Black fabric weed barrier- thoughts? UPDATE: Have another idea.... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 09-02-2011, 01:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In the veggie garden. I plant in wide rows with walkways between. The first year I mulched some rows with cardboard/newspaper with straw on top and left others bare dirt. This year I used just straw in one section and let the other areas grow grass. Then I'd go through with a weed whacker to trim pathways. 

 

Well, even that is too difficult. I have a hard time sourcing enough mulch to cover ALL my pathways. And I'm too lazy to keep up with trimming. I'm in year two of gardening in a VERY overgrown lawn/field. Each spring I rake out as many roots as possible but I'm still dealing with that crazy grass that grows everywhere. 

 

So, what's your take on the blank fabric weed barriers? I went to a garden centre that had them all over the place and fell in love. They didn't have anything planted though, everything was in pots. 

Ideally I would cover paths with the fabric, stake it down and leave it as is. Will it last? Will it leach out all kinds of toxins into my garden?


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#2 of 12 Old 09-02-2011, 02:14 PM
 
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In my experience, your best bet would be just ordinary, unbleached paper bags from your grocery store (the kind you bring home your groceries in) or newspapers covered with cut grass. Yes, the cover does compost after a while. Yes, it will not be 100% weed free but...

 

It is not plastic. That means that when the covering starts to break (which the thick plastic will also do, thanks to weather and wind, not to mention strong dandelions not caring that there is a cover) you don't have to worry about small, small plastic bits getting into the earth. Plastic that does NOT decompose and become dirt again. But just disintegrate, into ever smaller pieces. Oh, and the paper+grass is not that expensive either. And usually...if you do not have enough grass, your neighbour will be happy to donate theirs if you just cut it (once a season might be worth it, no?).

 

In the autumn, top it up with some fallen leaves and you shouldn't have to redo the whole thing until next year. Only having to pull the occasional dandelion or thistle out. Which does break through the plastic covering too.

 

So, save your money, do nature a favour and skip the plastic idea even if it is slightly more effective than just paper and grass.

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#3 of 12 Old 09-02-2011, 04:58 PM
 
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af.gif

 

I hate hate hate fabric weed barriers, and black plastic ones as well.  But the fabric ones are pure evil!  As a professional gardener I can't tell you how many bazillions of yards of root-infested weed barrier I've had to dig up.  

 

Weeds happen.  Wire-grass roots and other wandering roots creep in.  Now, bindweed loves cardboard mulch, but it won't grow into it like a quilter stitching an evil, ironclad quilt.  Roots grow *into* landscape fabric, and then good luck weeding them out!  Now you have to completely remove the fabric section by tiny section fighting the weeds every way.  The work is exhausting!  Thankfully *I* got paid $25 per hour to pull it up, and that was cheap labor where I worked in Seattle.  Now where I live I have to complete with the Evergreen students who charge $10/hr, but I guarantee they will either give up or not do it well.

 

No, the pp has the best solution.  I've just given you absolute motivation to follow it.  Be careful not to *mound* on freshly cut grass, it can turn putrid in a short time if it's very deep.  I prefer free arborist's wood chips, especially the ones that come out of the chicken coop, or the raked leaves dh brings home by the truckload from work.  Anything free works.  Also, plain cardboard can be used instead of newspaper depending on what's available.

 

 


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#4 of 12 Old 09-02-2011, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is my garden almost a month ago. I haven't posted any pics since because it's awful. We're also doing a lot of work on our house so sadly, the weeds have had a merry party while I've been busy. 

 

I have some leaves but not enough to last all summer long. I don't have grass (no way of bagging it and I'm not going to rake it up-if it's even possible...). Cardboard is hard to find due to everyone moving between May-July. (College town + everyone moves July 1st in Qc). By the time I got boxes mid July the weeds were already well established. We don't have paper bags at any local stores.

 

I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm trying to find alternatives. Where would I find compostable materials? We also do not have some magical dump where you can find clean compost materials like I've read about online. 

 

I have a stash of newsprint under the kitchen sink. I'm saving it up for next spring... but even still, my garden is pretty big. Can't remember... 40'x50'? So it takes a lot of material. 

I'm feeling very frustrated with it all. 


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#5 of 12 Old 09-03-2011, 08:26 AM
 
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Wow!  I see your point about the grass.  This isn't exactly an ecological solution-- and it has some annoying side effects-- but old carpet is the best sheet mulch there is.  You'll have to give up that section of the garden for a year.  Lay old carpet-- not too old because the fibers will start coming out  right away (and it always seems to a little bit, that's one of the annoying things.  Maybe find looped carpet?)  Water well first, overlap any edges and leave it for a year. ( I would say 2 years, but the carpet would likely disintegrate as you pull it up.)  Then take it to the dump.  That's the other annoying thing-- it takes on a lot of water and makes a heavy load.  Take it to a dump that charges by volume, not weight.

 

As far as timing, it might be too late in the season to start now.  Lay it on in the spring when things get growing.  Plants will be using stored energy and are particularly vulnerable.  Keep it on all season, until things freeze and the snow puts the mulch on for the rest of the year.  (Here in the US NW, we have things growing almost year-round, so the mulch needs to stay, too.)

 

Works beautifully, except for some stray carpet fiber bits (though since you might not need to keep it on for a whole year in your area, that problem will probably be minimal or non-existent.)  Even though you take it to the dump, it was headed there anyway and you gave it one last use.  Try asking at a carpet dealers that remove old carpet, or maybe on craigslist.

 

You could try temporary black plastic  but that tends to break in some places and let weeds through.  Maybe not so bad considering your trouble, but it's plastic and new plastic at that.  And though that will cost you money, you won't have any stray bits.  


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#6 of 12 Old 09-03-2011, 08:28 AM
 
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And definitely don't do grass pathways.... mulch the entire area and keep the grass out of the entire garden (because it will come eventually, from the edges and by seed.  Weeds happen!)


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#7 of 12 Old 09-14-2011, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not a fan of carpet. I feel like it would be even more toxic than the black weed barrier. 

 

I was feeling awful, like 'I should be more on top of things! How can I not keep up with a few weeds?!' But I'm not dealing with a few weeds here. If I started a garden in our nice front lawn (not possible) or in the neighbours backyard (also not possible ;) ) I wouldn't have this much of a problem. I planted in the only space available which USED to be a lawn but nature reclaimed it 10+ years ago. Hay fields are in better shape! So I just need to remember and embrace the fact that I'm dealing with a massive amounts of weeds and it will take awhile. 

So on to my new idea. I was talking to DH and he actually thought of it. Why not use real material?! We used to have a bolt of material that came from a factory for $5. It was some sort of jersey material, thick enough I would think. I would just need to pay attention to fabric dyes etc. This would give a nice, clean SOLID covering over the pathways and I can cover it with a light covering of straw or leaves for looks. It would cut down on the MASSIVE amounts of organic materials I'd need to cover everything (because it would have to be pretty thick to choke out weeds).  And if it eventually broke down, who cares. 

 

What do you think? Any holes in my plan?


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#8 of 12 Old 09-15-2011, 07:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatherAtHome View Post
What do you think? Any holes in my plan?

Holes in the fabric? winky.gif  Seriously, though, be mindful laying it down.  Weeds stalks can be poke-y and rip through the fabric.  Let us know how well it worked!
 

 


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#9 of 12 Old 09-15-2011, 07:54 PM
 
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We have used the black weed fabric for the past few seasons and it worked wonderfully. It kept 99% of the weeds out and helped to keep the soil moist underneath on even the hottest of days. From less than a dozen cherry tomato plants at the peak of our season we were easily picking a gallon of ripe tomatoes every other day.
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#10 of 12 Old 09-16-2011, 05:47 PM
 
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I have seen heavy-duty fabric on the floor of greenhouses (more like a coarsely woven tarp than the soft fabricky stuff).  This is placed on top of the soil with no mulch on top.  Much easier to remove and replace than the buried ones.  


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#11 of 12 Old 09-18-2011, 09:08 AM
 
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The point of the black is not just keeping weeds down.   Black row covers are how farmers in more northern growing areas get tomatoes and peppers to mature in a reasonable time.

 

THe black  ground cover heats up the soil and allows  the plants to grow faster and bear fruit earlier.  They're pretty much a necessity for all the CSA farmers around here to get reasonable crops.


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#12 of 12 Old 10-27-2011, 07:28 PM
 
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We use a paper product that it sold in rolls just for this purpose.  It works better if you dig out the weeds first, but if you aren't willing to do that, a layer of paper followed by some organic matter -- a good layer would be best (I know you said this is hard to come by).  We get black paper that is thin, like paper, and brown paper that is thick, like a cereal box.  Both work well.  My sister doesn't mulch on top of the paper (per the manufacturer's instructions) and it really does a good job of keeping the weeds down.  You could dig out all the weeds in strips a couple feet wide to plant in, and then put the paper down (you cut holes to plant through) on the rows and the paths.  It would be less labor-intensive for sure than digging up the whole area.  You have to re-apply it every year, but at least there is no plastic or adhesive or anything else scary in there.

 

Those CSA farmers in the northern reaches could totally use organic approved black paper instead of plastic.

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