Zone 4 grass or groundcover

Asked April 3, 2013, 1:03 PM EDT

My folks are looking to cover a large hill in the yard. The soil is all sand and it gets limited sun.

Ideally, they'd like some sort of lawn, but because of the steep slope, it would be unsafe for them to mow the area. Also, because of the steep slope, any watering will just run off and increase the erosion.
It's a very large area, so we probably need something that can be planted by seed to make it affordable. Deer resistant also, as they live up north.

Please let me know any suggestions you have.

Lake County Michigan

1 Response

Using plant material to secure the hill is a wonderful idea… the answer to your question is a tough one as dry shade with coarse textured soil (sand) has a limited number of ground covers that will thrive.; I am guessing you are looking for a lawn that will grow in the sand in shade. Red fescue is the cool-season species with the best shade tolerance and tall fescue will also do well in the shade.

Unfortunately, turf-grasses will not grow in very heavy shade or under dense leaf cover. If an area gets less than 50 percent open sunlight or less than 4 hours of sunlight per day, it is much too shady for turfgrass to grow well. Use groundcovers such as ajuga, liriope, and pachysandra. Actually pachysandra is the toughest perennial I have found for dry shade and sandy soil.

While ground-covers are initially more expensive to install, one such as pachysandra, can be routinely divided.
Mulching may be another option.

A list of perennials that deer have not eaten in my yard include:
Hardy Geranium, Cranesbill
Hedera – or Ivy – which is an invasive; so using depends on your location
Lamium – also can be invasive; so using depends on your location
Liriope – an evergreen perennial in the lily family; a grass-like appearance Ophiopogon – Mondo Grass
This is the Michigan State University lawn care & perennial websites:

For any new planting, Michigan State University Extension recommends testing the soil in the area you want to plant every three years. Armed with the results from your test, plant suppliers can better guide you through selecting plants that fit your garden’s conditions.