Man Seeking No Weeds - Must Have Symmetry

MrPeaBottomOctober 2, 2013

Greetings All,

I have a question. After several years of a weed-filled-garden, I have become a little discouraged. I'm sure none of you have been there before, right??? : )

I have recently come across an interesting idea. Have your heard about it? Has it worked for you? Would you recommend it?

The idea is to lay down a "polypropylene woven ground cloth" down on the ground over your newly tilled ground. Then stake it down with either wooden stakes or large metal U nails that are used for landscape fabric. Then you take a blow touch and burn holes into the ground cloth every 8 to 12 inches. (Whatever your plants desire)

The polypropylene cloth already has colored lines on it and would make burning small holes for plants relatively quick and symmetrical. (Love Symmetry!!!)

The great thing about this woven polypropylene is that no sunlight can get through - however water is able to penetrate.

Since I am so busy going to school, I am looking for ways to reduce the growth of weeds in my garden.

Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time!

MrPeaBottom

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TXSkeeter

My experience with landscaping fabrics has been that they work well for a short time but as weed and other seeds fall on the fabric, they'll still germinate and grow. In effect, you have then taken out the weeds which were already in the soil and replaced them with weeds growing on top of the fabric, either in the decomposing mulch on top of the fabric or in soil that has found its way onto the fabric.
If you do decide to try this method, leave the torch in the garage and simply cut a X in the fabric (sharp knife, scissors, etc.) where you want to plant something. The triangular portions of the cut can be folded back underneath to allow more or less room for the growing stems to grow through.
Also, if you plan correctly, there is no need to stake the barrier cloth. Adding your desired mulch on top should be ample weight to hold it down in all but the most severe storm.
Unfortunately, if you garden then you're going to have weeds. The most common solution is to take a sharp hoe or other tool and chop them out as you see them, The first go-round might take a while but if you then spend a few minutes per week, you'll soon find that the issue is easily manageable in a minimal amount of time, say 5 to 10 minutes.
Steve

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 11:40AM
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MrPeaBottom

Thank you Steve for the insight, much appreciated!!!

I was considering about cutting X's in the fabric too and folding the flaps underneath. But what I was thinking that that the little flaps would pop back up from the wind and shift from standing on the fabric (planting) and would ultimately block the sunlight on the new seeds or seedlings.

Since I'm looking to make 5 rows - six foot wide x twenty feet long. With so many cuts in the fabric, I would hate to chase down all the little flaps in the fabric.

Good idea about adding mulch on the outside of the fabric, I can see how this could reduce it from getting wind blown.

In my third attempt at a garden, I added 16-16-16 fertilizer which greatly increased my vegetable production but also exponentially increased the amount of weeds. Some of the weeds were gnarly looking and sprang up everywhere -several inches a day. This is why I'm considering this approach and feel it could be an alternative.

Adam

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 8:42PM
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TXSkeeter

I suppose that you could cut little circles out instead of cutting X's but then, if you cut a hole to big or too small, you double the time spent. The choice is really up to you. Personally, I just have issues with using a hot flame on poly because given enough heat, it will actually burn. I seriously doubt that you'd end up with a real fire to worry about but if the cloth does burn and makes the hole bigger than you planned than you've somewhat taken away the advantage of having the cutouts sized to meet your expectations.
The weed cloth idea has some merit in certain situations so I'll try not necessarily to dissuade you on that but again, you really need to get the majority of weeds out before you lay the cloth. Notwithstanding the advertising hype, it really doesn't keep all the weeds out or kill them, it just slows down the process so initially, you have fewer visible weeds to start with.
I would also be prepared to replace at least some of the cloth yearly as, despite your best efforts, it will end up with rips and tears in numerous places.
Another idea commonly used (a bit more time consuming but cheaper) is to layer 10 to 12 sheets of newspaper (or at least a couple of layers of cardboard) directly over your soil and then cover with several inches of mulch. The paper can be wetted before laying so it remains in place while you mulch but planting after the fact is similar in that you just punch holes in the paper where you want to install plants. Newspaper and cardboard is for the most part, an ecologically sound gardening material which will degrade (compost) in your soil over a season leaving little debris behind while improving your soil at the same time.
Either material will in fact deprive anything underneath of all sunlight and kill all weeds or plants trapped except the most tenacious species. Earthworms however, will be at your beck and call since they're drawn to the dark, damp conditions under the paper.
Good luck on your choice of methods
Steve

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 9:44PM
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MrPeaBottom

Thank you again!

Maybe I'll give it a try on a small part of the fabric first. I could also use a coffee can or something smaller to isolate the flame on to the fabric. That might help a little.

Totally agree with you, I would hate to have smoldering liquid plastic all over my garden, I'm sure the worms wouldn't appreciate that. : )

I've placed newspaper along the outside of my rows for walkways during the Spring and then sprinkled straw on top of it. I read it somewhere - unfortunately it didn't occur to me until later that the straw has seeds in it and it started to sprout and grow everywhere. Hah.

This was in addition to all the weeds among my plants. Hah. Needless to say, it wasn't the prettiest walkway or garden this year.

It's all a learning experience.

Good luck on your garden Steve. Much appreciated

Thank you again for your advice!

Adam

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 11:16PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Cardboard under the mulch is a much more reasonable solution. It decomposes, roots do not get tangled up in it, and can be replaced as necessary. Everything you've heard about the benefits of landscape fabric is a lie.

Disturbing the soil is devastating to both the drainage and moisture-retention properties of soil, and to most of the beneficial life forms, although can be repaired over time, and is necessary to add plants to a garden, sometimes desired to incorporate OM into the soil. The only way to begin to replicate/repair that is to add OM to the soil. Adding it to the surface is how it is done naturally.

Whatever comes along, when it comes along... grass from mower bag, leaves of course, trimmings of shrubs, pine needles, kitchen scraps (of fruits/veggies,) newspaper, anything that will decompose will add OM to the sand, silt, clay already there. That will moderate moisture levels in both times of excess and drought.

Digging up grass is really hard work and so many people think it's necessary to start a garden but if they would just do the smother part when they have the gardening urge, simply waiting after that would provide "a bed." And it's so much better 'stuff' than what's left after grass is removed. It was probably not very good 'stuff' where the grass roots were growing, but it was 'the topsoil' of that area. Once removed, the best part is gone, and what's left is less fertile, more compacted, without any life, tilth, humus.

Now is an awesome time to get started. By spring, you can get out your tape measure and install whatever grid of plants you'd like in your nice clean slate of a planting bed.

Here is my newest spot of reclaimed grass, hardly anything in it yet. Covered (green) grass with large, overlapping (brown) cardboard, outlined with the landscape timbers, then very unscientific layers/additions of OM as available. Digging in too soon could be a disaster if the grass isn't really dead yet. Waiting longer = more certainty, more lovely decomposition. The filling was much higher inside the timbers but shrunk significantly while decomposing. I will install a few things I have in pots when it cools off a bit, and will have created a whole 'landscaping bed' without ever breaking a sweat. Plenty of room to stick some annuals in the spring too for a few years until the baby versions of larger things mature.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 11:00AM
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granneeeeannie

I have used the woven black "cloth" you speak of as paths in my veg garden for about 4 or 5 years. I got so tired of weeding the paths and this stuff worked great. Each year I've ordered more (Promat- it is black with a couple blue stripes) and have placed it under long beds of winter squash with no weeding and in a flower bed. I cut holes for the plants and turned under the raw edges but have heard others use a torch like you've suggested which sounds better since it would prevent fraying but I don't have one to try it. I have put newspaper under a hole that happened due to a rock underneath and that took care of weeds popping out. I occasionally use a broom to sweep off debris that might attract weed seeds to sprout. I went to the woven type after having many failures with the nonwoven stuff. The woven seems to be very tough- I don't even take it up in the winter which some people do. Recently I bought a 6 ft wide roll of it at Lowe's or Home Depot (?) and will do some more beds. I also ran some under brick paths and didn't bother to mortar or sand between the bricks, just used a heavy edging to keep them from rolling. This has worked well- no weeds. It really will save you time.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:42PM
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granneeeeannie

I have used the woven black "cloth" you speak of as paths in my veg garden for about 4 or 5 years. I got so tired of weeding the paths and this stuff worked great. Each year I've ordered more (Promat- it is black with a couple blue stripes) and have placed it under long beds of winter squash with no weeding and in a flower bed. I cut holes for the plants and turned under the raw edges but have heard others use a torch like you've suggested which sounds better since it would prevent fraying but I don't have one to try it. I have put newspaper under a hole that happened due to a rock underneath and that took care of weeds popping out. I occasionally use a broom to sweep off debris that might attract weed seeds to sprout. I went to the woven type after having many failures with the nonwoven stuff. The woven seems to be very tough- I don't even take it up in the winter which some people do. Recently I bought a 6 ft wide roll of it at Lowe's or Home Depot (?) and will do some more beds. I also ran some under brick paths and didn't bother to mortar or sand between the bricks, just used a heavy edging to keep them from rolling. This has worked well- no weeds. It really will save you time.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:56PM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Pea Bottom,

A follow up to the fertilizer issue. If you put fertilizer only around the plant you want to fertilize, then you should not have fertilized weeds all over the place, but only in the spot where you plant is. That soil is loose and you should be able to easily pull those weeds if you maintain a regular approach to working the weeds. As Steve opined earlier, it should take only a few minutes each week to take care of weeds. The fewer weeds that are allowed to go to seed, the fewer there will be in the future.

If you really had straw, then you should not have had any problem with seeds. If you had seeds, then you probably didn't have straw, but possibly hay.

Jim

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 10:49PM
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