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Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

Posted by atjaguarx 5a (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 28, 11 at 15:21

I laid a layer of premium landscape fabric in the kids playground area. I laid a few inches of playmat mulch on top. I am having a problem with weeds growing on top of the fabric, within the mulch. I pull the weeds and a few weeks later, the area is filled again. The weeds grow in the mulch and the roots spread across the top of the fabric.

This is a large area (20x20) so it becomes very time consuming. I do live on a lot with no other homes built around me (fields of weeds). I have a large number of other landscape areas that have the same fabric with different mulch and I have no problems with weeds growing in the mulch.

Currently there is only an inch or 2 of mulch remaining. I'm at the point that I need to decide to add more mulch or perform more drastic measures.

As this is a children's play area, I'm hesitant of putting down any chemicals.

Is there anything I can do for this? After many years of pulling weeds, I've had enough.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

What kind of mulch is it? What kind of weeds?


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

Birds are probably perching on the playground, dropping seeds. The wind can blow seeds in, too. They should be easy to pull if it is done when they first sprout. In an area that size, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes a few times per month. The quality or cost of a landscape fabric has nothing to do with its' ability to suppress weeds that grow on top of it.

I'd put those kids to work! It's never too early to teach about gardening, that they must work to keep their play area nice, that we all have to spend some time doing things we don't want to. If you approach it right, they will think they are having fun and most kids have a strong desire to be helpful and contribute to the well-being of the household. They should get a sense of accomplishment, pride, responsibility, and stewardship from it.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

Unwanted plants will grow in mulches and the older it is the more they will since as the mulch is digested by the soil bacteria it becomes a very good planting medium. Birds roosting or even just flying over will drop seeds from any sources into your mulch and if all the conditions are good those seeds will germinate and grow. Periodic light cultivating will disturb that medium enough that germination may not happen. As the soil bacteria digest your mulch you do need to replenish it which will also help slow seed germiation.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

The weeds are very easy to pull and have no problems putting the kids to work to help keep the area clean. I was wondering if there is anything I can do to prevent it and if it was normal. I understand weeds can grow in mulch, I'm just surprised I have very little issues (almost none) in the rest of my landscaping.

The last time I pulled the weeds (early this spring), I filled 2-3 wheelbarrows full. One of the problems is that when I pull the weeds, they are so entangled with mulch, I lose a lot of mulch with it. It probably took me a good hour to do it (easy, but time consuming).

We are now pulling them again (only a few months later) and we probably have another wheelbarrow or 2 of weeds.

In my other landscaping, I maybe pull out a handful every few months.

Right now, I see two differences:

1. They mulch is different (playground uses "playmat" mulch)

2. The playground has 2 fields of weeds as it's border (although the other landscaping is maybe 8 feet away from my lot line)

I'm presented with 3 options

1. Replace mulch with rubber mulch (wife's idea, not sure I'm on board)

2. Add additional mulch (do I go with playmat again or regular mulch?)

3. Get rid of the mulched area and cover it with grass.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

The last time I pulled the weeds (early this spring) , I filled 2-3 wheelbarrows full. If you do it more often, it will be a small job that takes very little time.

One of the problems is that when I pull the weeds, they are so entangled with mulch, I lose a lot of mulch with it. It probably took me a good hour to do it (easy, but time consuming). More reasons why it would be overall less time-consuming and easier to do it more often.

We are now pulling them again (only a few months later) and we probably have another wheelbarrow or 2 of weeds. "Months" is a long time between weed patrols.

1. They mulch is different (playground uses "playmat" mulch) I am unfamiliar with this term, but did a little searching and it seems to be a name given to regular mulch, probably to justify charging more by making it sound special. Or the additional cost could be the process of having it certified. Maybe a combination of both.

2. The playground has 2 fields of weeds as it's border (although the other landscaping is maybe 8 feet away from my lot line). Yes, that makes a huge difference. It sounds like the playground is a perfect perch for birds foraging in the weed fields.

1. Replace mulch with rubber mulch (wife's idea, not sure I'm on board) I think this would create other problems, such as trying to keep it out of your lawn.

2. Add additional mulch (do I go with playmat again or regular mulch?) Mulch decomposes so "topping it off" occasionally will be necessary, whether in a flower bed or play area.

3. Get rid of the mulched area and cover it with grass. An option to consider with its' own issues: foot traffic wearing bare spots (muddy spots), and having to detail-mow/weed-wack around the play structure.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

Just called the landscape company that supplies the mulch. It is called "Playmat" mulch. There is no dye in it and it is NOT put through a shredder, rather it is put through a chipper. They claim that it provides more cushion when it's not shredded. The mulch is also NOT heat treated.

They claim that this mulch SHOULD not allow weeds to grow any more then other mulches they sell, but claim it is all dependent on the amount of moisture in the location as well as where the weeds are coming from (the empty lots next to me).

He suggested to fluff the existing mulch with a rake and put another 4 inches of Playmat on top of it.

I also asked for a herbicide recommendation and he mentioned that a number of his guests use a product called "Crossbow". I need to do some research on this product.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

Used tires piled up in dumps are considered a hazardous waste and your taxes are used to clean those sites up along with a lot of soil found under the tire piles that contain large levels of lead, cadmium, and other heavy meatals. So someone takes these tires and runs them through a shredder and packages them and sells them as a mulch, something for you to put on your soil which then would become contaminated by lead, cadmium, etc.
In mulches made from good materials you will see plants growing, even though that mulch can and does suppress "weed" growth under it. Eliminating those unwanted plants ("weeds") is easy and there is no good reason to spray a plant poison to do it.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

If the play area is bordered on two sides by weedy fields, then this is your biggest problem. And while birds may spread weed seeds, the biggest problem will be air-borne seeds. This will keep happening.

The 'solution' depends on your priorities.

If you want "weed-free-neatness", then that is one set of solutions.

If you just want a soft-ish safe place for the kids, with less maintenance, that is a different set of solutions.

What are you after here?


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

@ kimmsr... Not sure how recycled tires got into this discussion?

@ OP...
Just called the landscape company that supplies the mulch. It is called "Playmat" mulch. There is no dye in it and it is NOT put through a shredder, rather it is put through a chipper. They claim that it provides more cushion when it's not shredded. The mulch is also NOT heat treated.

That's good stuff to know, although shredder vs. chipper is just a matter of particle size in the finished product. The ASTM standards for which play mat mulch is certified are in regard to moisture retention and erosion control.

Here's a description of play mat mulch that I found:
Play mat exceeds all ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) requirements and is superior in quality. Our virgin hardwood chips are processed to create mulch that is clean and free from twigs and leaves. Our playground surfacing compacts in layers to give incredible impact resistance, therefore, receiving one of the highest government safety ratings.

He suggested to fluff the existing mulch with a rake and put another 4 inches of Playmat on top of it. This seems like an instruction that is in direct opposition to the results you want. Stirring up the mulch will allow more weed seeds to get to the soil. You could probably have a load of wood chips delivered for free via tree trimming service. The last sentence of the description I pasted above mentions compaction as a factor in impact resistance. If the person you called knew that, that should be more reason for them to not give you the "fluffing" instruction because the reason you have the mulched area is that it's under a play structure.

I also asked for a herbicide recommendation and he mentioned that a number of his guests use a product called "Crossbow". I need to do some research on this product. Great idea, putting poison in a children's play area definitely warrants research. If you could go into the future and ask your grown children if they would rather have pulled weeds or played in poisoned wood chips, I think you will have done as much research as necessary, though.


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RE: Weeds growing IN mulch on top of landscape fabric

In your comment above is, "1. Replace mulch with rubber mulch" and rubber mulch is recycled tires.
We have a couple of new people working on the yard at church and they remove all the leaves so we can buy wood chips to use as mulch. Luckely we had someone give us a fairly large chunk of money so we can do that.


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