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I think this photo tells the story much better than words:

enter image description here

However, I will try words as well: It rained today, and earlier in the week, at times heavily. As each rain drop landed within the flower box next to my front porch, it splashed a little. When the rain drops were larger and falling more furiously, those splashes caused the topsoil to become a splatter of mud.

Now, as the sun is coming back out and drying things off, all of the things that should be looking pretty instead look muddy. The dragon-fly on the "Welcome" rock, the stem of the solar light, even the lower leaves of the plants, all have a splotchy gray-brown film upon them.

Later, I will need to go back out and rinse things off with a more gentle flow of water. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? Any sort of ground cover, for example, or other tricks?


EDIT: In response to a comment, here is another photo (from a year ago) showing a wider perspective. Total size is roughly 21" by 36". The red rectangle shows about the area you see in the photo above.

enter image description here

  • You mention 'flower box' which suggests this is a container of some sort rather than open ground, is that correct? If so, its quite unusual for rain to cause this problem in a container right next to a wall - could there be extra water getting into the box from, for instance, run off from the porch roof or a leaky gutter? – Bamboo Apr 15 '17 at 19:40
  • Mulch? That's what I'd use – J. Musser Apr 16 '17 at 1:51
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Raindrops can hit the ground with a surprisingly large force. If there is bare soil then you will get muddy splatter. As you mention in your question ground cover is the way forward. This could take the form of planting or a mulch. Essentially, you want to cover the soil with something that is going to absorb the force of the raindrops so that they cannot disturb the soil, whilst not breaking down themselves. Non-planting options would include gravel or bark mulch. Planted options will depend upon your location, soil, microclimate etc.

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Thanks for the extra information. Because the plants you have in the bed already aren't big plants, adding ground cover won't look so good, so I'd be inclined to use gravel or shingle or small stones of a suitable tone or colour. Use weed membrane beneath (you can cut it to fit round existing plants) simply to stop the gravel or stones from disappearing into the soil, especially if heavy rain is a problem. Using the membrane also means it's easier to move the stones simply by lifting the membrane, complete with stones, out of the way, if you want to change the planting at a later date, or if the stones get really dirty over time and you want to change them. You could use bark chips, but they too can cause dirty splashes on plants. Alternatively, if you don't like the idea of membrane, use much larger stones like cobbles. They come in two or three sizes (well, in the UK at least), so choose something a bit smaller than the decorated stone you already have in the bed.

You could, though, think about adding something that will trail over the wall - both Aubretia and Cerastium tomentosum (snow in summer) should be hardy in your area. If you do use these plants, remember to cut back quite hard once the main flowering is over to keep them neat and bushy. These would both help to cover some of the soil too, meaning fewer stones, but they do both require good sun exposure.

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Lay down some kind of a mulching layer, even in your flower box. The bare soil/dirt will spray from the impact of the raindrops. Some shredded bark mulch or whatever else you use, left over from other mulching around your house, should limit that impact spray on your plants.

There's a coffee bean importer in my town, and I ask them for a few of their empty burlap coffee bean sacks from time to time, and use those as ground cover or mulching needs. You have a lot of options, just get something on top of that bare dirt.

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Mulch will cut back the dirt splashing up significantly

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