ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

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Q I have a steep bank which erodes and is now bare. I would like to know what ground covers and/or grasses root fast and deeply and look attractive. And could you also tell me if a soil stabilizer would be necessary?

R.J.H.

Arlington, Va.

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Traditional lawn grasses would not be suitable, since your bank appears to be too steep to use a mower. A ground cover planted in slits made in a fibrous material specifically designed for steep, erodable places would be a good solution.

English ivy is one of the most satisfactory ground covers for your area, as well as for many other areas of the United States. One precaution: In very hot sunny spots, it would not fare quite as well as in places where it gets some shade during the day. There are many varieties of English ivy (Hedera helix), and nurseries in your area would have the ones best suited to your situation. Hall's honeysuckle vine (Lonicera), with fragrant flowers, is heat tolerant, grows in sun or shade, and makes excellent cover. If you want a cover with grasslike appearance, you could use Liriope spicata (called lily turf or turflily) or a similar species. It tolerates high heat, sun, or shade.

Soil stabilizers can be mulches such as straw, wood chips, or other materials, including wood fiber used in hydro-mulching by machine.

On steep slopes, rather than loose mulch, we suggest you cover the area with a commercial synthetic fibrous weed barrier or jute material that is pinned down firmly with large metal staples. All should be available at garden stores or nurseries. X-shaped slits are made in the fiber so plants can be set into the soil. Water thoroughly after planting is completed, and keep watered regularly until established.

A mulch could be applied over the fabric for extra erosion protection.

Reader comment: As a longtime reader of the Monitor, I have followed the ``Ask the Gardeners'' column with its questions and answers. In response to a request for additional names of growers of scented geraniums, I am happy to provide the following: Shady Hill Gardens, 821 Walnut St., Batavia, IL 60510.

I have purchased many from this company, and can vouch for its high-quality plants.

Mrs. V.L.W.

Montague, Mich.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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