Living Mulch

A few weeks back I published the Earth Kind quiz. I talked about how I only scored a “good” (or 3 frogs) on the quiz and that one of the reasons for my abysmally low score was that I didn’t mulch.

Overview of are with moss & ferns

At the time I joked that perhaps I should have said that yes, I do mulch because I allow moss and native ferns to cover my soil.  This is just one area of my garden where it is doing so successfully.

This is a raised bed (if you can imagine such a thing, we have a 1,000 gallon in ground oil tank under here!) with a dogwood and a Japanese maple planted in front and rhododendrons nearer the house.  We inherited this from the original owner of the house.

Over time, rather than planting this with annuals, as I used to do, I have started filling in with perennials and the few bulbs that will tolerate the clay. There are hellebores down in front, hostas under the trees and the few evergreens that you can see in the photo. That wispy green evergreen is supposed to be a gold thread hinoki cypress. It’s not gold in all the shade. We keep it because the birds love the evergreen cover.

But clearly nature abhors a vacuum so she has begun to fill this in with moss and I am delighted.  Even last summer, when we only had 4″ of rain between June and August does not seem to have affected the mossy ground cover.

And then the ferns fill in as well–so thickly that I can’t really walk under here, which is great until I need to weed. Here are some photos of them just coming in.

fern close up

There are two types that fill in. My photos here are mostly of the lady fern. The other fern, the sensitive fern, hasn’t really begun to show up yet.


Here you can get a great idea of how many of them there will be in the moss.

closer view

A closer view of some of the fiddleheads.

more ferns

These ferns are at the edge of the Japanese maple–near the walkway. About the only place they don’t grow is right under the maple itself. It’s too heavily shaded.

ferns next to

Finally these ferns are at the edge of our walkway. They even come up between the slate slabs. It’s really amazing. And yet Earth Kind would prefer I mulch over all of this? I think not, thanks so much!

2 thoughts on “Living Mulch

  1. The Chatsworth Lady May 11, 2015 / 12:26 pm

    I am a huge fan of ‘living mulch’ but this year in the Temporary Garden will have to order 8 yards of shredded bark ($$$!!) simply to cover all of the bare earth already colonized by Weeds’R’Us. :-/ (the alternative would be chemical control, ugh0 However, in my next garden I plan to only mulch until whatever groundcovers I end up planting, fill in!

  2. gardendaze May 11, 2015 / 12:30 pm

    Given your struggles with that yard, I certainly sympathize with the expense of all that mulch. But of course you’re doing the right thing: you’re using “real” mulch–the shredded bark–and you’re not using chemicals. So good for you!


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