Benefits/drawbacks of landscape cloth/newspaper?

zarbiya123June 28, 2007

I'm working on landscaping around our new pool area, and cleaning up a few years' worth of weeds-- actually the worst is just the St. Augustine grass-- it doesn't seem to want to grow on the lawn sections but pops up in other strange places.

At any rate, I've got a blank slate now, except for a couple palm trees, several hibiscus plants, an oleander bush, and some bougainvillea. I put some pine bark mulch around the hibiscus plants, but everything else is dirt. I've read the threads on here about landscape cloth versus newspaper, but I'm wondering if all of you use this, or if some of you just leave it alone with some mulch and tackle the weeds as they arise. My fear about using landscape cloth or newspaper is just that plants won't reseed themselves, and spreading plants won't spread.

Any thoughts on the benefits or drawbacks of using these ground coverings versus nothing at all?

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springtime_fl(z9 Tampa, FL)

I use no landscape cloth or newspaper. I prefer to let the mulch break down and enrich the soil. Also, when I need to replace plants it is a lot easier then cutting a hole in the fabric. I am always experimenting.

I never thought about the fact that it would stop plants from reseeding and spreading. I would think it would hinder that.

My husband wanted me to use some landscape cloth in one of the beds and it has been a problem for me. I have to cut a new hole to plant something and I find it does not keep the weeds out more than just mulch. Also, the fabric will show in areas that get washed from the rain and you always have to tuck it in agian & add more mulch. This bed just has a tree and a few bushes and a vine so I don't know if it hindered things spreading or reseeding. I haven't tried newspaper.

If you will not be changing the beds much you will not have that problem. My preference is just mulch. Everyone has different preferences. I'll be curious to hear others opinions. That is what I love about this site, great ideas!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 10:01AM
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I agree on the landscape fabric. It's a problem is you want to plant something there. Also it doesn't really hinder weeds, they just seed into it and makes it harder to get them out. I have used newspaper which works great if you leave it alone. I don't leave my garden alone and then you have crispy bits of dried newspaper around, but it works great. I don't know if any of it will stop plants from spreading especially if they grow by runners underground.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 10:10AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

I just used a BUNCH of newspaper under an area I mulched which will be used as a kinda sorta deck area for table/chairs.

I put down some pre-emergent and then many sheets of paper and then mulch and more pre-emergent.

I doubt I will be planting anything there anyways, especially not seeds for a while.

Main reason for putting down the paper was to keep the weeds down because it WAS st Augustine grass area and secondly to keep the mulch from disappearing into the soil.

I have done this before around plants with problems that I am aware of anyways.

A tip would be to wet the newspaper after you have a few layers of it down before putting the mulch on it, it seems to stay better and not blow away in the wind (paper that is)


    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 10:49AM
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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

Any seeds that land on top of the mulch still has oppurtunity to sprout be it weed or flower. The weed will thrive happily but the seed, say a cosmo will sprout and will NOT thrive like one which has it's roots in your lush soil.
I do not care for landscape fabric but love the paper.Wet it first and give the stem space. The newspaper will break down and the worms utilize,after all it use to be a tree !
I have one bed I do not mulch because I enjoy reseeding and it is so full of mushroom compost,cow manure and worm castings that weeds are easily pulled.One of my tricks in that bed is when I pull a weed or small Sabal Palm seedling is to drop a seed into the newly created hole. If you do use paper on lift it on occasion and let some air in maybe adding more organic material.I do this with the roses by adding Alfalfa Pellets under the paper and mulch.
When I start a raised bed I put an inch or so of wet paper on the bottom to snuff out weeds and then fill in with the good earth.
PLease check out the internet info and book called Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 10:52AM
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Have read the Lasagna Gardening book and it's great. This year, I'm ripping up old landscape fabric and pulling the weeds that grew right through it and replacing the fabric with newspaper. I water the ground well then soak the newspaper sections in a tub of water before laying them down. Then I cover with mulch and water it down good. If I need to dig a hole for a new plant, I just scrape back the mulch, wet the paper and poke a hole in it with the trowel or weed knife. So far, the only weeds I've seen are a few sprigs of grass in the small open area around a plants stalk. Easy to spot and pull. Maybe this is the year I won't have to do myself in to have a garden. cora

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 11:15AM
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wanda662(Stuart, Fl)

My understanding is that Paper is like what you use in compost, so you are building up your soil. It will break down in time.
Fabric won't break down. Then you have a bigger problem getting the weeds out.
Try both and let us know what you think.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 3:12PM
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i've used both cloth and newspaper. they have their strengths and weaknesses. in the end, i prefer to use cloth in areas that i don't want to mess with again. (yes, sometimes weeds grow in the decaying mulch, but a rake and five minutes will take care of the problem.) i use paper in new beds that i know i will be working in (esp my veg garden). i use A LOT of mulch (filched leaves and lawn clippings, free shredded trees from the dump, whatever), and in fact i've laid down paper, then mulched, then planted plants, then yanked them out and thrown them on the mulch when they've served their purpose, then put down newspaper on top of THAT, and then more mulch... (things break down fast here in our climes, so it's a bit of jujitsu, taking the challenges and making them advantages.)

anyway, really, the key thing to remember: weeds will eventually stop appearing in your well-mulched, well-weeded, well-tended beds. it takes a couple of seasons to get completely rid of weed seeds, but it happens. i have several beds with no cloth and no paper, but over the course of four years i've finally gotten all the weed seeds out and kept them out, or shaded them out with perennials, and now those beds are virtually weed-free.

the point of this -- nothing will get rid of all the weeds, but with time beds become much less weedy.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 8:05PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

I had a bad experience with using cardboard and newspaper layers. I covered large areas of "mounds" of soil, intended for planting fruit tree groupings. I had the mounds made because we *used* to get flooded a lot. Well, then came the drought, and the layers of paper caused any watering to run off, keeping the soil underneath bone-fry. I almost lost all my trees until I realized what was happening. I ripped up areas large enough to allow water to penetrate.

I now use 4-6" of pine bark mulch, and it works well - better and better over time. At first I have a few weeds, then they simply give up.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 8:14PM
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We have been experimenting with this also. I have a 150' border with no fabric and no newspaper - just 2" chipped cypress mulch. I get a fair number of weeds. Then, I have a hydrangea bed with fabric. Still gets as many weeds as long bed, and a pain to add more plants. Lastly, front yard bed with newspaper. (I mean 10 layers of newspaper.) Very few weeds, and easy to pull the few I get.

I will definitely use the newspaper again!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 10:20PM
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rosesr4me(z9 FL_west)

I use large pieces of cardboard that I then cover with mulch. I first wet the cardboard with fish emulsion "tea" (fold up the cardboard, place the ends in a rubbermaid container half full of diluted fish emulsion, let soak for a day).

I have converted large expanses of St.Augustine to garden beds this way and have had great success so far.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 9:41AM
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