by Texas Homesteader ~
Garden plants benefit from mulch to shade the ground. Not only does mulch moderate soil temps during the hot days of summer but it preserves moisture too.
For FREE living mulch I use plants that grow in long vines along the ground. Check out this work-saving Homestead Hack, y’all!
How Does Mulch Help In The Garden?
Here in NE Texas the summers can be hot and dry. So veggie garden plants benefit and are protected by using mulch to cover the soil.
It protects it from the drying heat of that brutal Texas summer sun. And it also helps preserve the precious moisture that can be zapped by the hot and dry summer months.
What Kind Of Material Can You Use For Mulch?
There are many ways I can get mulch for my garden:
Dried grass clippings – free and natural (be sure to dry first so you don’t burn your plants)
Free Wood Mulch from tree trimming/mulching companies
Spent hay from around hay rings (be sure to use only hay that has not been sprayed with herbicides)
As a last resort you can buy bags of commercial mulch from retailers.
But for my vegetable garden I’m using something even easier. And it’s something that doesn’t need to be purchased in a plastic bag nor hauled to the garden.
No hoe or rake to spread, no extra work at all.
Using Vining Plants In The Garden
When looking for mulch options in my garden I like to let Mother Nature do the work! And it’s a two-fer win.
I took a tip from the 3 Sisters Garden strategy commonly used by Native American Indians and early settlers.
Corn was a dietary staple for them. So in their 3 Sisters Garden they always started off by planting corn. But corn is a heavy feeder & pulls much nutrition from the ground to grow.
So green beans are planted at the base of each corn plant to provide nitrogen for the corn. But the corn stalk provides a structure for the green beans to grow upon.
They benefit each other so both can grow strong.
Finally, vining squash is planted between each corn/green bean planting. The squash grows into long vines & covers the ground.
Those large leaves growing along the ground provide shade for the soil. That helps preserve moisture for the corn and beans, and also keeps the soil temps more moderated from the hot sun.
All three plants benefit both from & for each other in this beautiful symbiotic growing plan.
Planting Vining Plants For Living Mulch
Then I got to thinking hummmmm… I really like the living mulch theory used in the 3-sister’s garden. Maybe I can use it throughout my entire garden-planting plan.
So each year when I’m Planning My Vegetable Garden I often include a vining plant to be planted at the ends of my garden rows.
What Vining Plants Can Be Used As Living Mulch?
I don’t plant the same living mulch on each row. I’ll change it up so I’ll get more food from this dual-purpose planting.
In my garden there are several options for vining plants I use for living mulch:
Cantaloupe – I love to eat it fresh or make Cantaloupe Bread (similar to zucchini bread but with sweet cantaloupe)
Watermelon – RancherMan & I freeze the fresh melon cubes and use them for a cold, refreshing Watermelon Smoothie or Daiquiri
Spaghetti Squash – I make it cheesy and lasagna style. Plus it’s prolific so there’s plenty to share with friends & family.
Pumpkin – It’s beautiful used in fall decorations, then I cook & puree it to make RancherMan’s favorite Pumpkin Granola.
See what I mean? Lots of food coming from just ‘mulch‘!
How Mulch Benefits Tomato Plants
Adding this living mulch really helps other plants in your garden.
Tomatoes enjoy the soil being heated up in the early spring months. So when I first transplant them into the garden I don’t bother mulching them.
But as the season goes on they can benefit from some shading of their roots.
PLUS, tomato plants don’t like to have soil splashed on their leaves when watering.
So on the ends of my tomato rows I often plant cantaloupe.
The cantaloupe vines grow long and by the time the temps are heating up they are long enough to ramble through the rows of tomatoes. So I just allow them to grow beneath, around & beyond the tomato plants.
The tomato bushes help shade the cantaloupe vines too, so they benefit each other.
Other Benefits From Living Mulch In The Garden
You may wonder how many benefits you actually see from planting this living mulch? Well there are lots!
My garden plants benefit from the soil being covered,
I benefit from not having to struggle keeping the plants watered so frequently,
Our budget benefits by being able to actually harvest edible food from our living mulch.
And Mother Nature benefits because no disposable plastic bag of purchased mulch was necessary. It’s pure and natural!
That’s a whole lot of benefit from just watching for smarter ways to mulch your garden, y’all!
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Planting Seeds In A Milk-Jug Greenhouse
- Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- Easy Homemade Seed Tape
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Where I Found The BEST Raised Bed!
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Rustic Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
- The Lazy Gardener’s Plant List – Plant Once, Eat For Years!
- How To Tell When Watermelon Is Ripe
- Luffa A Surprising Zucchini Substitute!
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- 3 Rainwater Collection Systems We Use
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
MORE Gardening Posts
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