Friends of Farming
San Diego County
Groundcover is a descriptive term applied to many plants that because of their particular growth habit are used to literally cover the ground. They are used often to control erosion, add beauty and texture to a landscape, and keep weeds down. Richard Martinez of Martinez Farms is the largest producer of groundcover in San Diego County. Below he answers questions about this popular and useful type of plant.
Top commercial varieties produced in San Diego:
Iceplant and Gazanias. Red Apple is by far the number one seller and is grown year round. There are about 15 different iceplants. Iceplants don’t sell year round; when it’s in bloom people buy it. Gazanias are grown year round because they produce flowers 8 months of the year. Myoprum pink and white is popular because of its drought tolerance, it doesn’t freeze, and doesn’t take much water. Those four are the top varieties, but there are a lot of others.
What is the planting and harvesting timeline for groundcover in San Diego County?
The top four varieties are planted year round and sold year round. Peak time is the spring when buyers get spring fever. Winter is the slowest season. Market time goes spring, summer, fall, winter .
Is there a peak season in groundcover production?
Spring by far.
What is the general market?
Home Depot takes a lot of product, and landscapers and licensed contractors. We sell to some homeowners. The general public is hard to deal with because a lot of time they don’t know exactly what they want.
What are some of the challenges of producing groundcover in San Diego County?
The biggest challenge with groundcover is heat waves. Heat creates a good environment for fungus and fungus will become active in certain varieties. That’s the biggest challenge. Another is groundcover is not grown from seed, you have to have mother stock. Everything is from a cutting. When you have extreme heat or extreme cold it hurts the mother stock. So you don’t produce as many cuttings. It’s not as if if you want 100 plants you order the seed. There is a lot of stock management. If you want a good crop you need good stock management. Groundcover is pretty tough. There are very little pests. Bedding plants you’re constantly spraying because the pests just love the bedding and vegetables, but groundcover you can leave it alone, you spray it a lot less. For every 10 times you spray bedding or vegetables, you’ll spray groundcover once. It’s a very hardy plant.
Are there specific challenges unique to this crop?
During the summer when humidity is high and it’s warmer, it is harder to grow. The plants don’t root as easy. During the cold weathe16r everything is dormant, it takes longer to root, but your rooting percentage is much better in the winter and spring. Summer is the worst time to plant pretty much anything.
Is there anything unique about San Diego County grown groundcover?
Not specifically, but we get away with growing more varieties here. In other areas where they get snow and extreme heat waves, they can’t grow and can’t sell for many months of the year.
Are there aspects of groundcover that you find interesting or fascinating?
I like them all because it’s my business. Many groundcovers are used basically for erosion control. Gazanias can go on hillsides, but more often they are planted in islands. Most groundcovers are perennial and don’t have to be changed out. They’ll take an occasional trim and use less water than annual color. All perennials will last for years if they are taken care of.
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