alternative to mulch over landscape fabric

lucia_ca(z9 CA)January 27, 2008

I have a huge backyard and you can just imagine the weeds I have to deal with every spring! Years ago I put landscaping fabric down and mulch/wood chips over it. I have inadvertently created some fantastic "soil." The mulch has broken down and there are more worms than I can shake a stick at. Of course the weeds love this medium and are growing on TOP of the landscape fabric. Does anyone have any better solutions to weed abatement? (besides round up, of course)

I remember reading in a book? on-line? somewhere that there exists some sort of gravel that will eventually knit itself together forming a good weed barrier. Anyone know what kind of gravel this is and where I can buy it?



---lucia is coco county (usda9/sunset 14)

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You are probably thinking of decomposed granite which is often used on paths. It works but has to be kept swept to prevent accumulation of leave litter on top which them becomes a place for weeds to grow. DG does pack well and weeds are generally not a problem growing through it. Al

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 10:28AM
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but it does get EVERYWHERE... if you walk over it, you'll be tracking it into the house. Maybe depending on the size of the actual gravel, but we had it as a path... ooh it was frustrating!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 1:49PM
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I use the fabric/wood chip method also and I find that about every 3-5 years I need to scoop out the old disintigrating mulch and add it to my compost pile. Then, of course, I need to bring in fresh wood chips to cover the cloth again.

I know that a lot of folks don't advocate using landscape cloth, but I find when it is used only in pathways and areas where you don't plan on growing plants it works quite well. I use only a layer of compost or leaves on top of the soil in my raised vegetable beds.

So far we've converted about 1000 square feet of our back yard to a raised bed/landscape fabric & wood chip area. This part of the yard was the worst in terms of weeds before we began, with a combination of a deep-rooted dock species, Bermuda grass and bindweed.

At first I needed to run around with a bottle of round-up every couple of weeks and "hit" the bindweed and Bermuda grass that wanted to penetrate the cloth, but I haven't had to do that for the past few years. Now I only spend maybe five minutes a week weeding the area, pulling out the stray plants that try to take a hold in the mulch.

Here's what the area looked like just before Thanksgivings Day this past fall...

I don't think that you'll find any method that doesn't require some kind of occasional upkeep...


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:03PM
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lucia_ca(z9 CA)

Thanks that picture Mike...and yes I know....upkeep is the answer isn't it? :) Our yard is big and that is why I'm trying to minimize the effort required to keep it decent.......

Why don't a lot of people advocate landscape cloth? I use it almost everywhere...and even surround my raised beds, fruit trees with it.......anything I should know about it? Does it leach chemicals?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:47PM
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I haven't heard of any toxic dangers associated with the material; most of the complaints seem to in the vein that it plain doesn't work. Many people note that layers of newpaper or carboard actually impede weed growth more (I've never tried this).

I've also heard that if it's used in the garden itself that the soil beneath becomes compacted and doesn't promote healthy root growth.

It's always worked well enough for me in the situations that I mentioned above, but that doesn't mean that there aren't better alternatives ;)

I personally think that some folks have too high of expectations and are disappointed that it isn't 100% effective...


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:31PM
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wanda(Z9 CA)

Have you looked into those new eco-mulches? I think they're made of recycled tires and don't degrade. I haven't really done that much research on them and I don't think they do much to improve the soil, but they are lasting.

I saw something at the conservatory of flowers a few weeks ago, it looked like packed dirt, but felt like you were walking on hard rubber and I believe it was permeable. Wish I knew the name of it.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 9:02PM
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I do use landscape fabric for weed suppression in some areas. I had a bad experience when I first used it and have been more careful since how I use it. I was gardening in two separate gardens and used the fabric over existing planted areas to help keep up with the weeds. In the rental I had an old fuchsia with redwood chunks over the root area and weeds growing in it. I removed the wood and lay down the fabric and put the wood back to hide the fabric. Almost immediately the fuchsia went into decline. The fabric was the only change I had made so I took it back off and the plant recovered nicely. In my own garden I had a large healthy Tibouchina and a Solanum rantonnei about five feet high,also with a redwood mulch. Both plants went into decline, the Solanum did not recover after the fabric was removed. Since that time I use the fabric only before the plants are established, usually cutting a x in the fabric and planting through it. Doing it this way I have no further plant root problems. Al

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 9:42AM
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I also use mulch over landscape fabric and found it pretty good at massively reducing weeding. Weeds do sprout now and again from the places between sheets of the fabric, or from the Xs where I've made planting holes, but it's so much less than before. And yes, sometimes weeds sprout from the mulch, but it's 100 times easier to pull them out versus them being in the ground.

Honestly, if you've got earthworms, you're doing something right. As everyone says, no weed prevention method is 100%, that's just nature at work.

One thing you could do to reduce your chores a little further is using corn gluten meal, which is a non-toxic pre-emergent herbicide. That means it prevents any seeds from sprouting but it will not harm established plants. I admit I haven't felt it necessary to use it myself, but I've heard it's very helpful.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 1:09PM
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