Benefits of Using Vine Plants As Mulch: Grow Living Mulch!

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 living mulch I use plants that grow in long vines along the ground. Check out this work-saving Homestead Hack, y’all! 

A Green Solution: Many Benefits of Mulch 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 too .

What Can You Use As Mulch?

There are many things I use as mulch in my Homestead gardens:

Tomatoes in garden using cattle panel trellis, repurposed coffee cans for water, wood mulch. #TexasHomesteader

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. 

Expensive bags of mulch with wasteful plastic packaging at a local big-box store. #TexasHomesteader

But for my vegetable garden I’m using something even easier. And it’s still all natural and eco friendly. 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. Plus it feeds me too!

Eco Friendly Gardening: Use Vining Plants As Mulch In The Garden

When looking for mulch options in my garden I like to let Mother Nature do the work! 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 started 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. Both plants benefit each other so both can grow strong. 

3-sisters garden an example of growing living mulch, with squash vines growing among the corn and beans. #TexasHomesteader

Finally, vining squash is planted between each corn/green bean plantings. The squash grows into long vines that amble around & covers the ground around the plantings.

Those large leaves growing along the ground provide important 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 as well as for each other in this beautiful symbiotic growing plan.

3-sisters garden is an example of living mulch, with squash vines growing among the corn and beans. #TexasHomesteader

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.

Vegetable garden layout on a spreadsheet for garden planning. #TexasHomesteader

I’ll use those vining plants as living mulch.

What Vining Plants Can Be Used As Living Mulch?

I don’t plant the same plant to use as living mulch on all rows. 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)

Cantaloupe bread made with harvest from living mulch. #TexasHomesteader

Watermelon – RancherMan & I freeze the fresh melon cubes and use them for a cold, refreshing Watermelon Smoothie or Daiquiri

Frozen chunks of watermelon, a little sugar and Captain Morgan spiced rum makes a delicious daiquiri. #TexasHomesteader

Spaghetti Squash – I make it cheesy and lasagna style. Plus it’s prolific so there’s plenty to share with friends & family.

Simple spaghetti squash recipe - cooked in its own shell. #TexasHomesteader

Pumpkin – It’s beautiful used in fall decorations, then I cook & puree it to make RancherMan’s favorite Pumpkin Granola.

Honey sweetened pumpkin granola. #TexasHomesteader

See what I mean? Lots of food coming from just ‘mulch‘!

How Vining Plants As Living Mulch Benefits The Garden

You may wonder how many benefits you actually see from planting this living mulch? Well there are lots of reasons using vining plants as living mulch outweighs purchased mulch in your garden:

Nearly FREE! Costs only a seed or two.
Less Work. No hauling bags of mulch and spreading, then finding a way to dispose of plastic packaging trash. Just plant a seed!
Water Conservation. Shading the soil makes moisture evaporation slower leaving more moisture for your plants. Enjoy less frequent watering.
Eco Friendly. No disposable plastic bag trash required.
Create Protective Layer for Plant Roots. Shading the soil keeps soil temperatures and root zones cooler in the hot months.
Weed Suppression. Living mulch keeps many weeds from popping up by covering the soil.
Provides Food. Unlike bagged mulch, living mulch actually provides FOOD!
Nutrient Rich Compost Material. Simply pull up the plants at the end of the season and add to your composter.

That’s a whole lot of benefit from just watching for smarter ways to mulch your garden, y’all!  #WorkSmarterNotHarder

Plant vining plants to grow along the ground in your vegetable garden to provide living mulch (and food!) #TexasHomesteader

How Mulch Benefits Tomato Plants

I’ve written before about Tips For Growing The Best Tomatoes. Adding this living mulch really helps all plants, but especially tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are warm-weather crops. So they enjoy the soil being heated up in the early spring months. When I first transplant tomatoes into the garden I don’t bother mulching them at all. We’ll get plenty of rain for moisture and the soil will heat as the season goes on.

Tomato seedling planted in repurposed pot being prepared to be planted outside in the garden. #TexasHomesteader

But after a while it starts getting too warm. It’s then that 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.

Living mulch helps your garden plants grow stronger by shading the soil Grow vining plants like cantaloupe, watermelon or squash for your own living mulch. #TexasHomesteader

The tomato bushes help shade the cantaloupe vines too, so once again they benefit each other.

Happy Gardening!


This post categorized in

Tagged in A list of all our gardening posts. #TexasHomesteader    A list of all our eco-friendly posts. #TexasHomesteader    A complete list of all our zero-waste living articles. #TexasHomesteader    Complete list of our handy Homestead Hacks. #TexasHomesteader

My Favorite Garden Hacks

My favorite gardening hacks all in one place. #TexasHomesteader

Garden Planning

Seed Planting

Soil Health

Garden Styles

Garden Plants/Harvest


Weed Control

Garden Tips

MORE Gardening Posts

C’mon by & sit a spell!  Come hang out at our Facebook Page. It’s like sitting in a front porch rocker with a glass of cold iced tea. Lots of good folks sharing! 

You can also follow along on Pinterest, on Twitter or on Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

* Please enter the Biggest Number

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.