Food Garden · Homesteading · Observations

Penny Royal: The Living Mulch

Penny Royal Living Mulch Mentha pulegium
Living Mulch, Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium

I can get really tired of weeding and become 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:

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


Penny Royal Mentha pulegium borders
Growth rate of Penny Royal in The Weed Zones. Before pic: Late Summer. After pic: Mid-winter (2014)

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:

  • Retains water (green ground cover is able to capture water from just 1mm of rain!)
  • Keeps the soil warmer for longer during the winter months and cool in summer
  • Controls weeds
  • 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 barrier Penny Royal Mentha pulegium
Penny Royal Weed Barrier, Mentha pulegium



Unfortunately, the following drought years saw the disappearance of the penny royal, due to lack of water as I wasn’t going to waste water on them when we had vegetables suffering from the drought. In the mean time, the kidney weeds have taken over the role and I think that they may be more robust and drought-tolerant than the penny royal. I am trying to selectively weed out the kidney weeds in favor for the trefoil clovers now… Read more about the clover ground covers (and green manure).


3 thoughts on “Penny Royal: The Living Mulch

  1. Sorry that you lost your Pennyroyal in the drought. I also use it as a living mulch between the small paving stones of our veggie garden path. I think I got the idea from a book by Margaret Roberts.


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