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 grown in long vines. Work smarter, not harder. Check out this work-saving Homestead Hack, y’all!
Mulch For Healthier Gardens
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.
It also helps preserve the precious moisture that can be zapped by the hot and dry summer months.
You can buy commercial mulch of course. But I’ve been known to use natural (and FREE) products when mulching around trees and plants. Things such as grass clippings, Free Bark Mulch or even spent hay from around the hay rings.
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.
Let Mother Nature Do The Work!
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 Sister’s Garden 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. The corn stalk provides a structure for the green beans to grow upon, and the green beans provide extra nitrogen to help feed the corn so both plants can grow strong.
Finally 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 and also keep 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 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 plan on a vining vegetable to be planted at the ends of my garden rows.
Vining Plants As Living Mulch
For instance, I know tomato plants don’t like to have soil splashed on their leaves when watering. So on the ends of my tomato rows I often plan to plant cantaloupe.
Tomatoes enjoy the soil being heated up in the early spring months. So when I first transplant them to the garden I don’t bother mulching them.
But as the season goes on they can benefit from some shading of their roots.
The cantaloupe vines grow long and by the time the temps are heating up they are long enough to ramble through the planting rows. 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. And I’m able to harvest lots of cantaloupe from my living ‘mulch’. LOL.
I plant cantaloupe most often to use for my living mulch – we love cantaloupe! (and I’m pretty fond of Cantaloupe Bread too. It’s like zucchini bread, but with sweet cantaloupe)
Other Living-Mulch Plant Options
But I’ve been known to plant other vining plants to serve as living much as well. Squash, pumpkin, watermelon or luffa are great to plant for use as living mulch and are often included in my garden plan.
The living mulch system gives those vining plants a place to grow and also gives them a second job in the garden too by helping their fellow vegetable plants grow strong as well.
Benefits From Living Mulch
My garden benefits 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!
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- 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!
- How To Make Your Own Garden Soil
- Easy Homemade Seed Tape
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