Landscaping Plastic

GreenTart(Zone 8)July 30, 2012

While cleaning out overgrown shrubs and invasive plants from the yard of our new home, I've discovered that large sections of it seem to be sheeted with black plastic about an inch or less under the soil. It's caused a lot of plants to spread roots out wide and shallow, and as a result the topsoil in many areas is as spent, dry, and bare, as a pot-bound dead nursery plant. Nary a worm to be found. I didn't grow up in this area, so can anyone tell me if this is a common practice for erosion control (the yard is sloping)? I cannot imagine it held much in place. I want to pull all of it out and start amending the soil, or at least let the plant roots grow in a more natural direction, but I don't want to create a larger problem. Any landscapers out there that might be able to advise me?

The home was built in the late 70's, if that helps. Not sure if the plastic was done by the original builder/owner, or a later landscaper. I'm flabbergasted.

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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Removing it is a good idea.
It does more harm than good and doesn't work anyway.
I once relandscaped a yard that had three layers of plastic with a layer of ground bark between each layer and it still had weeds.
It is not a common practice by any serious gardener or landscaper.
Mike

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:40PM
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GreenTart(Zone 8)

Thanks for the response...it is the one I was hoping for! I've been cussing up a storm every time I dig around and find it, but in the back of my brain I've been worried it's there for a good reason. Glad to hear it isn't.

Given the amount of invasive and non-native plants that have been put in here over time, I'm not surprised that at least one landscaper or owner didn't really know what they were doing. Once we get rid of the butterfly bush roots, bishops weed, as much ivy as we can, and now the plastic, we are looking forward to plenty of native and/or edible shrubs and perennials. Let the recovery begin!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:15AM
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oliveoyl3

GreenTart - After you've removed the gunk you mentioned try sheet mulching, an easy layering of organic matter over the existing soil. You don't have to till it all and have it slide down your slope. (I looked at your profile, so that's how I know about the slope.)

To save the hands in cool weather I've worn disposable nitrile gloves under garden gloves. That way I can slip off the soiled outer gloves & still answer my cell phone while outside. :o) In hot weather my hands just sweat too much with both pair.

Be sure to take some photos so you can show the progress. It is motivating and might be what you need when the rains return & you're still outside working your space.

Best wishes, Corrine

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 12:53PM
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tanowicki

Black plastic under mulch used to be all the rage. It was (and still is) recommended as a way to minimize weeds and thus leaving you with a carefree yard.

My house came with black plastic too. I know there are still chunks between the roses and I take out a section or two each year. It's surprising that the weeds in the areas without the black plastic are about the same the areas with the black plastic.

I suspect I still have chunks left in other parts of the landscaping. I've tried to get rid of as much as I can but I keep finding it. I'm always surprised at how bad the soil under the black plastic looks compared to the areas where it's been removed.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 1:15PM
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tanowicki

Black plastic under mulch used to be all the rage. It was (and still is) recommended as a way to minimize weeds and thus leaving you with a carefree yard.

My house came with black plastic too. I know there are still chunks between the roses and I take out a section or two each year. It's surprising that the weeds in the areas without the black plastic are about the same the areas with the black plastic.

I suspect I still have chunks left in other parts of the landscaping. I've tried to get rid of as much as I can but I keep finding it. I'm always surprised at how bad the soil under the black plastic looks compared to the areas where it's been removed.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 1:18PM
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