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Crown Vetch Plants – How Do You Grow Crown Vetch In The Landscape

Crown Vetch Plants – How Do You Grow Crown Vetch In The Landscape


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By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

If you are looking for something to naturalize a sloping home landscape, consider planting crown vetch for a natural backyard. While some may think of it as merely a weed, others have long since taken advantage of this plant’s unique beauty and use in the landscape. Best of all, the care of crown vetch ‘weed’ is extremely easy. So how do you grow crown vetch? Keep reading to learn more about this interesting plant.

What is Crown Vetch Weed?

Crown vetch (Coronilla varia L.) is a trailing herbaceous member of the pea family. This cool season perennial plant is also known as ax seed, ax wort, hive-vine, and trailing crown vetch. Introduced in North America from Europe in the 1950’s as a ground cover for soil erosion on banks and highways, this ground cover spread rapidly and naturalized throughout the United States.

Although commonly planted as an ornamental, it is important that homeowners be aware this plant can become invasive in many areas, lending to its reference as crown vetch weed. That said, crown vetch fixes nitrogen in the soil and is commonly used to restore strip-mined soil. Use crown vetch for a natural backyard or to cover slopes or rocky areas in your landscape. Attractive pinkish-rose flowers appear in May through August sitting atop short fern-like leaflets. Flowers produce long and slender pods with seeds that are reported to be toxic.

How Do You Grow Crown Vetch?

Planting crown vetch can be done by seed or potted plants. If you have a large area to cover, it is best to use seed.

Crown vetch is not particular about soil type and will tolerate low pH and low fertility. However, you can prepare the soil by adding lime and organic compost. Leave rocks and hunks of dirt for a somewhat uneven planting bed.

While it prefers full sun, it will tolerate some spotty shade. Young plants also do best when covered with a shallow layer of mulch.

Care of Crown Vetch

Once planted, the care of crown vetch requires very little maintenance, if any. Water new plants regularly and mow established plants to the ground in early fall.

Cover with a 2-inch (5 cm.) layer of mulch for winter protection.

Note: Crown vetch plants are commonly found in mail-order catalogs and nurseries with alternate spellings of one or two words. Either one is correct.

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Shrubs That Like Full Sun & Wet Soil

As the sun casts its glow onto the landscape, sun-loving shrubs emerge to light up the garden. Shrubs that require moist, wet soil often require well-drained, nutrient-laden soil. Grown in a wide range, each with its own distinct shape, size, color and texture, shrubs create a vibrant landscape presence and are a garden essential.


Landscaping Steep Slopes Challenges & Solutions

  • Learn how I create planting designs for my clients.
  • Discover great, useful tips and ideas.

Landscaping steep slopes can be a challenge. Your house may be at a higher elevation with your land sloping down and away from it.

Your land might also slope towards your house, your house being at a low point. When landscaping steep slopes in this situation, proper drainage is particularly important.

Regardless, hillside landscaping takes some creativity and knowledge to design for both nice aesthetics and function.

The extent of the challenge depends on actually how steep of a slope we are talking about. Sometimes a planting design alone will work, while in other situations terracing would be best.

Landscape Grading - Visuals For Landscaping Slopes

    The steepest slope that you can mow comfortably is 3:1 or thirty three percent. Imagine being able to mow on a hill that is the steepest you can go. That's a 3:1 slope. Technically, this means that there would be a one foot rise in elevation for every three feet of distance. In other words, if you had a slope that was nine feet long, the top of the hill would be three feet higher than the bottom.

Most of you have seen handicap ramps. A handicap ramp slopes at a maximum of eight percent.

xeriscape plants (drought tolerant plants you will love)

This is a front slope on my own property.
Drought tolerant plants were planted on this slope to reduce watering needs.

The planting was young here.

Here it is after some time has gone by. Catmint 'Walker's Low' is in the forefront. Notice how this plant is repeated in the design.

This is another area with Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' in the front. This perennial blooms almost all summer long. Another nice one to use is Geranium 'Rozanne'.

This is the same slope in the fall at a later time.

Visit my page on xeriscape plants to see what I did!

Hillside Landscaping

The maximum slope for hillside landscaping should be 3:1. These types of areas can be dry due to water traveling downwards and not seeping into the ground. Therefore, use plants that are somewhat drought tolerant. Watering can be a problem with steep slope gardening. A sprinkler system helps tremendously, particularly if it is a large sloped area.Drip irrigation is good option.

However, plant it right and you won't need a watering system!

In addition, if it is a large area there is also the problem of access for weeding. Adding a thick layer of mulch, three inches deep, will help. There are also chemicals available to deter weed growth. However, there are more environmentally friendly solutions.

  • Having the complete area covered by plant material will keep most weeds from emerging.
  • Using masses of groundcover, especially the faster growing or aggressive ones, is an excellent option. Do NOT use Crown Vetch or you will have a nightmare on your hands!
  • Planting groundcover when landscaping steep slopes should be a large part of your landscape design, which can include shrubs, perennials, and even some landscape trees to create shade.

Use masses of plant types when landscaping steep slopes (and in all landscape design). Keep the taller ones at the top with the lower plants towards the bottom.

Many colorful perennials with lots of different textures.

Add a boulder wall to reduce the slope.

However, do break this "rule" to avoid monotony.

For example, you might use a group of five to seven tall shrubs and then a group of lower Fountain Grass.

In front of the Fountain Grass place masses of Juniper, one of the low growing types.

Throughout this planting, place three Lilacs for height, and possibly a tree.

You can also include lawn. Many times people think of plantings only when landscaping steep slopes. However, another way to approach the design, is to plan on the area being mostly lawn with planting beds as part of the picture. For example, there might be a curvilinear planting bed which goes along the top of the slope, continues down the side, and then appears along the bottom. Imagine the letter "C".

The advantage of this, or something similar, is that lawn is relatively easy to care for. However, the plants create the interest.

Landscape Steps and Access Through Slopes

Landscape steps and walkways can be created through the lawn or planted areas. They can also be designed to go around the sides of the slope, rather than through it. If the path is going through the lawn, you can use stepping stones or a paving material, such as brick or pavers. You can also use nothing and walk on the lawn itself. This keeps the unity of the lawn and the open space, without breaking it up visually.

If the path is designed to go through planted areas, you can again use stepping stones or a paving material. You can also just have a mulched path. Loose stone is another option. A mulched or stone path (especially the loose stone) should be edged. You can use something as simple as steel edging or something more decorative as pavers on edge.

Paths can be anywhere from two to four feet wide. Two feet wide paths are quite casual, while wider ones become a bit more important.

Terracing A Slope

One may terrace a slope to create a flat, usable area. A retaining wall may be created at the top, bottom or both. Lawn may then be used for sitting, play areas or extensive gardens. The usable area should range in grade from two to five percent.

Landscaping steep slopes may seem daunting at first, but a very nice landscape can be created. Just remember to use drought tolerant plants. Cover the planting beds with a three inch deep layer of mulch. Consider installing a sprinkler system. Plan on dense plant coverage by including masses of groundcover to deter weeds. Include a large area of lawn for low maintenance.

For additional landscape design help, please take a look at this helpful ebook on front yards. Just click on the book to read about what is in it.

If you would like to include some great evergreen shrubs, this book has detailed information. Click on the book to find out more.

Consider a Professional
Online Landscape Design

Unique Services Throughout the U.S. and Canada

"Susan, what a pleasure it was to work with you. You made me feel like I was your only client - responding late at night and always so quickly! Your design is amazing and we only hope we can do justice to it when we plant. You have such fantastic ideas and you are so open to suggestions and changes. Loved working with you - now if you could only come to Canada and plant it. "
Helen, Ontario-Canada

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Ground covers work to prevent soil erosion and to bring beauty to hard-to-maintain areas. Whether you’re planting an entire field, rethinking a residential lawn, or filling in a small-but-difficult area (such as a steep bank), choose a ground cover that will work for your climate and soil. Many provide colorful flowers, visually-pleasing textures, and vital habitat for pollinators. Once your ground cover is established, mowing, watering, and weeding chores will become much more manageable.

Our Pollinator Cover Crop Seed Mix features a varied mix of easy-to-grow legumes, including Clover, Alfalfa, Vetch, and Sainfoin. Small white, pink, purple, and gold flowers attract .

Plant Creeping Red Fescue for an easy, low-maintenance ground cover. It is beneficial for erosion control and will attract wildlife to your lawn or meadow. Perennial. (Festuca rubra.

Dutch White Clover is one of the most popular clovers used in lawns, but also has many other uses. Plant this perennial clover as a cover crop, groundcover, for erosion control or in.

Fall cover crop mix is a ready-to-sow green manure perfect for renewing soils. This mix improves soil health through addition of organic matter, soil aeration, and nitrogen fixation.

This low growing, low maintenance mixture will help stabilize the land on your solar farm, as well as provide a high quality habitat for wildlife. Comprised of a variety of fescues a.

Orchard Grass is an extremely versatile variety. This low maintenance groundcover is perfect for livestock grazing and can be used for pasture, hay or silage. It is considered one of.

This attractive grass produces purplish plumes with grey/green foliage. Little Bluestem can be planted for erosion control and will attract wildlife. Perennial. (Schizachyrium scopa.

This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens).

An extremely fast and aggressive grower, Crown Vetch produces lovely white and purple blooms. This legume should be planted for erosion control in certain hard-to-reach areas, not in.

Blue Grama can be planted for erosion control and is drought-tolerant. It will also attract wildlife. Perennial. (Bouteloua gracilis).

Medium Red Clover is a legume that is perfect for planting as a cover crop to loosen soil, or to provide nourishment to crops in between seasons. Short-Lived Perennial. (Trifolium pr.

This beautiful grass is used for beautification and soil stabilization. It produces ornamental, wispy plumes. Perennial. (Eragrostis curvula).

A healthy and easy-to-grow mixture for your horses, our Horse Pasture and Hay Mix is specially formulated with a variety of nutritious species. A variety of fescues, ryegrass, orchar.

This legume provides lovely, bright yellow blooms in the summer. The cheerful flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Annual. (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

Switchgrass Shelter can be planted for soil stabilization and will attract wildlife. This grass can also be planted for pasture hay. Perennial. (Panicum virgatum).

This cover crop is extremely adaptable and is used for soil stabilization. Perennial Rye Grass is fast-growing and easy to grow. Perennial. (Lolium perenne).

Strawberry clover is a low-growing perennial used as a green manure and cover crop, particularly among perennials. Deep tap roots condition soil while stolons (horizontal roots) spre.

Give your sheep a nutritious and easy-to-grow blend of grasses. This mixture is specially formulated to self-seed each year and provides a low maintenance solution for your pastures.

Plant this bunch grass for a long-lasting, beautiful show of dark green grass with foxtail-like plumes. This grass also will attract wildlife to your lawn or meadow. Perennial. (Phl.

This mix is specially formulated with varieties that are easy to grow, easy to maintain, and will provide nutrition for livestock to graze on. A mix of clovers, ryegrass and more, ou.

This grass is extremely easy and fast to grow. It can be planted for soil stabilization and will also attract wildlife. Perennial. (Elymus canadensis).

Extremely easy to grow and adaptable, this ground cover produces beautiful, bell-shaped purple blooms. Annual or Biennial Legume. (Vicia villosa).

This legume is a vigorous, easy-to-grow clover that will produce large, white blooms. White Ladino Clover is perfect for using as a cover crop. Perennial. (Trifolium repens).

Smooth Bromegrass is an easy-to-grow perennial grass with many uses. It can be planted for hay, pasture and silage, as well as used for erosion control and as a groundcover crop. Thi.


Common Vetch (Vicia sativa)

Plant Characteristics: Common vetch is a slender, viney winter annual with compound leaves and narrow leaflets. Vetches have pinnate leaves, meaning that they alternate on opposite sides of a main petiole. The leaves of common vetch are similar to hairy vetch. Common vetch has tendrils that terminate the leaves which are used to attach itself to other plants and for support. It usually has two purple flowers in axil of leaves on very short pedicels and bigger flowers than hairy vetch.

Establishment: Common vetch is less winter-hardy than hairy vetch. Vetch seed remains viable for 5 years or longer. It is well-adapted to moderately to well-drained, fertile soils. It is a self-reseeding species and rapidly colonizes low fertility, open spaces. When vetches are seeded following a cultivated crop, little seedbed preparation is needed. Seed is usually broadcast and disked in. On heavy clay soils, plowing and disking may be necessary before seeding. Recommended seeding rates vary from 20 to 40 lb/ac and should be planted from early September to mid-October. Use lower rates when drilling and higher rates when broadcasting, drilling into a rough seedbed, or relay inter-planting. Drill seed into a firm seedbed from 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep depending on soil moisture. If broadcasting, follow with a light disking to incorporate seed. If seed is relay planted, broadcast it before the final cultivation. If small grains are planted, they should be seeded at a rate of 60 lb/ac. Common vetch is somewhat shade-tolerant.

Diseases of vetches include anthracnose, leaf spot and downy mildew, several stem and root rots, and rust. Many of the insects of forage legumes attack vetches, including the pea aphid, cutworms, fall armyworm, vetch bruchid, American grasshopper, lygus bugs, clover leafhopper, and potato leafhopper. Hairy vetch is susceptible to root-knot nematodes and soybean cyst nematodes.

Fertilization: Common vetch grows on a wide range of soils. It does well on loams, sandy loams, or gravelly soils, as well as on fine-textured clay soils as long as there is good drainage. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is commonly applied at the rate of 75 to 150 lb/ac in areas with alkaline or low pH. This provides an adequate source of sulfur fertilizer but will not correct soil acidity problems. When the pH is below 5.5, apply limestone for optimal production. Phosphorus fertilization is often required. An application of 60 lb /ac of P2O5 and 120 lb/acre of K2O should be adequate. However, where soil tests are very high (greater than 25 to 30 ppm P and 110 to 130 ppm K) applications can be eliminated. When planted alone, nitrogen fertilizer is not needed, as vetch obtains its nitrogen through symbiotic nitrogen fixation with bacteria in plant root nodules. If planted with a cereal grain or other grass, however, apply nitrogen at 75% of normal rates for grasses.

Grazing/Hay Management: Vetch can be used for pasture, hay or silage (in small grain mixture). Vetch lacks grazing tolerance and it is best utilized in rotational grazing. Seasonal production in the northern part of the state from March to May and in the southern part from November to December and February to April. Yields range from 1.5 to 3.5 tons/ac. When used as a pasture crop, it can be mixed with small grains or annual ryegrass. Vetch can be overseeded on warm-season grass sods to extend the grazing season and provide good beef steer gains. Grazing should be begin when plants have are 5 to 6 inches tall. Close grazing below the lowest leaf axil will remove axillary buds, resulting in slow re-growth.

Forage Quality: Common vetch makes high quality hay, either grown alone or mixed with small grain. The protein content of vetch hay ranges from 12 to 20%, depending on the stage of development of the crop when cut. Bloat is a risk when dealing with common vetch. Moderate bloat potential.

Varieties/Cultivars: Willamette and AU Olympic.


Watch the video: Best Flowering Ground Cover Plants