Groundcovers for gaps

I promised on last week’s post that I’d mention some other low-input methods of keeping weeds out of the gaps between paving stones.  Here are a few photos of my own yard, where we’ve been installing flagstone pathways and terraces.  (Money-saving hint: check out craigslist and/or freecycle for free pavers and other types of stone.  We got all of ours free – just had to pick them up.)

We bought flats of groundcovers, such as woolly thyme, Irish moss, and blue star creeper.  In sunny areas, these plants thrive and spread quickly. But in shadier, moister areas they haven’t done so well.  Instead, we’ve allowed nature to fill the gaps for us.  Naturally occurring mosses, ferns, and other small plants keep out annoying weeds yet are small and attractive in their own right.

You can jumpstart the process by making a moss “milkshake” to spread between pavers.  There are recipes on the web, so I won’t bother repeating them here.  I prefer to let nature take its course (or maybe I’m just lazy).

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

9 thoughts on “Groundcovers for gaps”

  1. I just did this on a stone path on the west side of my house. Only thing is, I’m using Irish and Scotch moss in the shady part of the path. They seem to be doing fine. I’m using thyme in the sunny part. Finding that with the weather we’re having, even thyme can get fried if it is not watered regularly until established.

  2. The Irish and Scottish mosses will do quite well in the sun, too. I have a lots and am forever explaining that they’re not a moss 🙂

    1. Where are you located for the moss to thrive.. we are in Santa Cruz and am thinking of moss but was told the sun would “fry it”?

      1. Randy, there are several mosses that will grow in full sun. The ones David mentions will work, and you might even try your own milkshake mix as I mention above. The photos I posted are from our sunny south-facing yard, where summer temperatures get into the 90s or even 100s on occasion.

  3. Have have some sort of sedum that settled in the cracks of my bluestone patio however if left unchecked they will lift the stone up at the edges.

  4. We put some wooly thyme between pavers in full sun and they’re trying to take over the world! I have to dig through and expose the pavers every so often or forget that they’re there. 🙂

  5. LOL, I love this article. I live in an area of the planet where nature takes care of all this on it’s own. These organisms are everywhere here and beautiful. Of course it’s rain an insane amount compared to what I’m use to in the southwest. I have been writing recently alot about Biological Soil Crusts. The conventional definition & those who study these ecosystems mainly focus on Dryland desert systems. I gave it a new slant. I offered Swedish organisms as a sort of Biological Crust mechnaism for creating soil. I was surprize many that I corespond with didn’t give me a hassle. In fact they liked it. I try and make things interesting for the average person who usually has no interests in such things. Anyway I went everywhere taking photos around here and it was fun. Like your ideas here – – >> Thanks, Kevin

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