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This new gardening trend is saving homeowners both cash and time — so what's the catch?

Unlike shredded bark or wood, native mulch can regenerate itself naturally.

Unlike shredded bark or wood, native mulch can regenerate itself naturally.

Photo Credit: iStock

A growing number of gardeners are planting "green mulches" instead of hauling mulch into their yards, which has numerous benefits for gardeners and the environment.

According to The Berkshire Eagle, rather than bringing in numerous bags of bark or "shredded and dyed wood," gardeners can fill the bare soil in their gardens with perennial plants.

This can offer the same benefits as the more commonly used non-living mulches and comes with additional perks. 

How does green mulching work?

According to ecological gardening expert Larry Weaner, people can create landscapes that reinforce local ecosystems and benefit wildlife. 

But there's a science to the magic. 

Instead of planting only one type of ground cover, a native green mulch should include a variety of plants. For example, instead of just planting black-eyed Susans in the sunny soil around your shrubs or trees, mix them with other plants that are commonly found together in the wild. 

Why is more natural gardening better? 

Native living mulch provides all the same benefits as conventional non-living mulches, such as suppressing weeds and keeping the soil cooler and more moist when the weather gets hot. 

While it's true that planting perennials requires more effort than simply spreading traditional mulch, the work pays off over time. 

Unlike shredded bark or wood, which needs to be replaced yearly, well-chosen perennial plants will naturally regenerate themselves from one year to the next, saving you the labor of annual renewal.

This makes gardening easier and will attract a greater diversity of wildlife to your garden.

Also, by having flowers that bloom at different times, you can provide a longer food source for pollinators and enjoy the visual delight for longer, as The Berkshire Eagle noted.

How does this help the environment?

Overall, the benefits of gardening are numerous. 

By growing your own food with perennial plants, you are saving yourself a trip to the store (and saving gasoline). 

But there's more. 

Fruits and veggies are often wrapped in plastic. In the U.S. alone, around 40 million tons of plastic are produced each year, only about 5% of which actually gets recycled

So, by growing your own produce, you are preventing more plastic from being made and subsequently thrown out, ending up in our environment, which is harmful to wildlife.

What about the cost? 

There is one issue with this kind of gardening that can easily be solved. 

Typically, when using woodland perennials as a living mulch, you need to buy pre-started plants, which can be costly if you have a large area to cover. 

The Berkshire Eagle reported that to save money, start with small groups of plants at different intervals across the area. 

Eventually, the plants will spread on their own through roots, stems, or seeds that fall to the ground. One great thing about a living native mulch is that it can reproduce itself naturally if given the opportunity.

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