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Old 11-14-2010, 07:03 AM   #1
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


My bed next year is going to be pretty large (Around 200' x 30'). 2/3rds will be a rock bed and the other 1/3rd will be mulch. I'll need about 30 tons of gravel to do this bed. So I need something that's going to last for years. As you can imagine, I can't take 30 tons of gravel out every 5 years to replace the weed barrier. I know some landscape fabric is rated at 15-20 years, but I'm mixed on using the fabric. I've read dozens of times that this fabric is more of a headache because the seeds will get on top of the fabric and actually root through it making the weed harder to pull out. Plus it's bad for the soil.

I'm curious as to what exactly I should use. Some say newspaper, but I'm not sure if people lay newspaper just to initially kill the weeds or if this is supposed to last forever.

I'm considering laying down the wet newspaper, then the gravel and just use Preen twice a year, but I wanted others opinions on this.

Thanks!

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Old 11-14-2010, 11:33 AM   #2
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


I'm not a big fan of landscape fabric because:

I have found that it's more of a pain if you ever decide to do any work where it is installed. You will never go back in there to re-grade, plant new material, etc. without having to uncover it and cut it back first. First class PITA to me.
It does not prevent all weeds, nothing will. Case in point, I have a 28' x 72' greenhouse with 6-8 inches of gravel. Weed seeds still come in through the vents and germinate. Before someone asks, no I did not install the fabric in there. I think common sense tells that it would be a moot point with that much gravel down.

So, if your reason for installing it is to permanently prevent weeds, NO. I will say that I use it on occasion in the garden. Lay it down between rows and maybe cover it with light mulch for appearance, or not. But this is a temporary seasonal use.

I'm sure others will recommend using it. Based on my experience, I don't. To each his own.

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Old 11-19-2010, 11:06 PM   #3
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


The main thing is to smother any weeds you have, so anything that puts a covering over the weeds will do. Rocks and mulch should be fine. You'll always get weeds poking through, but it shouldn't be a big problem if it's mulched properly.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:28 AM   #4
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


When we replaced grass in the backyard, the 3" of mulch used on top of fabric broke down after a couple years and turned into a great dirt bed for weeds.
We then replaced it with stone.
Drainage helps. The water follows the elevation and carries the dirt with it to the low points.
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Old 11-24-2010, 12:14 AM   #5
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ricksample View Post
My bed next year is going to be pretty large (Around 200' x 30'). 2/3rds will be a rock bed and the other 1/3rd will be mulch. I'll need about 30 tons of gravel to do this bed. So I need something that's going to last for years. As you can imagine, I can't take 30 tons of gravel out every 5 years to replace the weed barrier. I know some landscape fabric is rated at 15-20 years, but I'm mixed on using the fabric. I've read dozens of times that this fabric is more of a headache because the seeds will get on top of the fabric and actually root through it making the weed harder to pull out. Plus it's bad for the soil.

I'm curious as to what exactly I should use. Some say newspaper, but I'm not sure if people lay newspaper just to initially kill the weeds or if this is supposed to last forever.

I'm considering laying down the wet newspaper, then the gravel and just use Preen twice a year, but I wanted others opinions on this.

Thanks!
Once you kill the stuff that is growing there either with barrier, newspaper, cardboard, or weedkiller, then your main problem is new things landing and germinating. Using preen will stop the vast majority of these things from germinating in your bed.

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Old 11-24-2010, 06:57 PM   #6
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


Correctomundo Jamie, IMO. Based on my experience I do value the use of pre-emergents, Preen or others as appropriate.
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:07 PM   #7
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


I am thinking about using tyvek house wrap. Or titatium roof mesh. I seem to have a bit left over from building my house and I haven't had any luck with landscape fabrics either. I have even used vapour barrier plastics too. I am hoping one of these will prevent the roots from pushing thru it.
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:52 PM   #8
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I am thinking about using tyvek house wrap. Or titatium roof mesh. I seem to have a bit left over from building my house and I haven't had any luck with landscape fabrics either. I have even used vapour barrier plastics too. I am hoping one of these will prevent the roots from pushing thru it.
I suggest not using those type of materials. They are not permeable.

If you plant anything in the bed, it's roots need to be able to get water. The root systems of many plants, especially trees are often many times larger than the plant. In general any kind of non-permeable membrane is a very bad idea for the health of your soil and your plants.

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Old 01-31-2011, 06:20 PM   #9
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For my non-lawn areas including my gardens, I use 5-6mil black plastic from Menards paint department. If I am planting, I cut X's in it for the plants other wise I cut the edges in and cover it with several inches of the mulch or rock. Buried, it lasts forever and, in the garden areas where I don't cover it, I can get 3 years out of it in a very nasty climate.

Although the plastic does not let water through, it also keeps water from evaporating and the holes I cut for the plants are sufficient for normal sprinkling. I have done this for many years ever since the first time I dug up expensive landscaping fabric that failed. I am a master gardener and I have a 100% weed free garden. I love it and the plastic is way cheaper than landscaping fabric.

You may have to special order the wider, thicker hunks of plastic. You can get it up to 10 and 12' wide in 25, 50 and 100' rolls.

I found some photos. Here is a small pear tree after only a few months with heavy landscaping fabric. The weeds actually killed and ate the 2 small bushes that were on either side of this pear tree:


Here I redid it with a left over piece of the fabric just around the tree because it is a baby fruit tree and it really needs water the first few years but the 2 ends I covered in heavy black plastic with some gladiolas on each end covered in mulch. Here the middle is done:


And here is a closeup of one end a year later. Heavy black plastic covered in free pine wood mulch no weeds and plants thrive:


This is what a newly planted black plastic garden looks like. When the plants grow you barely know the plastic is there and birds like the tiny water puddles and it's clean to walk in too. All benefit no downfalls:

Last edited by TechLauren; 01-31-2011 at 07:18 PM. Reason: Found pics to add
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Old 02-01-2011, 08:00 AM   #10
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Alternatives to landscape fabric?


Plastic causes uneven distribution of water. Below it, where there may be tree roots, it gets very
dry in spots. Above it, some parts will become waterlogged.

Weed control cloth is better but still far from perfect at getting water distribution underneath.
Water may flow on top of the fabric to low spots before seeping through to the soil beneath.
There may still be dry spots near the X's you cut to insert flowers, and shrubs really need moisture-
receiving soil in a more or less circular area corresponding to the span of the shrub above ground.

In addition, weeds grow in whatever is above the weed control cloth or plastic.
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Old 02-01-2011, 04:18 PM   #11
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shrubs really need moisture
receiving soil in a more or less circular area corresponding to the span of the shrub above ground.
I'd suggest that span be the very minimum. Roots can spread out much farther than the span of a shrub or tree.

Why not just heavily mulch and pick out the weeds when they come? They will eventually show up with our without a barrier.

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