. Our garden is full of it and I am not sure if the old man planted it, or if it just ended up growing there as a weed. We cook & eat it every once in a while, and also, its great groundcover. But I do go through and pull it up a couple times each summer.

    Reply to Ashley's comment

  14. Boho Farm and Home on November 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I just found you thru a pinterest pin and I love your blog!
    I am going to follow along!

    Reply to Boho Farm and Home's comment

  15. Michele on November 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Living between two rentals is a nightmare. We have some very nasty stuff that gets into our yard. Every year it’s war with the weeds. We have tried everything to keep the nasty weeds out of our yard and under control – we always lose come July into August. Would love for said properties to burn to the ground so we could buy the land – wishful thinking.

    Reply to Michele's comment

  16. Alyssa on November 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    We inherited a garden full of buttercup, from the beds to the grass (or where the grass would be) we’re totally covered in buttercup. I’ve taken to handpicking and digging out the roots. Hopefully this method works, my landlord also said the by planting grass seed eventually it would choke the weeds out, but it seems the opposite happened in the first place…?

    Reply to Alyssa's comment

  17. Jennelle on November 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    English ivy IS the worst. I don’t think the lady who we bought our house from planted it, but she certainly encouraged it with trellises and such. We cut if off almost all the trees in our back yard and have been mowing over in around my composter in the back yard for the past couple years. This spring we’re going to start trying to erradicate the rest of it in the backyard, but I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing battle since it is on my neighbor’s property, too, and he doesn’t seem to be a “hands on” landscaper whatsoever. I read that its sale is banned in a handful of states because it is so invasive. I might try to smother it out with tarps. That’s a good idea.

    Reply to Jennelle's comment

    • Val on November 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      Smothering works eventually, but it takes a long time. I had to remove it from a lilac tree that it was smothering. It was so thick I had to use a saw!

      Reply to Val's comment

  18. Justin on November 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    It’s funny how one person’s “low-maintenance garden” is another person’s nightmare. The people who own the home after you will probably wonder why you planted so many tulip bulbs. :-)

    We have a similar problem at our house. They covered all of the front and side beds close to the house in red pea stone without any landscaping barrier. It’s been there so long, it’s actually worked itself in with the soil and down a couple of feet to the sub-soil line, so there’s no getting rid of it short of digging for days and having 2+ feet of brand-new loam brought in, which we can’t afford. I’ve tried sifting it by hand and didn’t get very far. Even just digging in it to plant new plants is exhausting.

    At this point, I just put our new plants into it with some fresh compost or potting soil in the hole, mulch over it, and hope for the best. Some day, I’d love to actually have it dug out by machine and replaced or maybe just build raised beds with landscaping fabric over it.

    Reply to Justin's comment

  19. Renee on November 9, 2011 at 12:57 am

    I hear the solution is to rent a goat! Just make sure they’re kept within the confines of the area you want destroyed!

    Reply to Renee's comment

  20. Seren Dippity on November 9, 2011 at 1:07 am

    We have that stuff in all our foundation beds. Asian Jasmine I believe it is called…. we call it the Devil Vine from Hell. We have been digging it out a section at a time but it is so hard to get rid of. The roots are so thick and you have to go at least 2 ft down to have a prayer of getting most of them. Then you don’t dare put them in the compost. I have a pile on the driveway covered with a tarp that lived through our summer… we had 70 days of over 100 degrees with no rain and sitting on concrete. After our first rain, it started leafing out. I have some that has been double bagged in extra heavy garbage bags for over a year and I’m scared to open it. (Afraid to find Zombie Devil Vine from Hell!!!)
    This stuff climbs into the weeping system, into the window screens…. last year we found vines growing in the attic when getting Christmas stuff.

    I feel your pain.

    Reply to Seren Dippity's comment

  21. Eleanor on November 9, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    About 15 years ago, when I was just a beginning gardener, I was sold a few pots of something promised “to spread.” I had no idea the power of that statement. Spread it did. I later learned it was a particularly invasive lamium. (I now have another that’s perfectly well behaved.) By the time I realized I had a problem, it was all over the yard. I’ve worked for several years now to eradicate it, and I’m still at it. A couple of recent seasons out of commission with health problems have allowed it to reestablish itself with vigor. The worst part is, it hopped outside my fence into the woods behind my property. There’s now a sea of lamium back there, taking over the world. Grrrr is right!

    Reply to Eleanor's comment

  22. Michelle Wells on November 10, 2011 at 12:38 am

    We have English Ivy planted around the foundation. it’s nice enough but keeping it from damaging the foundation is a nightmare. Then there’s the bamboo. Who ever thought that was a good idea? We have not been able to eradicate it. I’ve tried for 14 years, and my grandmother before me. Then there’s the Multiflora Rose all over the countryside and fields, imported by the government after WWII I understand, as a great natural fencing material. Birds seed it everywhere, grows like crazy and has nasty thorns.

    Reply to Michelle Wells's comment

  23. Trish on November 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I have several invasives around, and I do spray with glyphosate in fall, which is the best time to kill them. I know it isn’t organic, but as far as herbicides go it is one of the most inocuous as far as the environment is concerned (I worked with it in grad school). I am very concerned wiht eradicating the invasives, so I am willing to use it for that purpose.

    Reply to Trish's comment

  24. Sam McGowan on May 27, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Hi –

    trying to identify the first plant in the first picture on this post – it’s choking the life out of my hedges and I have no idea what it is.



    Reply to Sam McGowan's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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