Saturday, January 23, 2021

Alternatives to green: Ground cover options have pros and cons

Staff Writer | January 9, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — In neighborhoods across Moses Lake, most of what covers the ground is green. Or supposed to be, at least.

Homeowners choose grass simply because there is enough water for them, as opposed to states with warmer climates where they are forced to get creative, said Jayme Castillo of Earth Works Landscaping.

How people use the lawn comes into play, too, he said. Obviously, if someone is going to walk or play in a yard, they are going to want to cover it with something softer, like grass, sand or smooth stones, as opposed to gravel or bark.

But there are other options. River rocks are becoming more popular by the year, said David Pushovsky of Dover Construction LLC. Not only is it one of the cheaper options, but the rocks come in various shades of gray. This allows the cover to match almost any style of landscape around it.

Russian olive is a typically unwanted invasive species, but its bark is both dark and blond, said Kenny Storwick of Storwick Tree & Landscape. So, not only can it be a nice looking ground cover, but a useful one, too.

Bark, being so susceptible to wind, is one of the least popular options, Castillo said. Sometimes he lays it down, and in a matter of days it’s all over the driveway and sidewalk.

However, bark has many other uses than purely aesthetic, Storwick said. Lay a foot of wood chips down below a garden, or around a tree, and it retains water and nutrients and suffocates weeds. Wood doesn’t get as hot as rocks either, which keeps nitrogen in. This is all a cheap, natural alternative to continually adding chemicals.

“Beauty bark isn’t just for beauty,” he said.

The majority of the city’s landscaping is done with bark or wood chips, Interim Parks Superintendent Clayton Pray said. But for them, it’s chosen because of accessibility. In 2020, the city used basalt rocks on a couple projects and liked the look of that.

Wood, opposed to rock, is renewable, Storwick said. And, it’s not going to end up in a landfill, but be repurposed for community benefit.

“Wood is brilliant,” Storwick said. “It’s regenerative. It keeps growing.”

For anyone planting trees, bushes or building a garden, Storwick said, “whether you believe we came from intelligent design or primordial ooze,” wood chips are the way to go.

Wood will naturally decompose too, forming nutrient-rich soil, eliminating the need to buy any. On Storwick’s property, he pulls up a palmful of wood chips from the pile, and the steam of its core, hot as a safely cooked steak, wafts out. This is the bottled energy of decomposition. This is crucial in this region, where sandy, ashy dirt is so common.

While almost any soil type can be altered, it does tend to dictate certain trends, Pushovsky said. In sandier areas of Moses Lake, such as Mae Valley, grass is more common because it helps keep the sand down, as opposed to rocks.

Moses Lake couple Amanda and Tristan Williams recently moved into Mae Valley and decided to landscape their entire backyard themselves from scratch. This required flattening, leveling and seeding.

While they mostly chose grass covering, along with bushes and flowers, they put in a path made of pavement. They also added concrete edging and left a section to build a raised garden this spring.

All of their decisions were made by aesthetic and cost, Amanda Williams said. They wanted to save money by doing everything themselves.

The pull from professional landscapers is a noticeable trend, Storwick said. The political climate is pushing people to become more self-sufficient when it comes to their yards. A lot of his customers are growing their own vegetables and doing their own landscaping.

With websites such as Pinterest for design and Google and YouTube for execution, Amanda Williams said, it’s easier now than ever.

The sky is the limit in terms of ground cover, Pushovsky said. If you can dream it, it can be done.

But having a vision and an end goal is incredibly important, Amanda Williams said.

“It’s a blank canvas if you start from scratch. You can do whatever you want to do, and if you don’t like it, you can scrap it.”

Sam Fletcher can be reached at


Wood chips at Storwick Tree & Landscape.


Concrete edging at a Mae Valley residence.


Gravel and rock at Storwick Tree & Landscape.


A concrete barrier separates grass and basalt rock.