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Eat Your Mulch: Tips to Get Better Groundcover from the Cooking Light Gardener

'Tristan,' a pink-blooming strawberry variety, is a colorful, edible groundcover.

No palate for pine bark? Spare your imagination--no recommendations to munch on woody mulch here. Mulch is a marvelous addition to all gardens, especially our edible one. We'd rather spend time harvesting and eating than weeding. Any groundcover that sufficiently blocks sunlight from nourishing those weed seeds lurking in the soil is a smart solution. Use landscape fabric, black plastic, two inches of wood chips or seedless straw. In your vegetable garden, think beyond the basics to a "mulch" that gives more benefits than browbeating the weeds. Taking liberty with the word, let's focus on the need: covering the soil and keeping it active with beneficial material.

* Strawberries are an exceptional groundcover that not only bloom beautifully and produce thick mats of glossy green leaves, but sweet berries, too. Strawberries are known to be a great border in flower beds and can also happily grow underneath a tree that doesn't cast too much shade, spreading with next-generation "daughter" plants on runners.

Easiest salad bar ever sown: sprinkle lettuce mix packets between young crops for quick picks.

* Patches of thickly-sown lettuce seeds can quickly get to work providing cut-and-come-again baby salad greens in between cool season crops, such as broccoli or kale. By the time these crops are leafing out to shade the nearby soil, the lettuce has been enjoyed.

Radish seeds quickly pop to show where carrots will come later. They'll shade the soil to prevent weeds until carrots can catch up.

* The dynamic duo of radish and carrot seeds have a smart purpose beyond pairing on a spring menu: speedy radish seeds not only mark the rows for slow-to-pop carrot tops, but shade out unwanted weeds in the meantime.

The motto is "use it or lose it!" You've worked to have nutrient-rich garden soil -- let it work twice as hard to nourish you and hopefully weed half as much. Tell us what you do to keep the weed seeds at bay.