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Dryland Ground Cover

 
Posts: 41
Location: Duluth, MN
dog books urban
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Hello, all! I am looking for species names of good grass replacements for the arid climate. I am currently working on a sustainable park and playground project. What durable ground covers have worked for you folks in drylands? Thanks.

~Starr
 
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hi Starr - what kind of dryland are you in? (i.e. what's your location??)

Are you wanting something that can withstand foot traffic, or just a ground cover that people would NOT walk/play on?
 
Starr Brainard
Posts: 41
Location: Duluth, MN
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Definitely walkable ground cover since there will be children running around. I am in Egypt. This site is far form the Nile in the dessert, so pretty much as sandy and arid as you can get. The site will be irrigated with grey water from the local school, but we want to use it as sparingly as possible, especially since it is a finite amount.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Starr - I know around here when we don't want to use grass, we use woodchips under play areas. We here in Phoenix have looked long and hard for a groundcover that can stand up to play but have not yet found an alternative. I will say that in drylands, kids love to be under trees. There is a beautiful dryland farm here created by a former Soil Scientist. He chips tree trimmings from a bunch of local businesses and under the trees is springy and soft and a delight to walk on. It also holds water quite well.

Can you get your hands on coconut coir there?
 
Starr Brainard
Posts: 41
Location: Duluth, MN
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I don't like grass either. I too was thinking just mulch would be a better idea, but my bosses are really intersted in green ground cover. I've seen coconuts, but I don't know about getting the coir in bulk. Have you had any luck with Thyme as a arid area ground cover?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1474
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Here in Hawaii many people use perennial peanut as a ground cover. It survives hot and dry. I don't know how it does with foot traffic. But it is quite a low growing ground cover people use here around landscaping trees and around their houses. Don't know if that would work there.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I've grown thyme before but I doubt if it would hold up to foot traffic. Maybe your bosses would be interested in trying some experimental swaths to see what works.

Huh - I never thought of peanut. Is perennial peanut something different than the regular peanut? It's a pretty and interesting plant - but again, I doubt it would hold up to foot traffic. I've grown peanuts here in Phoenix - can't say they were a stellar success but then again, I didn't really actively try them in different places. They were under my urban orchard so they got some shade.

Personally I'd try to sell them on using that precious water for trees as they provide way more functions than grass.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1249
Location: northern northern california
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i live in an area that is extremely dry for a large part of the year , and then contrarily, extremely wet for a few months (today!)...so not sure if all these suggestions will be appealing or possible, but heres some plants we have in our "lawn" ish areas that people walk on, etc. these make it through our really hot and dry times...

self heal - prunella vulgaris
chicory - chicorium intybus
pineapple weed (a wild chamomile that likes compacted thin soil)
clovers
thyme
wild strawberry fragaria vesca
wild violets
viola tricolor
mallow - malva neglecta
small leaf creeping mint
yarrow (common native here)
 
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Starr,

There are several sages which grow in the high arid regions of the Eastern half of my state, Oregon, Nevada, et cetera which might be worth looking into.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Su Ba wrote:Here in Hawaii many people use perennial peanut as a ground cover. It survives hot and dry. I don't know how it does with foot traffic. But it is quite a low growing ground cover people use here around landscaping trees and around their houses. Don't know if that would work there.



A friend of mine in the Peace Corps ended up growing lots of peanuts in Senegal, west Africa, if that climate analog helps you any
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1651
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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It sounds to me like you might need to leave play areas bare ground or wood mulch or something, and then grow green places that you can water with greywater or other water, but are not meant for traffic.
 
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Perennial Peanuts sounds like the kind of nitrogen fixing ground cover I'm looking for. Does anyone know where I can buy some near the Phoenix, Arizona area?
 
Posts: 569
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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Low plants could include prickly pear (there are non prickly varieties available), blackberry, aloe vera.
Consider putting in a partial or full tree canopy, as desert trees may survive in your area where lower ground covers may not. gliricidia sepium, leucaena leucocephala, palo verde, mesquite, maybe some acacias. These are nitrogen fixers. Also look at figs, peaches, plocama pendula (there may be some issues with sap being an irritant for this one so look into that before planting in a play area).

What grows in the wild there? Identifying and encouraging natives with extra water for their first ccouple of years can set them up with deep roots and great drought resistance. Often the natives will be smaller in the wild than their potential because of goats/rabbits, so excluding these animals is a must.
 
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