Roots 'n' Shoots: Penny Royal: The Living Mulch

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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Penny Royal: The Living Mulch

 Living Mulch,
Penny Royal
 Mentha pulegium

I am really tired of weeding and get very irritated when new ones pop up in the garden, especially in the areas that border my veg plots – AKA ‘The Weed Zones’! So I decided I would like to plant something there that would compete and displace the weeds, preferably something that is useful to the veg garden; such as attracting insects, or repelling pests or has some edible use.

I settled for Penny Royal for several reasons:

ü It is a matting ground cover
ü It grows quickly
ü It has a pungent aroma that repels some garden pests (or I would assume disguises the smell of the veggies from the pests)
ü Water friendly because it belongs to the mint family
ü Low maintenance
ü Flowers to attract beneficial insects
ü Leaves are used for herbal mint tea or can be applied to treat insect stings

Growth rate of Penny Royal in The Weed Zones
Before pic: Late Summer
After pic: Mid-winter

As well as all the benefits of Penny Royal by itself; it acts as a living or green mulch with most of the benefits that traditional (dry) mulch also has:

ü Retains water (green ground cover is able to capture water from just 1mm of rain!)
ü Keeps the soil warmer for longer during the winter months and cool in summer
ü Controls weeds
ü Assists with maintaining a healthy soil community (microbes and small insects can take shelter)

I would suggest either pruning or digging out sections with a spade that start to invade the veg plots. The clumps you remove that have roots can be easily replanted elsewhere and it’ll keep on growing there – propagating Penny Royal could not be easier!

Weed guard
Penny Royal
Mentha pulegium
- Update - 20 September 2015


You can find information on clovers as living mulches @ Natural Biofertilisers & Edible Legumes post


Related articles:

Green manures and cover crops
Mulching – Watering Page
Attracting beneficial insects to the garden - Insectary
Pest Control

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6 comments:

  1. Hi Shroom. Have not been to your blog in awhile and when I come back I find this!! So excited! I have been searching for something that would help in the weed zones as you call them. I have tried stepping stones, bark mulch and the lot it just doesnt help as much as I would want. Also the bark needs replacing every season as it decomposes. Where did you find the Penny Royal? It doesnt look like anything I have seen on the Westrand before? Not that I have seen as much as I am making out to be hahaha... Otherwise your blog is very good and interesting as usual :)
    R

    ReplyDelete
  2. Welcome back! It has been a long time :) ...I am moving into the living mulches as a more sustainable approach to garden maintenance - not that my previous mulch wasn't, but the dried grass-clippings from the lawn wasn't enough for the chicken coop and the vegetable garden. Besides a 'perennial' cover of plants actually is a superior mulch by capturing maximum rain form quick showers and prevents run-off as well. The penny royals should be in the herb section; if I remember correctly it is the "Living Herbs" brand - if not under the herbs then try the ground covers. Also penny royal is resistant to being stomped on which makes it extra ideal for high-traffic areas :) I bought 2/3 plants and any spill overs I dug out and replanted - that way you get maximum bang for your buck, but it does take longer to cover all the problem areas.

    I am growing the penny royal in the weed zones and am planning on growing clover as a green mulch inside the veg patch. Clover is a compact ground cover, the insects love the flowers and it fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is perfect for the veg patch. I have planted a 'black' version (AKA dark foliage) of a white clover (Trifolium repens) - I would have preferred the red clover (T. partense), but our nurseries only stock white (they are under the ground cover section). Also I have noticed some wild clover (T. dubium) has made its way into my garden (not the same as sour sobs!) and I am letting it grow where-ever is comes up as it is a drought-tolerant clover variety. I am only at the beginning stage of my clover mulch experiment and will do a full post on them later with pictures to distinguish them from other similar-looking weeds as well!

    I will quickly add some links if you would like to see the difference between the soursobs and the wild clover:
    Soursob: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalis_pes-caprae
    Wild clover: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifolium_dubium (mainly the flowers resemble mini versions of alfalfa flowers)

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  3. WOW! That is a lengthy comment, almost a post on its own... tee hee... just thought of something else, I have some additional info on clover as a 'cover crop' under the green manures section: http://rsandss.blogspot.com/2013/06/green-manures-cover-crops-green-forage.html

    Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks it has been long time. Before I start replying that is a long post - haha thou lunch break is more than long enough to read and reply.

    When you say the penny royal is resistant to being stomped on,how resistant? For example can I make a complete path of it alone? Well will try it out this weekend. Go look at Sterlig kwekery, they normally have a big portion of the 'Living herbs' brand. While I am there will see if I can buy our sour sobs! I like the look of them and looking for somethng to grow over winter in few of the beds. Got loads of chicken manure but dont want to use it on everybed. I do like them, they look like pansies but just a bit different.

    Thanks for all the info. Will test it out and let you know what I discover :)

    Ross

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey was watching QI last night and they said something that I know you would find intersting. Did you know that tomatoes are carnivorous? Can you believe it they are. They trap insects in their sticky hairs and insect dies and falls to the ground, thus decaying and enriching the soil! Its pretty cool. Apparently there are quite many carnivorous plants. Heres a link if you interested.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/attack-of-the-killer-tomatoes-1834638.html

    R

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanx! LOL! Well if tomatoes and potatoes are secretly insect eaters then they aren't doing a very good job of it in my garden when the aphids are winning the who-is-gonna-eat-who-first competition!

    Oh - if I remember correctly the clover was sold under "Black Shamrock" in the nursery, but just double check the species name, Trifolium repens. I am sure you would be able to make an entire path of penny royal, seeing that mine gets stomped on for at least 30min to an hour in total every day by gardening boots :)

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete

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