Groundcover under chestnut trees

Asked July 31, 2019, 9:58 PM EDT

Hello! I have two large chestnut trees in my yard. There are azaleas and some dogwoods in the same area, and the soil is generally acidic and sandy. I have some patchy grass and moss currently growing in the area, but I'm looking for a ground cover that will be more hearty against invasive plants, particularly japanese stiltgrass which I've had a major problem with this year. I have found that the chestnut husks can get tangled in the grass in the fall (I can't mow after the husks start falling until it's over, so the grass can get fairly long by the end of the fall), but the moss has been a major weak spot against stiltgrass this summer. Is there any good native groundcover that would choke out invasive plants and be okay with taking a beating (getting walked over, fall raking, squirrels digging their holes, etc)? Or do you think mow-able grass is the best way to go on this one? I need to be able to collect the chestnuts (I love them!) and rake to avoid complaints from my neighbors. I love the moss, but I just can't keep up with the constant weeding any more. Thank you!!

Prince George's County Maryland lawns and turf groundcover alternatives

1 Response

There is not a native groundcover that will outcompete stiltgrass, can be walked on, and take a beating. Grass is difficult to grow under mature shade trees as there is a lot of root competition for moisture and nutrients. Keeping the moss may be ideal and some gardeners like to cultivate it. You will have to handpull the stiltgrass.

You need to come up with a landscape plan and here are some options to consider. You may want to plant some groundcovers, mulch the area under the trees, and put in some stepping stones. Dwarf mondo grass is slow growing but eventually spreads and can take some light foot traffic and light raking. Dwarf mondo grass can be purchased in flats. You can keep the moss and if it is growing in the area it should spread. Here is a page on moss https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/430/430-536/430-536_pdf.pdf

Also lightly mulch the area about 2-3 inches in thickness out to the dripline of the trees areas and beyond (keep away from tree trunks) to keep weeds down, and place stepping stones for ease of walking. See lawn alternatives https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawn-alternatives

Marian