Weed cloth under fig tree?

noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)May 4, 2010

I'm sorry if I seem to be posting a lot, but I'm rethinking so much to do with my fig trees.

When we planted the fig tree in-ground out back, I was told I could put weed cloth under it to discourage nutgrass and other weeds from growing. I had also put layers of newspaper beneath that, but was told to get that out of there because it would smother the fig tree roots.

I'm wondering if the weed cloth would smother the fig roots. The water goes right through it and I can see right through it. It doesn't stop some of the nutgrass (I HATE nutgrass!!!) and some of the fig roots were growing through the weed cloth. The soil beneath the weed cloth was damp, as I'd watered the tree yesterday, but it wasn't wet, or soggy.

I took the opportunity to check some of the little roots that pulled loose when I peeled back the weed cloth and they look very nice--no sign of RKNs that I could see. The soil smelled so rich and loamy and is black and loose. When we planted the tree, I spread potting soil in the hole and all around the tree after it was planted. The the newspaper was spread under the tree and then the weed cloth. When I was told to remove the paper, it had already begun to disinigrate, but there were mats of it left, as well.

I also put cypress mulch on top of the weed cloth to hold in moisture and keep down weeds.

I'm wondering if I've acidified the area around the tree too much and should I put a little lime. It's got to be very acid with all the pine/cypress products I've used and our soil tends to be acid down here to begin with. If I need to tame down the acidity, what would I use and how, for an established tree?

Any suggestions for me? I don't want to overtend the tree and kill it that way, but it will wilt back in the sun a couple of days after I water it. The drainage is good as far as I can see. It's not in a low spot and the water does not sit in the soil, or puddle up. I'm missing something, though I'm not sure what.

Are there some South LA boys who can advise me as well?

Thanks so much,


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Personally, I don't see why it would hurt. If air and water gets through it then it's fine by my standards. What I do, is I cut a piece of used carpet and put it around the tree upside down. It seems to work quite well at keeping grass from growing under it, water and air go right through it, and it does seem to do a decent job of keeping the soil moist longer. yeah it probably doesn't look as pretty as other mulches but I care more about my baby trees than what others think of how it looks. You can always put more mulch right on top of it. That should totally control grass.
I'm in Arizona, so I don't have much advice as far as the soil goes, I'm pretty sure your LA soil is way different. (I used to live in Anaheim, and the soil there was very sandy compared to this heavy clay here)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 11:04AM
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The problem I had with landscaping cloth is the roots grew into the mulch on top of the cloth. Over the years as I add more mulch, the root zone above the cloth grew thicker. After about 12 years in the ground, I removed the tree and put it back into a container. While bare-rooting the tree, I found the cloth to be intertwined with the roots, and very tedious to remove.

Loose soil along with a thick layer of mulch should make for easy week pulling. After many years of growing in containers, I'm back to growing in the ground. I'll let you know if my views on week pulling survive the season ;)


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 12:43PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hello greendesert,

Carpet, eh? That's sure thicker than the weed cloth. I guess the weed cloth won't smother the roots if the carpet doesn't.

Hi James,

I think I'll try removing the weed cloth and see what happens. Fig roots will go into anything they like, such as mulch, especially as it rots down.

Do you have nutgrass in Houston? That stuff is monster grass as far as I'm concerned--pull it up and it comes up somewhere else.

That tree must have been pretty large if it was that old when you dug it up to pot it.

Good luck with the weed-pulling. I'll think of you when I'm battling the nutgrass.

Thanks to both of you,


    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:12PM
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