It’s so nice when all you have to do in planting a new garden is put your shovel in the earth and dig. But sometimes you have to work with what was created long ago: the challenge of working with an established landscape.
Groundcovers are difficult to dig into when there are mature. This garden had ivy, pachysandra and myrtle mixed together throughout. Where many shrubs were, ivy was the main cover and it was at least 3” thick. First we tried to cut it with our hand pruners but that was slow going and very tough on our hands. Next, we tried a reciprocating saw but the vines would get caught and the blade was unable to cut well. Finally, we tried a small electric chainsaw and it worked! We used a shovel to lift the ivy up so no one had to hold the ivy in their hands (and chance an injury) and lo and behold the ivy was penetrated. Once we could access the soil, it was easy to dig.
I find in most situations where there is mature ground cover, all the years of leaf litter and other debris breaking down in the bed leaves better soil underneath. The ground cover allows Mother Nature to compost and make beautiful soil. Even in good soil, though, we always add compost into the holes and beds when planting, making things healthier for the plants.