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Weed Barrier Fabric or Weed Barrier Cloth? Does it work?

Last updated : 21 November 2014

In my opinion, and I have plenty of experience to back it up, weed barrier fabrics and weed barrier cloths do not work!   How about black plastic?  Black plastic doesn’t work either.

I’ve spent most of my life working in the landscaping industry.  I’ve landscaped well over 500 homes.  Many of those were re-landscapes.  In way too many cases when we arrived to re-landscape a home the very first thing that we had to deal with was weed barrier cloth that was practically welded to the ground because there were so many weeds growing through the fabric that removing the weed barrier fabric was a nightmare of a job.

I didn’t deal with this once or twice.  I dealt with it dozens of times!  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a situation where weed barrier cloth actually worked.  And there are reasons for this that I’ll explain after I show you a few photos.

Wanted!  Somebody in Your Town to Grow and Sell Small Plants from Home.


Old home  make over.

Old home make over.


About two years ago Pam and I purchased (she wasn’t too crazy about the idea) this old house because it sits on 4.6 acres or wonderful soil.  I got all excited about the soil, not the house.  It also had some old buildings that my insurance company didn’t like at all.   Because the buildings were in such poor condition they had to come down and we had a new garage built behind the house for my nursery equipment.

We fixed up the inside of the house, it was actually a lot nicer than the outside.  So now, in just a few weeks the same guy that built the garage for me is going to replace doors, windows and install new siding on this old house.

Then I will landscape the house.  Which brings me to weed barrier cloth!  The previous tenant put a ton of weed barrier cloth and black plastic around this house.  It’s in the beds in front of the house and it’s in the middle of the yard where there used to be a bed.  I’m going to landscape the house, and this plastic and weed barrier cloth is sure to haunt me for many years to come.  Urrrrrrrrrrg!  See the photos below.

A lot of what you see in these photos is black plastic, some clear plastic, but there’s also a great deal of weed barrier fabric scattered around these beds.

Weed Barrier Cloth.

Weed Barrier Cloth.


Weed Barrier Fabric.

Weed Barrier Fabric.


Weed Barrier Fabric.

Weed Barrier Fabric.


This is why weed barrier fabric and black plastic do not work for very long for weed control.  You put down the weed barrier fabric or plastic, then over that you put mulch or stone.  Usually mulch.  The mulch breaks down over time and eventually becomes the best topsoil you’ve ever seen.  Weed seed blows in, and because you now have topsoil on top of the weed barrier cloth, the weeds grow like crazy, on top of the weed barrier cloth.  But they don’t just grow on top of the cloth, the roots actually grow through the cloth into the soil making a huge mess of your planting beds.

You then have a bed full of weeds, and weed barrier cloth that is trapped between the weeds and the soil.  You really can’t use tools to remove the weeds because the weed barrier cloth interferes with your ability to dig into the soil.  Trust me, I’ve dealt with this so many times it makes me crazy to think about it.  Now I own a house that came with this built in nightmare.  I’ll deal with it once again, but I won’t be happy about it.

As a matter of fact, the mess that I inherited it so bad that I won’t even be able to remove these materials because they deteriorated to the point that if I pull on them they just break.  But the rest of the material is still below the surface just waiting for me to try and stick a shovel in the ground.

If you put stone over the weed barrier fabric you still get weeds.  Eventually dust and dirt will find their way between the stones and along come the weeds.  Same situation as with mulch.  With stone it usually takes a little longer, but it will happen.

I’ll show you some photos when the house is sided and the landscaping is done in a month or two.

Okay, lots of great comments on this topic and some questions.  First, several people mentioned that they use weed barrier fabric in their vegetable gardens and at the end of each growing season they pull it up and to re-use it again the following season.  I think one even mentioned washing it.  For this purpose I think the weed barrier fabric would be perfect because it’s not left down over the winter, nor is it left down long enough for the weeds to work their way through it.  So for veggie gardens, weed barrier fabric might be the perfect solution as long as you pick it up before any weeds can root through it.

Secondly, lots of people asked;  “Mike, how do we control weeds?”  So I wrote an article titled Weed Control Facts, just click this link to read that article.

Wanted!  Somebody in Your Town to Grow and Sell Small Plants from Home.


  1. Smitty says

    My experience exactly. We ended up killing some plants that we had planted just to remove the weed block that we had installed several years earlier.

    Thanks for all of your articles. They are spot on.


    • Marina says

      Hate that stuff too, it looks so awfull, my neighbor tried to convince my husband to use it , luckily, my old man knows whats good for him! Lol!! Keep up the good work and I cant wait to see the ” after” pics!

    • Pam says

      Fire ants love that black plastic. They nest under there, knowing that you can’t get to them with the poison.

      • Carol says

        If ants are a problem mix up a solution of detergent – dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, hair shampoo, etc – and spray it on the ants or pour it into the soil they are nesting in. It kills ants on contact and doesn’t harm anything else. Just use it sparingly and only where ants are a problem. They serve an important function in nature of cleaning up refuse.

    • Gram Pam says

      I have always had TERRIBLE experiences with weed-block fabric I’ve encountered. Never used it, but I have friends who have–contrary to my advice to use newspaper and cardboard. WONDERFUL results with both newspaper and cardboard in my yard. I lay it out (even on top of thick grass when I’m making a new bed), wet it down, place all manner of clippings on top from shrub trimming, edging, etc. Let the clippings dry out and decompose a bit and top with a layer of leaves. Then, I top it all with a nice, thick layer of pinestraw. NO WEEDS IN THESE BEDS!

  2. David says

    Wow, am I ever glad that you brought this up. I have an area in my garden – “new” house, 4 years old – we planted a lot of small trees and bushes in one area that is getting hard to mow because of getting around in there. So I had decided to put down a thick layer of newsaper over the whole aera to kill all the weeds and grass and then a couple of layers of the weed fabric and then a layer of stone. But I have not done it yet. What is the best thing to do here?

    David liddle.

    • Dave says

      I have had fantastic results with newspaper. Just the newspaper – quite thick. You want a new garden? Newspaper an area thickly, and next year, the worms will have tilled up that soil for you, and there will be little to no weed material. Put it around the plants in the garden; stop weeding, and NEVER use plastic barrier!

    • Kimberly says

      Use 10 layers of wet newspaper. I have done this in the past and works great. It compost’s itself and make the soil richer, but it takes awhile.
      I have placed it around a pond that I did, then had to move a few years later because my house burnt down. Went passed there, it has been 3 1/2 years now and the weeds have taken over.
      But I just put it down again when I made a walkway and did my planting.
      Good luck, it does work.
      Kim Adams

    • Jay says

      One should not mulch tree rings with stone. It adds too much weight above the roots and compresses the soil underneath. Also, it holds solar heat during the winter and will interfere with the tree’s normal dormancy rhythm.

      IMVHO (except at the beach) managing stone mulch is as bad/worst than landscape fabric. Its pure torture to get it all back out when you want to change the bed. With stone mulch you are married to spray weed killers for life.

  3. allan taylor says

    I’m about to plane seedlings as you described- from new growth of many standing bushes from hydrangeas to lacecaps. re. weedblocker- push your newspaper idea

    many thanks, Mike

  4. Elizabeth says

    Wow, what a job. Hope it goes better than expected :) is there anything you would recommend instead? I recently heard of putting down wet newspapers? Thanks!

    • Diana says

      I save and shred all of my junk mail and use it in my flower beds. I cover it with mulch. It breaks down and retains water. Great for plants!

      • Terry says

        LOVE the junk mail usage—and also the newspapers—we have white rock in front of our home, developer placed that useless black fabric down first–we fight weeds daily…anyone have any ideas for that? Back yard was left rocky and hardpan for us–but we didn’t use that stinking black fabric or plastic, just broadcast lawn seed, put up with the mud for awhile, fighting weeds but on our terms, not through black plastic or fabric…

  5. Linda says

    I also developed a seething hatred for weed barrier cloth after the exact same experience. Now I just use Ruth Stoat style mulching methods and weeds are much less of a problem.

  6. Cindy says

    I agree that weed barrier cloth doesn’t work, but what would be a better alternative? Am getting ready to add mulch to a semi-forest floor and would like some suggestions for weed control.

    Thank you.

  7. Jerry says

    Interesting article Mike ! I am installing a Water Feature between my Austrian Pine and Linden Tree’s. I am going to use Landscape Fabric under the may have a few years of ‘weed free’..but I guess they will come in time. I think I will have a tougher time cleaning out the ‘Austrian Pine Needles, Cones, and the Lil BB’s that the Linden’ likes to drop everywhere..rather than weeds being a problem ! Great Articles.. Please keep it up !

    • Sarah Corson says

      I have used old carpet on my walkways between beds. The soil does erode some and slides down onto it…which will have weed seeds and grow weeds if you leave it. But at the end of the season, it is much easier to take up the carpet before the weeds get a good start, and use it again next year or throw it out. Of course you can’t use carpet as mulch around plants (unless you use small squares) and they cannot be put down permanently, but old carpet sure keeps my walkways clean of weeds. I do not know what is in the glue, etc. in carpets. It might not be good for mulching around plants, but for walkways, I like it!

      • Tonya Hutchinson says

        That’s a great idea! I just moved to a new place that has walkways, and the weeds have grown up in them. I have a couple small dogs so I didn’t wanna use sprays to kill em out. I never thought of laying carpet down on there! Thanks! I knew about the cardboard and newspaper trick though….there are several ways you can do this. You can use this method to make new beds,and layer cardboard,newspaper,grass clippings,leaves,compost,etc. It actually “cooks” so to speak and will be ready the next season to plant! I have the recipes here somewhere. They’re called the “no dig method.”

    • Lisa says

      I use newspaper covered w/ mulch. The newspaper decomposes in about 2 years, here in Western NY. About 5 layers of paper minimum. Works great for me.

  8. John O'Day says


    I bought a beautiful house with weed barrier fabric and black plastic everywhere! How do I end up getting rid of it? Dig it all up? Add topsoil?


      • Rie says

        Glad to see I was right to start tearing this stuff out! Loving the advice here.

        I started tearing this cloth stuff up and ran into two problems:
        1. I hit ants. Lots of ants. I sprayed the ones that I originally discovered but I am afraid they’re borrowed deep into the soil. How do I get rid of them?
        2. The tanbark in top of the cloth is old and dry. Do I simply throw it away? If I do, what do I lay over the ground, and what is the best topsoil if I intend to plant after removing the cloth?

        Thanks for the advice!!!

  9. Grace Daniel says

    I have used some ground cover cloth because it has the little holes which I thought was good for water and oxygen. Also, used black plastic because there is such an infestation of wild strawberries. They are impossible to kill. I’ve used lime to no avail and strong bush killer spray. They thrive inspite of everything. In the past I’ve use thick layers of newspapers which is a lot of hard work to repeat every year.
    What do you suggest in place of black plastic?

    • Nola Martin says

      I have used cardboard in areas that I don’t want to have to deal with for years. We all have cardboard boxes, etc., coming to our home on a regular basis. It works as well as newspaper and probably lasts a few years longer. A box cutter can cut it into whatever shape you need for your beds. It works particularly well for outlining your beds then mulching over it, eliminating the need to trim with a weed eater.

  10. Kristin says

    EEEuuugh! I agree that it’s a huge pain to clean up someone else’s neglected mess, however…
    1) I did use weed barrier fabric in my greenhouse underneath the cinderblock pavers and it functions as intended.
    2) I think it COULD work well when someone keeps the weeds pulled out of the mulch covering. It’s when it goes neglected that it creates a monster!

  11. Roxie says

    I agree 100%. I have even bought the things you put around trees (small ones) to keep weeds out and the weeds just grow through those thick discs made out of…I think…recycled tires. If wanted plants were as hearty as weeds…life would be good.

  12. Steph says

    Mike are you giving up your other home and starting over on this one?? I can’t wait to see as you go pics.

    • angel says

      Mike, get a ” machete” they cut through everything, sharpen your shovel use a v shaped one, , i know weeds n that black cloth are a problem, you will be better able to fix this issue,, then you can use a rototiller, lift all that junk out, yeah you will have to stop every 5 min to take that stuff off, your blades, but machete is the way to go,,,,, a machete is used in jungle to open the passage, etc, they are sort of like samurai swords, theyre Very effective,,, hope this info helps, still no webiste but my house is a jungle, lol i had a plant always thought it was some form of peruvian lily, well it turned out to be a pineapple which im told doesnt grow in this are, im in cancun 21 degrees n of equator n pineapples, need cool weather n grow in altitude im at sea level,,,,, what a surprise,,,, but every day i get suprises, that flower, gorw etc,, in a few mo, i hope to put a website n sell to hotels , individuals etc,,,,,, best to you,,,, and Pam, n the kids n grandchildren, ciao A

      • Carol says

        Just thought I’d let you know that pineapples (Ananas comosus) are tropical plants of the bromeliad family. They do grow at sea level and don’t like cold weather. They are hardy to USDA Zones 10 and 11 equivalents, basically the tropics. They will be damaged or die if temperatures drop below 4 deg C (40deg F).

        When you harvest your pineapple, cut the prickley top off the and plant it back in the ground. It will grow another pineapple for you. Enjoy the fruit.

  13. K. Swan says

    Oh, how I wish I had seen this article BEFORE I used weedbarrier fabric! I am now dealing with as many if not more weeds than I would have if I hadn’t spent the money, time and effort to use the useless stuff! P.S. I’ll look into your “Wanted! Somebody…To Grow & Sell…” Thanks for all the tips and help!!!

  14. Glenda says

    I have found that covering the ground with l 4- 5 layers of newspaper and then soak the papers with 20% vinegar (use a spray bottle). We have still gotten weeds, but not as many as the ones covered with weed barrier

  15. Emily Brannon says

    Mike, I totally understand your reaction. When I bought my 1947 cottage 7 years ago, I began to till new flower beds around the house. My tiller choked and died more times than I care to remember because of that blasted black fabric cloth. It took me two years to get rid of all of it. Nasty problem to have to deal with!

  16. says

    My brother is a landscaper and he always told me he hates when people do the landscape fabric. Turns out to be more work than just dealing with the weeds. BTW, I love the old house! It would be beautiful if it was restored! I would like some good soil. I have red clay where I live. Ugh!

  17. Lillian says

    So… is there a way to block weeds?

    What about kudzu can you kill it without killing everything else around it? I hate!!! Kudzu.

    Lillian in Georgia

    • Mike says

      Lillian, for the kudzu you can spray a non selective herbicde that contains glysopahte, but you have to apply it selectively just to the kudzu.

      • Bob Fortner says

        Kudzu is a legume like beans or something.If you do any composting it is great for the green material.Makes the pile heat up fast..Might wanna ask Mike what he thinks of compost piles..I lived in Alabama many years ago. we had a goat the we staked out in area we wanted kudzu cleared.They eat it right down to the ground ad will eventually kill it out of the area…anyways just saying.

  18. Laura says

    Great post! Thank you for confirming what I have known for a long time. I can’t believe people action waste money buying the weed barrier and then time putting it down, covering it up, and fighting the battle.

    I’ve found that planned weeding, close planting, and consistent attention take much less time and money in the long run.

    Have a great day!

  19. Mike Coloma says

    We have weed barrier cloth in our beds and have no problem. We have redwood course
    “chips” over it. It depends on wether one
    cares for their beds or totaly leaves them
    to fend off the seeds birds drop and the seeds the wind blows in. Wether one lives in the “boonies” or in the “burbs” I guess makes a difference somewhat.
    Plastic does not make a good barrier as it cracks and tears and lets soil get exposed
    to the elements such as dust and other things that creat another enviorment that weeds can thrive in.
    But not all cases are the same are they?
    Mike in Bakersfield, CA.

    • Mike says

      Frank, the newspaper is much better. You’ll still get weeds eventually, but it does buy you time until the next time the bed needs attention.

  20. nancy says

    I use the weed barrier in the garden very year and love it. The difference is I pull it up in the fall and put it down fresh in the spring after i spread manure, etc. in the garden.

  21. Dana says

    Well Mike, don’t leave me hanging. What does work? I know tilling, weeding, weed barriers, cardboard, ect does not work to get rid of sedge grass and burmuda grass. Help!

    • says

      i attend to weeds when i water, as soon as i see what does not look like something ive planted, yank it out ! also, salt,,, will kill ants nests and weeds but you have to be careful you dont get into the area of your prized plants,,,,, so caveat emptor, beware of how you use it,,, natural, wont hurt your pets,,,, wink.
      also, this plkastic, who is the moron that had the idea to sell this,, it decomposes badly and it takes the brain of a 3 yr old to figure that out.
      Thankfully ive never spent money on the plastic or other weed barriers,,,,, my take on the subject is to grab a shovel every spring and give the soil a good turn over, good for the soil, keeps you in shape, and less weeds, but nature is nature, weeds are part of the show,,,, weedsa do add nutrients to the soil, though, so it is a consideration,,, however im lucky to stick a lot of vegetable table scraps, peels, onions, whatever is on the countertop that isnt going into the pot on stove,, go ahead, yank them out, n do this with gusto,,,
      the extra nutrients from table scraps, as long as it isnt meat, makes the soil have lovely worms, and worms are a sign of good soil.
      weeds still give the dirt a lot of nuitrients, so i will usually wait to see if it truly is a weed, then yank mercilessy. look at the leaves or if the weed is Ugly or prickly, lol
      if needed, i dont beleive in extra $pending or work, lol try to keep life simple. so no black plastics which dont decompose into a nutrient, and none of the fabric barrier.
      i would try normal scraps of fabric from normal clothing when being thrown out,,,, its a thought. who knows?
      so for ants, the salt trick works, just check if the little buggers havent moved to another area, especially fire ants, ouch ! lol luck to all,,,, be blessed !

  22. Rob says

    I feel the pain.I have the same on the side of my house where I had a playground.All mulched and now its just a weedground.Allor of weed , is my only salvation

  23. Gail says

    So, if you don’t use weed barrier cloth or plastic, what do you use. Nothing? Can’t wait to see the house and landscaping, Mike!

  24. Grace says

    I really do enjoy these articles. I also agree about the weed barrier cloth. My front border has this and I have a nightmare right now with the flowers being choked out by the couch grass, which is a network of cord-like roots.

    • says

      in response to you weed problems,,,,,
      weeds are nature. so it is natural they will come back, try to control them which is all you can do really, by lifting everything out of the groud every spring when the soil is moist and loose,,, dig it up, and turn the soil. it is depending on your area, of soil to be done, a great work out, keeps you in shape and well, better for the appearance of the garden.
      if you cannot, due to your zone, then weed as soon as you notice them, personally i allow then to grow a little to identify some, and since weeds release nutrients in the soil,,, im no longer maniacal about them,,,,, be cool, garden is life, life is love, keep it up !

  25. Adam says

    I just put mulch around 20 of my fruit trees. My neighbor swore I should put down the barrier. I just put down the mulch. I don’t like the barrier either.

  26. Amy says

    So what is the best way to keep grass and weeds from growing up around your house? We live in a mobile home and can’t weed whack next to the house because it puts holes in the skirting. I thought about planting ground cover but that would be very expensive to go all the way around the house.

    • says

      start ewith a few plants that are ground covering, and take cuttings from them to expand, normally ground covering plants do spread, or find plants that spread normally, i started with one plant and now my whole front lawn, has these gorgeous yellow flowers from this one cutting ! it spread like wildfire, and it is luscious,,, pretty, can be walked on, trouble free,,, and im pleased. and i get tons of comments all the time. ppl think ive got a green thumb,,, i dont think so, but,,,, i do like nature, and most thingsa grow, lol so im happy withthe results. happy gardening to all. smiles

  27. Bobbi says

    I planted a bed without the weed barrier but now find it very hard to control the weeds. Can you recommend something to use that won’t harm the plants in the bed?

  28. rustymae says

    o.k. so I guess digging deep and lining the bottom with plywood for a raised garden will only work for a while.
    thanks for the info before we did all this work.
    we are currently doing a veg. garden and having fun…it’s. or first in many years.
    we are looking for a home business where we can quit our “job” and have a profitable income that’s fun and our sons 7/13 can help and have fun as well.
    probably our biggest challenge is limited space.
    we welcome your feed back…we are also getting a few chickens.

    • says

      i would be afraid of plywood since it is glued wood layers, and who knows what type of glue went into it. most likely be chemical stuff,,,,, i do not trust that. and would not ,Especially with a fruit or veggie garden also, with wood you might attract termites, the almighty enemy of homeowners. scary.
      it is a good thing if you involve your children, even if you dont make money you will always have awesome family memories !

    • Judy Ryan says

      I have just done the weed barrier plastic and you are correct, weeds are growing through. I can still pull up the plastic but what do I use in its place.

    • Susan says

      Well, I am NOT Mike, but here’s what I did this year and wish I’d done years ago. Asked on Freecycle for old newspapers and got a lot. Put that down in a thick first layer with mulch on top. So far weed free!!

    • Linda says

      Hello: I saw the post about weed block. Well this is what I use. I get cardboard, and lots of it. But not the kind that has the shinny stuff on it.

      Then I take the scissors and put a few holes in for air and drainage. But I cover the holes with used dryer sheets and use duck tape to tape them down.

      The duck taped side goes down on the ground. I have used this around my knock out roses. Then mulched over top.

      Then in between the rose bushes on top of the cardboard I put some soil in between the roses, and some forget me not plants in between the roses. Then mulch over the rest of the forget me not root area.

      Eventually the bottom layer of mulch turns to soil. We will still get weeds from seed that hit the mulch. But my husband was delighted when he went out to pull weeds, and they came right up. They were not that deep in due to the cardboard.

      Eventually I will have to use card board again. As the cardboard now down will eventually turn to soil, making the soil more rich. A great way to recycle, save your back weeding, and money too.

      Happy Gardening!

      From: Linda

      • Geri Sears says

        That sounds great, I always seemed to have cardboard around and it needs recycling anyway, Thanks Linda.

      • Janice Riley says

        Hello Linda. What a wonderful use of cardboard for weed blocking. I enjoyed your helpful article and want to say thanks for being smart and green:)

    • angel says

      7-10 sheets of newspaper,,,,,,,, no sun, no weeds, no form of the seeds to blow from wind,,,,,, ask Mike, lol he knows,,,
      oh if anyone gott fire ants, nasty little bugs,, put vinegar on your skin n douse them w vinegar,,, might kill a few plants alongside but,,,, no fire ants nasty little devils,, lol

  29. Tracy says

    Mike, what do you recommend instead of the weed cloth? I have had the same issue with the cloth as you. Are raised beds the best? What is your solution to weeds in flower beds?

    • Mike says

      Tracy, put down 8 or 9 layers of newspaper or brown paper grocery bags then mulch. Really helps to keep the weeds down, but it’s also biodegradeable so the next time you dig in the bed it will be gone.

  30. Sandi says

    I read your remarks about how bad weed cloth was a while back so when we were able to finally start landscaping our new place (we were lucky the previous owner had not done any ) I would only use newspaper 8 pages deep. Oh how glad I am for you. Every one I hear talk about weed cloth I tell them about you. Thank you so much and I feel for the job you are facing in the yard but know it will be great and we will all benefit from your hard work.

    • says

      mike, just dig the whole thing up, n stick newspaper or put the same soil back in, minus the weeds, easy,, actually. then you will as you know have a lovely area, weed free, ahum as if that actually exsists, lol for a while,, then attend as nature expects you too,,, easy peasy,,,, plus i sure appreciate the work out in spring,,,,,, especially when in montreal. as you know we do not get much of a season, so spring is IT for us. lol,,,, plus we get to work off the winter food. lol,,,,,, gosh,,, lol
      anyway its what id do, just dig it all up, simpler,,,,
      i once spent weeks weeding a lawn that had been neglected, it was enormous, so i dug up every single weed. but i had to also get to all roots as some spread through the rooting system. thumbs up. im sure you knew this, lol,,,

  31. says

    Mike, If the weed barrier fabric is not good under stone, what is the best option? I have a couple of areas in the yard that have River Rock. When installed, I put down the barrier cloth. I do get a few weeds, not a lot. What is the best option??

    “New” house looks like a fun project. Anxious to see the progress! Thanks for all the work and info!


  32. Patricia says

    I always use weed fabric protection and had no problem. I put it down before I put stone for paths in my garden. Every spring I actually sprinkle Preen on the paths and get about 20 small weeds through the whole summer. It works great for me!!!

  33. Frances says

    I agree with Mike and definitely DO NOT USE BLACK PLASTIC. Not only is it petroleum based, but if you ever throw it out. . . there it sits in a landfill. Get rid of the plastic.

    • JOE says


  34. says

    Hi Mike! Thanks for being a rational voice in the wilderness about something REAL that regular folks can do to bring in some extra income.

    Is this an investment property?

    When the ol’ landscape plastic starts to shred into tortilla-chip sized pieces, those pieces then BLOW all around your place, it’s just awful and makes a dreadful mess.

    Have a nice day Mike! Bonnie

  35. Frances says

    If you’re a gardener (which I’m not…I’m TERRIBLE with plants except for a few tomato plants and flowers…and WEEDS…all in pots), you’re going to have weeds. I think that’s just part of the game.

  36. says

    Instead of plastic – go DEEP with the mulch and plan to loosen and inspect it, and add to it, every three years or so depending on your situation with weeds where you live. Call around to landscape suppliers in your area and see which type of mulch they sell the most of, to the pros. Try to make your own if possible out of composted branch trimming, etc to cut cost. Many cities now are making mulch out of composted garden waste and that can be very affordable.

  37. jp says

    I know what you mean, I cant stand this stuff. How it ever got started is beond me. And its quite expensive to buy. Mike, I know I saw a backhoe attachment in some of your photos and im sure you will put it to good use.

    • Jan says

      I agree with Mike in regard to fabric and plastic. Good at first, a nightmare later. We normally mulch 2-3 inches with composted leaves followed by a heavier bark mulch. We live in a forest, so leaves are more than abundant. We collect them with a vacuum system that shreds them and pile them up or put them directly into the beds in the fall. This year my husband had a bulged disc in his back so we weren’t able to mulch. I have pulled weeds all summer and seem to be loosing the war. Past seasons when we used mulch, weeds were far and few in between. Hopefully next year we will be better physically and we can return to mulching. I think I will take Mike’s suggestion and start with newspaper. The idea of lots of happy earth worms makes me smile. The mulch also goes a long way in helping with watering.

  38. Maria Perezarce says

    I actually deal with the weeds that grow in the flower bed. My husband and I have attempted to eliminate the weeds growing out in the yard, but that never worked. No sooner had we combated the weeds in one area and they were growing in another! The flower beds are actually quite weed free, however it takes quite a bit of my free time to make that happen.

  39. Kris says

    Some of your article is true about weed barrier in the long term, but we have used it for many years in the vegetable garden between rows of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers etc. It has saved us many hours of weeding, helped retain water moisture and we get as many vegetables as before the weed barrier. A light weight barrier is put down (without any additional covering ) after planting the vegetables and removed in the fall. If it isn’t in too bad shape by the end of the season, it can be reused. I wouldn’t use it long term for landscaping.

    • says

      simply stick 8 to 10 layers of newspaper in between rows, easy,nothing to pick up, and it serves as mulch. happy gardening !

  40. Dave in VT says

    Well I don’t like landscape fabric for another reason; mice and moles tunnel in it just under the surface. So do weeds. I no longer use it but do have some large areas that have had this for a few years. After the mulch composts into soil, I sweep it up and add it to my planting mix and it is great. Still, the fabric was a mistake that I won’t repeat.

  41. Cindy says

    i love newspaper….several layers (Mike, 9 pgs you suggested?)keeps weeds out & after season is over, the paper has broken down…easy to work bed…I also use in large veggie garden

  42. Christina says

    Hi I’m in visalia California and have lots of plant and seeds I’m wanting to sale. How do I go about doing so?

  43. Gloria says

    I pulled weeds out of mine this morning. I used a really good mulch this year and everything is growing.

  44. Beth says

    MR, instead of plastic or weed barrier fabric, I layer newspapers (not the shiny inserts, though) around plants and under mulch. It does break down over time but it does the trick for a season or two, until you mulch again. Good luck!

  45. Erin says

    I always use 5-7 pieces thick of newspaper on all new beds or landscaping then soil and 2-4 inches of mulch on top. This works! After that, spot weeding is all I need to do. Just keep up with the weeds!

  46. Crystal says

    I used newspaper on one of my flower beds this spring and put some decomposing leaves on top of it. So far it’s been great at keeping the weeds out! I agree – the weed barrier is a pain!

  47. Linda says

    For some reason, about 2 years ago, I used weed barrier cloth, and Mike is absolutely right – I still get these stupid little wind-blown weeds (and oak tree seedlings!!)…BUT, what I do know to work very well, but you will probably have to do this annually, but once it’s done, it’s pretty much done for the season/year, put down newspaper (not the shiny paper flyers, but the dull newspaper copy), wet it with a sprayer, then mulch over it. No weeds will grow through it, and it will eventually breakdown into the soil and if you want to plant something, you can just dig through it. Takes a little work, but it’ll look awesome when you’re done (and when you’re done, you’re DONE!!) :)

  48. Jack Hinshaw says

    I use quality weed barrier. no dollar store cheap weed barrier as it does as you say. The next year it is still in fine shape with no weeds. I use only staples, no stones or mulch. It saves me a lot work weeding. I love it.

  49. Bob Brunisholz says

    About two or three years ago, I believe it was Mike who suggested placing several pages of newspaper down as a weed barrier, then cover that with three or four inches of wood mulch. We’ve been doing that ever since and it works like a charm. Yes, the occasional weed(s) get through, but their numbers are minimal and the best part is, by the time late fall rolls around and it’s time to roto-till the garden, the newspapers are all but gone. They are, after all, biodegradable. Adimittedly, placing the newspapers can be a pain-in-the-butt (don’t even think of trying it on a windy day) but the rewards are worth the effort. Bob Brunisholz, Stanton, N.J.

  50. aaron c says

    I use old carpet as weed fabric. Its much thicker so it actually stops the weeds from popping through. Simply flip the carpet over so the backing Is facing up and the carpet is facing down into the ground. Make sure to use older carpet not brand new carpet scraps as new carpet contains chemicals. Also, i make sure the old carpet wasn’t from a re model or something because it may contain led paint or asbestos. In other words, clean, old carpet from a trusted source! Dirt still collects on it and weeds will eventually sprout from the surface, but if the carpet peices are managable sizes you simply pull up the carpet in sheets, give the mulch a good cleaning or replace, pull out the few weeds and lay it back down. I have had carpet in 80% of my backyard for 3 years now and have had very few weeds.

  51. patricia says

    I have also used newspaper very effectively and it will break down but then I want to replant something new as I love being out doors. nice sized rocks help with the landscape and helps keep the paper and top mulch in place. Thanks Mike as I also found that the weed barriers was a hinderance.

  52. Ruth says

    I hate to say this, but I have had good luck with newspaper and also the weed cloth. I can use it about two seasons. I just don’t have time to weed, so both work for me. Also I shred documents all winter, then use that instead of the flat newspaper under the mulch. Breaks down easier, yet works for the season! (smile)

  53. Jim says

    You about need a cultivator on the back of a tractor to dig this stuff out. Sink it in and use it like a big rake. The plastic will still come out in pieces, but you should be able to pull most of it out by hand after that. I tried a tiller once and it made it worse, it just balled up on the tiller. We bought an old building that was used for a daycare 20 years prior and they put plastic under a huge sand pile that I turned into lawn and raised gardens. That stuff won’t ever go away, I still find pieces of it.

    • says

      youve got two choices.
      either you just yank the stuff out or you rototill it till its death or just yank it out,,
      Ive had gardens in which i found this plastic junk, in over 2 feet of earth, all i did was just yank out as i expanded the garden,,, simple n easy, so yes, it was a big garden and yes it took a whole day’s work but Im still slender and i still have my ahem girlie figure lol to show for it lol,,, the benefits are sure worth it. lol
      so weeds, poor things, no one likes them, awwwwww lol
      part of nature, and weeds have been proven to improve nutrients in soil, so, give n take folks give n take.

  54. Pam says

    I am in the process of redoing my entire lawn and landscaping. One major problem is the grass is really dead. Is sod a good option or should I wait until the fall and plant grass? Also, the backyard is completely covered with pine trees. Is it a good idea to have them all cleared out and plant nice dwarf trees and shrubs?

    • says

      id turn the sod over to turn it into compost, then id add in fall newspaper along w leaves from trees,,,,, id leave the trees alone in your case,,,,,
      now if you want to get rid of them,,,, thats another story,,,, ive planted, forget me nots under them,,,,,, with success, try shade blooming plants, in your area. grow baby grow lol

  55. Marge Duncan says

    Hi Mike,

    I got to give you credit for still having drive and energy to take on such a project. I imagine you’ll sell off the house and keep the land. Good luck!

  56. kaytee says

    We use weed barrier cloth under bark chips in non-planted areas. Works fine there for us– weeds that do start in the dust on top of the cloth are easy to pull, and it keeps the wood chips clean/intact since soil contact is reduced.

  57. pamela miller says

    I used newprint years ago for weed control. The newspaper company has lots of roll ends that they used to give away, but nowadays sell. It is ink free and comes all rolled up for ease in slitting to the width you want. Processed newspapers can be contaminated with press oils and the ink itself may be toxic.

    • Colene Lenhart says

      Linda and Pamela…I’m PLAN on using newspaper next yr (no garden this yr)…the newspaper I get uses soy ink…not sure if that’s any safer than anything else, but it is good to know what news paper DOES work and is biodegradable…

    • Sheree says

      Let me warn u abt newspapers! Worked for the Dallas Morning News for 11 years. DO NOT USE ANYTHING with colored ink! It’s all oil-based. The Black Ink (classifieds, etc.,) are vegetable based. Why do you think Fish Restaurants only use the black ink pages? Word to the wise! Only use the classifieds! OK, I’m done!

  58. Roy McGinnis says

    Lee Reich’s book, Weedless Gardening is the best book I know on how to severely reduce weeds in gardens. Newspaper, mulch and common sense and management have reduced my weed issues by 90%! And I live in the Southern Appalachains where plant diversity is unbelieveable–in other words TONS of potential weeds.

  59. BayArea J says

    I, too bought a house “landscaped” by previous owners. Weed cloth is a nightmare, (bermuda grass for 70 years). My slow remedy is to poke holes in the cloth with a pitch fork. It seems to be working, but I must say I mumble unpleasantries while poking.

  60. Bert says

    For trees, I cut old carpet into 4′ circles and put it around the base of my trees–right on top of the weeds. Nothing grows through the carpet. By the end of the summer the worms have composted a nice, weed-free ring under my trees and the trees are ready for their winter mulch. A fast, easy, reusable, and free temporary weed barrier.
    For new flower beds I use newspaper 4-6 sheets thick and lay it right over the sod. Cover the paper with 4″ of topsoil and put in your bedding plants. Their roots will run right down through the newspaper into the damp, smothered sod which every worm in your yard has been quickly converting into casings.

  61. Mari says

    I agree with Linda – newspaper is the way to go for a barrier under mulch.

    While getting rid of old plastic/cloth is a job, there’s one worse. We inherited stones used as a ‘mulch’ over huge areas that were then covered by 2-3″ of soil by a subsequent owner. No way to remove the stones except to get down and sift them out by hand – terribly time intesive.

    I have sucessfully used groundcloth as a barrier under stones around a rosebush and a pathway. The idea here is not to prevent weeds, but to enable easily getting up the stones every few years to clean the area of accumulated dirt and keep the stones on pathway from sinking too much.

    I’ve also used groundcloth to line the inside edges of terraces created with brick and over rocks in pots to maintain airspace for draining during heavy rain. So if you have a roll of groundcloth it’s not entirely useless!

  62. Willi says

    I agree with you Mike, fabric barrier is not for the garden. I learned the hard way. What a pain to take the fabric barrier out. Now I just turn over the old mulch into the soil before I spread a fresh one.
    thank you for all your garden advise. I am still building up my confidence to start my growing plants for business. I am collecting the black 1 gallon tubs for the purpose. What kind of soil mixture should I use for cuttings and seedling? Thank you for being their to encourage us.

  63. COY HELMS says

    mike i injoy reading the things you send me i dont do much yard work any 83 & my legs wont let me bend down any more . but when i see asuggestion that you send that i like i get someone to do it for me.

  64. Mary Lou says

    That blk plastic spoils the soil, eventually dirt gets on the top of it and weeds appear, we are in the process of removing it, however, we put down the kind of water goes through in our veg. garden. Works great, no weeds. We will pick it up when the garden is finished and replace with new next year. It also lets the soil breath. Working pretty good so far. Stay away from that heavy blk plastic.

  65. Gail says

    I am working on re-landscaping my home. It has been a slow process, but I really enjoy your website and information.

    Thanks for sharing your stories & pics.


  66. pat says

    I just gave mylast rool of weed control fab ric to Goodwill – I will never use it again! I’ve also used cardboard with great success…

  67. Joe Macko says

    So is your answer to use weed killer on grassy areas you plan to landscape and then let them set awhile and then mulch?


    • Tonya Hutchinson says

      No,lay down cardboard,then newspaper,(I always use humus also,it has a combination of aged manure,compost,etc),grass clippings,leaves,etc.The cardboard kills the grass and it will be ready to plant the next season. From what I’ve always read,you should prepare a season before-hand….For a spring bed prepare in the fALL,ETC.

  68. Danera says

    A lot of my friends in the East India community use old carpet and cut in to strips.
    I tried it this year and it works great. No weeding

  69. Norma Downey says

    I to mess with use newspaper,nothing will grow through it.Put mulch on top and your set for the summer.Our newspaper uses soy ink.I also lay a soaker hose underneath the paper and mulch.I set this up for other people and they are well pleased Nosprinkler

  70. Nancy says

    Weed barrier cloth works great for me. I replace it every other year or every year in the veggie garden. You can’t let dirt and seeds pile up on it or the weeds will grow. You can’t put it down and expect to block weeds for years and years. New weeds grow on top of it.

  71. Deanna Polakowski says

    This year I am trying grass clippings in my vegetable beds. Last year I followed the advice of many who said newspaper and cover with mulch….had more weeds growing on the mulch than I ever had just leaving it bare. So far the grass clippings are working pretty good.

    • Louise says

      Hi Deanna,

      I use straw in the vegetable gardens and grass clippings between the rows. It has worked great for me for the last 5 years now.


  72. Rick says

    I used weed cloth. It has worked OK so far. What I didn’t like was that when I lifted up a corner to see if the ground was moist, there were all sorts of ants and bugs enjoying the shade there.

  73. roxy thompson says

    I use grass clippings between me and a junk house next door keeps big mowers and small out of my flower bed in fall good mulch

  74. Lin says

    I was just about to buy some weed barrier fabric yesterday. My husband said NO. It’s a good thing I listened. It doesn’t sound like it works or is good for the soil. I will try the newspapers instead and see how that goes.

  75. Kurt says

    Never use plastic. Rain and nutriants can’t pass through it. Mike is wrong about the weed barrier. The key is to use a good commercial weed barrier which I’ve never seen in stores. Only at commercial landscape supply sources. It is totally different than the cheap stuff and lasts a lifetime. Weeds still need to pulled regularly but they pull easy cause the root can’t grow well through the fabric.

  76. Gloria Kjorsvik says

    I use cardboard for my weed barrier in the flower beds and also newspaper. It all decomposes and you get some nice dirt. I put mulch over the top of the cardboard…

  77. Richard says

    Mike, I do use cloth but only in my veggie garden where it gets pulled up at the end of the season. helps cut down on watering and when I pull it up at the end of fall most of the few weeds that were there come up with it. I do use newsprint for my other plant beds though.

  78. ro says

    i have a sunroom in the back and i was wondering if i could keep some of it warm so the plants can get a head start. i would love to start growing. i was going to start this spring but i broke my ankle and it’s the foot i dig with. i got alot of pots from my neighbours but soil is expensive if you get it from the store. where do i get supplies and soil cheap?

    • Tonya Hutchinson says

      That’s what I’d like to know…Mike has a soil recipe he uses on one of his sites here. I wrote it down! You use bark mulch & some other things mixed in like silica gel.Let it decompose. I forget where he said to get it from and have checked online w/o much luck. Buying by the bag would be to expensive…try & find someone local and buy in bulk…waiting for it to decompose is tough if you want to start right away!In that case,I would make up my own batch of recipe to start,then have another batch decomposing…..?????

  79. says

    We are reclaiming our land from county release and will build an Irish Dry Stone wall to tier the area. I am older now and want to have a garden that has different veggies and fruits in their own area so they don’t migrate to neighbor plants. I first saw this in the gardens while staying at the XiJiao guest house. How can this strategy be implemented with the least amount of maintenance for weeds, etc…they were able to maintain about 70 hectacres with only a few full time gardeners.

  80. Sue Ann Taylor says

    Re using newspapers for killing weeds… it WORKS!!! I usually put the papers in a bucket of water, getting them soaking wet and then lay at least three full sheets down, overlapping them. I worked in the newspaper business for more than 30 years. Most newspaper ink used in the US is soybean based and not harmful to people or earth…

  81. Mary says

    Weed barrier does work……until it eventually rots away, which depends on your weather. Here we have a LOT of rain and I have seen the barrier work for 5+ years. Of course you need to cover it with bark or something that eventually will grow its own weeds, but they are on top of the weed barrier and very easy to pull. Wind will deposit seeds. Birds will deposit seeds. But so much easier to pull.

  82. Linna says

    Ok, I have a little problem area that definitely needs weed control. It will never be used for planting and I just want to cover it in that beautiful dark mulch. So what do I use to control the weeds?

    • Cathy says

      I use a product called Preen. It is a granular pre-emergent weed control. You can put it down over the mulch each year as well as on bear ground.

    • angel says

      as ive said,,,,, if youre not going to plant anything,,, use vinegar or salt,,, then stick newspaper, water about 7-10 layers of newspaper,,,,, it will eventuall disintegrate, your mulch will be weed free,,,,,, myself,,,, i use weeds, i sticke em in a pladdtic garbage can or container,,,, water or wait for rain,,,, then use stinky water as fetilizer,,,weeds, add to soil from what ive read n my plants well, ive got a jungle to take care of, n do cuttings lol according to, i use the almanac 2 mo calendar timetable,,,, never fails me,,,tells you when to cut hair to grow faster, tells you when to plant above ground crops, below ground crops, tons of stuff,,,, works for me just perfectly,,,,, check it out,,,,,,, good luck, happy gardening,,,,,, weeds are just plants whoes virtues have still to be dicovered! remember that,,, ciao xo

      • angel says

        yes my exes property had them next to his pool n the little buggers were still there, STILL came out,,,,,, so this seems best solution use em to your advantage, they nourish the soil,,, ok,,,,, ciao best to you in your garden ! im sure im positive \Mike will agree, nasty weeds make excellent fertilizers, hahahaha cant beat em join em lol,,,, to YOUR advantage, ok,, n yes works awesome,,,,, let em rot for a few days or weeks yes it stinks, but, best fertilizer n its FREE! yahooo ! hahaha weird but true,,,,,,,plus the seeds rot, everything rots, no hassles,,,,, best to you ! just water plants w stinky WATER, N THEN STICK IN GARBAGE,,the leftovers, or reuse em, hey they free,,,,, lol OOOOOOPS CAPS DARNED,,,,,,, i grow i dont type sorry folks,,,,,, lol sorry plastic garbage can or container,,,,,,, i also use cig butts, ask all neighbors to give me thier butts, they thinnk im insane but mixed w water n sit awhile excellent for bugs, natural,,, nicotine, but at night, wait 20 min then lightly spray b4 sunrise so leaves dont burn,,,, works like magic, ! :)

      • Tonya Hutchinson says

        I have various bug juice recipes from herbal books I have! I tried one and it seemed to work! Garlic is a main ingredient!

    • Dianne says

      As your area is never going to be used for growing and only needs to always look tidy. chip off the weeds with a hoe; break down some cardboard boxes, lay them down, making sure the edges overlap, thoroughly wet them down, then cover them with a thick layer of the dark mulch. Don’t be stingy with the mulch.

  83. Jody Biesche says

    I’m a landscaper and I never use landscape fabric or plastic. If I’m putting in a stone patio or rock garden I excavate a few inches of topsoil, put down old newspapers (many use soy-based inks now), put in a layer of AB-3 (crushed limestone) and a layer of sand. Sometimes I’ll use enriched topsoil around the stones and plant thyme. If I’m installing a new garden I just till with Back To Earth-type compost, rake out all the weeds, put in the plants and use 2-3 inches of cedar or hardwood mulch, depending on whether the client wants the light or dark color. I never use dyed mulch and have stopped using cypress because I’ve read that the cypress forests are dwindling. It’s much easier to weed a bed that’s kept mulched. I do it mostly with a hoe and it’s pretty fast. When I have to weed a bed with landscape fabric it’s much more difficult and time-consuming. I enjoy your posts, Mike. Keep up the good work!

    • Tonya Hutchinson says

      what is back to earth type compost? I have used pine straw for mulch and it worked good!Yeah people should make sure that the mulch isn’t dyed!!!!!

  84. Dean Guymon says

    So right, I recently tried to help my step daughter plant a few thing at the house she was moving in to. There was great area with the black stuff. It was a chore to open just enough to put in a few plants.

  85. Marian says

    Mike, do you have any recommendations short of scraping the soil off the plastic and pulling the plastic up of how to get rid of it? We bought a house about 16 years ago and I am still pulling up black plastic. It must have been really good quality plastic because it hasn’t broken down much and it is EVERYWHERE. Thanks.

  86. Max L. Heflin says

    I agree, weed barrier plastic does not work. What a mess. Our rose garden has increasingly become weed infested. I used Roundup rope cane to wipe the weeds, killing them, and then covered the area with newspaper and new mulch. Now if our cats would stop using it for a toliet, and digging it up exposing the newspaper! I guess the plastic barrier cloth was good one one thing!

  87. James says

    I laid down a double layer of weed barrier in my flower garden and spread 1 1/2 inches of thickness of rubber mulch and I don’t have any weeds. Hope this holds true for at least 20 years.
    Hope this might be helpful.

  88. Matthew says

    I too have had a bad experiance with weed barrier cloth deterioration in a home I purchased a few years ago. It’s a pain to remove!
    Mike — Is your Back Yard grower system for all growing zones? I am in South Florida (zone 10). We can’t grow Japanese maples, but there are other unique plants that grow well here.

  89. Marilyn says

    Oh great.. i just spent hours leveling, laying weed barrier, put pretty river rock down.. then i come in and read my e-mail. I am :-( Have you ever heard of cutting up banana peel, put pieces around your rose bush starts to give them a boost? I’m trying to start the rambler from a cutting.

  90. Lisa says

    I use the newspapers as well. It works wonderful!! I also use Preen in places that I don’t use newspaper and you have to get the Preen out early. I usually reapply Preen after several weeks to make sure the weeds stay out. I only have to pull very few.

  91. Linda Seedner says

    Dear Mike,
    I agree with you on that weed control fabric. My husband, years ago, bought heavy rubber “bed spreads” which last forever. It has holes in it that are placed far enough away for tomato plants.We would love to get more. We can’t find them in any gardener supply catalogs. Is anyone familiar with this product and where we could find them?

  92. says

    It helps me to think of weeds as robotic workers which are mining the soil for minerals and storing them in an organic superstructure. Before the weeds go to seed, there is an alarm shown, a semaphore, you know, one of them flower thingys.

    I like to pull the weeds up and remove the organics from them by inviting earthworms to eat them, thus processing them into castings.
    I also put grass clippings on my compost factory, but expect to run out of lawn as my heirloom garden expands itself, oh the seeds!

    Just don’t let the weeds seed, or not, really depends on if the weed is a heavy feeder. You can always come into an out of control weed situation and lay out slices off of a bail of wheat hay. It separates into pads easily. An inch thick is quite a barrier to weeds. One bail will cover over a lot of weeds, try it. Then, a few weeks later when weeds have made it through the hay, what few of them will, will be easy to clip.

    Oh, and here’s something I discovered the other day, Mike! This is a money saver so you might want to give me some money at my website. (JK (FYI for your information) just kidding)

    After you have sliced your green onions for a salad, the remaining 1/4″ of the onion root end, makes a great onion set! Plant it, boing! New onion! Wow! Wondering how many generations one onion will do? Try it!

    Ever noticed how you don’t need AC if you stay outdoors all day long!

  93. Carolyn says

    I too have used weed cloth and had disaster! But … I bought a whole roll of it and now have wasted my money! Or so I thought until I found a GOOD use for it!!! I put in between my vining plants in the garden. I place rocks around to hold it down but weeds do not grow through it and the rain seeps through! I have a perfect environment for the vines to spread without competing with weeds and I don’t kill the plants pulling up weeds caught in the tentrils of the curls on the vine. And I fold it up in the fall and use it again next year!

  94. Wilma says

    Hate it! The weed roots that grow through the fabric are harder to pull than out of the flower beds. The plastic sours the soil. I use thick layers of newspaper or cardboard. I’ve also used old carpet turned upside down and cut holes for your plants.

  95. Catherine says

    Bought a 1950’s rambler in Roseville (suburb of St Paul MN) just over 1 year ago. Backyard is a piece of work & is scheduled to be completely redone as raised flower/veg beds in about 3-4 years. Meanwhile, I’m stuck with what the former owner had (ugly,overgrown & inappropriate). All the shrub beds next to the house have black plastic covered with bark mulch. Mike is right-weeds grow on top of the plastic. But I weed all the beds (jungle control) about every 3 weeks, so nothing gets too difficult to pull. Worst weed problem (chickweed etc.) is in the spaces between the concrete blocks of the BIG driveway. This year I had to use a weed killer spray since those tiny spaces are hard to hand pull every week. Weeds + bugs = summer in Minnesota !

  96. Hollyb says

    I would love to see pictures of your house when you are finished. My home is shaped much like yours, except I have a front porch. It is on large lot in town, so am anxious to see what you do with yours

    You are right about the landscaping cloth/plastic. I am dealing with the same thing. It is a nightmare.

  97. Brenda says

    I use black plastic under my fruit trees and nearly killed them. No water got thru to them and the roots (when I removed this stuff) were right under the black plastic trying to find water.
    So that was really bad news. Took it out and covered the area in wood chips which works out well. Covered the roots with dirt as best I could.
    Thanks for this warning!!!

  98. Joan Burke says

    Like some other folks on here, I have used the news paper for weed control. Sadly, It does NOT control thistles. Doesn’t slow them down one bit! I really wish I could find some way to control them easier & safely. They are growing around my Holly & Azealea bushes something fierce. Suggestions?

  99. Geri Sears says

    I have that under my flowers how do I get it out with out tearing up my flowers already planted.

  100. cheryl lynch says

    I agree 100000%-weed barrier fabric is horrible! Ours was put down by the previous owner, and digging thru it is a nitemare. Plus there are about 8″ of solid weed and tree roots right on top of it that makes ripping it out take forever.

  101. jan gillen says

    I can handle most weeds but quack and creeping charlie are a nightmare for me. Any good ways of getting rid of them?

  102. Judy says

    I have used newspapers for years. Work wonderfully well.

    Am now in a 7 year old subdivision. Second to plastic and weed barriers is the fine lined plastic mess (mesh) used as a base for sod mat.

    Took out a side and front yard and what a job cutting through the stuff to remove. When are they going to come up with one that will deteriorate in a few years? If that were the case I could have just killed the lawn and built on top of it. Still finds bit and pieces of the green stuff when I dig around in my lovely bermed front yard. Takes a sharp tool to cut through it.

  103. Janet says

    We moved into this house in 1989, and there was a small maple tree to one side of the brick walk in the middle of our tiny front yard. The tree was maybe 3 inches in diameter. Many times I though about pulling it up and planting a dogwood or something, but I didn’t and now it is two feet wide. It happens to be a silver maple. In the mid-90s I had a guy plant some bushes beside the walk on the same side as the maple. He used fabric under the mulch. Recently, because the tree roots were buckling the brick walk, we decided to have it root-pruned. The bushes were dug up in an effort to save them, but I happened to be away that week and they were all but dead when I returned, partially because he couldn’t retain a rootball. They died, of course. The point of this story is that even though the tree people dug a deep & wide ditch through there, pieces of that fabric were still attached to the feeder roots of the tree. I used scissors to cut it away until my hands & arms could do no more. It was AWFUL! Never again will I allow it on my property! Mike is right about the mulch turning into soil and the weeds then love it…I used newspaper on the other side of the walk and it is still doing great. I put dirt over the paper, planted what I wanted there, and then mulched it. Easy weeding, but little of it. It’s been there at least since 1992. Thanks for all your advice, Mike!

  104. TerraByte says

    Here’s a different perspective. I have a vegetable garden that’s way bigger than I can handle. I use weed block all the time, not the cheap 50 feet for $10 plasic, the contractor grade fabric. I also don’t bury it under mulch or stone. In the winter, I lay it out where I plan to grow plants the following spring. When it comes time to plant row crops (like carrots, cabbage, corn, peas), I remove the fabric, fold it up, and store it for the following winter. That way, weeds haven’t gotten a head start on me before I’m ready to plant. For individual plants (squash, tomatoes), I leave the fabric in place and cut holes for plants or seeds. This fabric I leave in place. It’ll last 2-3 years depending on the fabric, the plant, and how many holes I’ve cut. Fabric under heavy vegetation (like pumpkins and squash) lasts the longest because the vegetation protects the fabric from photodegradation. I used to use newspaper, but with the internet, I haven’t bought newspapers in a decade. Fabric is much easier to deploy and lasts more than one season. Yes, it looks awful, but I don’t care about that. I just want to spend less time weeding so I can work on other garden projects.

  105. gaill hart says

    I agree Mike, i have used weed matting in a sloping difficult spot and it is now covered in weeds from the soil accumulated on top. not sure how to combat this although constant mulching should work, I need to plant the area. i live in subtropics australia
    love your advice and pics, youre awesome

  106. says


  107. Peggy Wilkinson says

    I am renting my home and the garden that I tend to every year even though it is not mine i love gardening. My landlord refuses to remove the plastic barrier and do the garden right. I have grown plants for family. Am on my way soon to getting some diggings from a garden that they do not want the plants anymore tooo much trouble.

  108. Beverly Smith says

    ve this wonderful crab apple planted in our church courtyard which is now showing signs of dying because it can get any water. So some of us said oh well, Satan made me do it and we pulled up not one but two layers of weed barrier. I could hear the tree saying “Yhank you.” I’ll apologize to the proest next week but I don’t think it’s a sin.

  109. chuck says

    weed block is the biggest scam going and it’s expensive. Use mulch and a pre emergent and beds will stay nice

  110. Dwight says

    I use weedcloth for the rows in my big vegetable garden. When I throw seedless weeds on it, they die faster than when thrown on the earth. It is true that dirt from their roots can accumulate and some things can resprout, but in general it works and saves the constant re-rototilling of rows, many of which get narrow enough so that you can’t rototill without damaging the encroaching veggies. I used to rinse and dry the cloth after each season, but last year I stuffed it all into my carrot and parsnip winter trench. It pulls out a lot easier than shoveling out soil or leaves when you want to get out more carrots.

  111. Teresa says

    I used the the weed fabric for a different use . I use it as wrap around my wire cages protecting plants in the winter time that are not winter hardy. it works pretty good. Ihave managed to keep my fig tree which is not zone hardy for our area alive and other plants too.

    Yes , i made the mistake to use it for garden beds and learned that it will not work the hard way.
    For bottom covering on a raise bed I do either 10 inches of newsprint or I get those throw away price banners from my retail stores that are huge 10 feet long plastic weave sign banners and use them in my raised beds . they work really good. And nothing grows thru them at all. Retail stores also will throw away their black rugs about every 3 years for wear and tear issues they make a great weed barrier in your garden too. I have two of them and they kill everything they lay on.

  112. clyde holmes says

    mike i have no experince with plastic or weed fabric i just do a lot of pulling weeds or using a hoe i have run into some plastic but it is just trouble. keep up your information i am
    learning an enjoying all your information
    although i am not able to work or just be out in this heat we are having i still love to see
    beautiful landscaping.

  113. Linda Anger says

    I know what you are saying but I have to admit that it did kind of help for a while in my rock garden. It started out to be a small garden but it just seem to get larger cause my husband didn’t want the big rocks crowded, so we thought that might help. Just as I thought it lasted for about the first year before the weeds came through the fabric. Now our place is up for sale and I feel sorry for the person who buys it if they decide they don’t like the rock garden. Will never use again. News paper!!!!

  114. Doug says

    wow…landscape cloth Is the best choice for several landscape procedures…You guys are lost..weeds can be terminated with round up.. and some basic maintence. landscape cloth helped keeps the weeds out..

    *** Rockscapes, and Barkscapes…

    *** Landscaping Is on going Maintenace..If you let It go

  115. Bob Fortner says

    Ok it does look bad.To much work for a shovel.A good tractor with some plows would be more like it,jus rip it all out about 6 inches deep..Also i am an old farm boy..if you live out where you can,you can make a portable steel cage .comes in 4 by 8 ft pieces at your local farm and fleet..put you a little pig in there and let him do his thing,no weed or roots or rocks will go unturned. I cleared an area of quack grass that was chest high.Then just move the pig pen around to the spots you want cleared.Not for everyone I know but it does work.

  116. Bob Fortner says

    Ok, one more post .I have heard it all about weed control.News paper and stuff that decomposes is all good to give you a jump on things.Good for small jobs..I got 5 acres .about 4 of it im growing something..Here is what works for me. Keep all the areas near your gardening clean,mowed etc.So to cut down on the weed seed spreading..Mulch deep as a side dress on what area you are growing in.Yes you will get a few weeds that pop up.But early morn when its still cool out side. Those weed are very easy to pluck out of the deep mulch.Take your time and get all the little guys as you go cause they will be BIG guys tomarrow. Try to look at it as a labor of love. Hope this helps somebody

  117. Linda J says

    I love reading your articles when I get the chance. I wish I would have read this one about weed blocker fabric sooner. Guuurrrrrrrr. So what do you recommend for slowing down the weed population?

  118. Nelly says

    Hi Mike :)
    I have a question.
    I bought an orchidea and i dont know why its dying :( the leaves are turning yellowest and the leaves fell off. What can i do???
    BTW i love reading your emails, they’re very helpful.

  119. Rogette says

    Hi Mike,
    Boy this is quite some discussion on weed fabric. I live in cali and I am using it in the beds around my home and I find it is helpful but I also employ a little trick and that is that I lay down a layer of fibrous mexican fan palm branches and put the fabric over top with a final layer of ever-color chips has saved me so much work so far. Much better than letting weeds get out of control. I’ll let you know how it works after a few years. thanks for the info love hearing from you!

  120. bettababy says

    Through trial and error over the past few years I have found that the way you use the weed barrier cloth makes all the difference. The way it was described as used in this article is correct.. it doesn’t work. However, I use it in my vegetable garden every year and it DOES work. My solution is to pin it down with the pegs/spikes that are made for it and not to put anything over the top of it, and lay it down only after the soil is tilled in the spring. When I am ready to plant I cut and fold it under and pin it down, exposing only the ground where I wish to plant, be it rows or spots. The rest of the garden remains covered for the year. Not only does this help to keep the ground moist (traps moisture) during dry/drought weather, but it also prevents excess weeds or anything growing over it or under it. The only weeding I do is very minimal where something gets in right around the plants, and as long as I weed those small areas once/wk, my garden grows beautifully without the excess work of weeding it daily. This also helps to control bug problems in my garden as well. I would love to send you some photos, Mike, so you can see for yourself what my garden looks like. I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. Yes, this is a bit of extra work each spring to remove the old and replace it after tilling… but the amount of work it saves through the entire summer is well worth it. I went from having an overgrown weedy garden every year that was full of mosquitoes, hard to keep weeded, and poor plant growth to one that is easy to manage, produces better fruits & veggies, and the bugs are minimal. (that includes the ones that feast on my plants) It’s not the fabric that’s bad, it’s how people choose to use it.

    • Mike says

      I agree, if left uncovered it would work for a while, but only as you are using it and removing it each season. If you left it down for more than one season I’m sure the weeds would find their way through it.

      • Nelly says

        Hi Mike sorry i dont want to bother :S
        I have a question.
        I bought an orchidea and i dont know why its dying the leaves are turning yellowest and the leaves fell off. What can i do???
        BTW i love reading your emails, they’re very helpful.

  121. nanci says

    You’re the FIRST person to ever mention this! I had the same thing happen – the weed barrier develops dirt / soil on top of it, between the mulch, and the weeds germinate and their roots go right into the fabric. So here I am, weeding the stones every year! I do agree that if it is put down and taken up every year that it should work fine – it’s just when it lays there over time is when it becomes a problem.

  122. ANN GODIAH says

    HI MIKE,
    I have learnt a lot about the fabric weed and i have read your E book thanks for assisting up coming farmers in garden interested in doing chives please advice on production and marketing.

  123. says

    I’ve tried the landscaping cloth and I just bought a 3′ by 50′ length of plastic for a severe slope by my road.
    I learned the landscaping cloth lesson the hard way and have torn it out before it became too severe but my hillside grows only weeds and if the plastic is a bad idea what can I use to discourage weed growth on a hillside that ends in a drop off. Gravity is going to take care of anything I try to use to cover the plastic,cloth,or newspaper. Is there a weed control method that works on hillsides?

  124. Rachel says

    I used fabric 8 years with mulch put down once a year. I rake it once a month to darken the color of the mulch. I have a few weeds close to the edge but nothing that I get freaked out about. It is outside….thats where plants grow! Why is everyone getting so flustered about a few weeds? Pull them, get your hands dirty, it’s healthy! I have a huge garden and planting area as well as a greenhouse, using newspaper would be an insane option for weed control for my family. Instead we control the yard so no weed seeds get the option to grow and when we see something growing we get to the root of the problem. Not blame the root barrier. Only a poor musician blames his instrument for bad music.

  125. ScottW says

    Under mulch, I agree completely that fabric shouldn’t be used. It serves no purpose at all. Under rock, I’ve found it useful for keeping the rock out of the dirt below it. That may seem odd, but it makes sense when you think about re-landscaping 10 or more years later. You have to scrape the rocks back and dig out the old plants. That part, getting the rocks out of the way, is a whole lot easier if there is fabric underneath. Without it, you’d be scraping up rocks and dirt, which can be a mess. However, I’d still agree that the fabric does nothing to control weeds. I’ve found that a shallow covering of rock is more prone to growing weeds than a deeper layer. But I agree with Rachel, the prior commenter, that the real problem is with the homeowner. If they don’t bother to pull the weeds that come up, then that’s the real problem. If you are one of those homeowners, then definitely follow Mike’s advice and don’t use fabric, because pulling big weeds out of fabric would be a real problem.

  126. Lynne says

    I need to chime in here too! I am a landscaper (for 18 years)and every house I have been to that has weed fabric I have had to tear it out. The weeds not only grow ON it but also THROUGH it. You also have to cut holes in it if you want to plant something. An experienced gardener KNOWS that they will eventually have to split up or want to move what they have put in. It is awful stuff and in my opinion, should ONLY be used if you want to have rocks or mulch ONLY on top of it! The best way to stop weeds is to pull them (except for weeds which actually seed more if you pull them)and then put down a pre-emergent. Unfortunately, weeds will always be a part of the landscape.

  127. emilia bravo says

    Hi sir Mike,
    i read very carefully your message about Weed Barrier Cloth and it’s nice advice just only now i know about the plastic and cloth that also been used for landscaping but now i eager to see how it’s looks your remodel landscape and thank your for the newsletters and i stay inspired….emilia

  128. Lucy says

    Yes, I understand that weed fabric does not work. I had that happen to me several years ago. Thanks Mike for the article.

  129. Amy says

    I use weed barrier plastic for my vegetable garden and it it awesome! Not only do I not have to contend with weeds interfering and competing with my crops, I also water less because the material inhibits the water evaporation from the soil. Especially with the drought conditions we are facing in SW MO, my tomatoes, beans, peppers and cabbages look great. It also seems to inhibit fungi carried in the soil… I will be watching this to see how well it fares throughout the Summer on this.
    I will be cutting away the plants at the bases when the growing season is over and taking up the barrier to use next year.

  130. Janice Vassigh says

    Word of warning about cardboard put down as a weed-barrier. Cardboard invites termites, apparently a favorite food of theirs. When we moved to this heavily wooded lot, I brought along favorite plants, toting them in cardboard boxes. Setting them in the front yard around trees, I first tried to get my five children and house in order before tackling the yard. When I did, I found out that termites loved the cardboard boxes! Like stacked wood near a house, one shouldn’t want cardboard or papers near the house. That’s been my experience.

  131. Maxie says

    I’m sorry I don’t completely agree with you. In 1991 I landscaped my property. I did several venues with several small junipers, cedars and evergreens. I border the areas with stone borders, then put down professional grade landscaping cloth fabric. I then cut holes just the size of the hole need to plant the tree or bush. Once the trees were planted I cut another piece of fabric to place around the base of the plant plus about another foot and placed it under the one main piece. Then I put 3 inches of pine bark on top of it. I have only added additional bark once 10 years ago. In the 20 years since I spend approx 10 minutes a year cleaning out weeds. The weeds are generally just inside of the stone border. In fact I spend much more time pruning these trees each year. Yes there is some dust and soil that comes on top but not enough for the weeds to get a good hold. I also have several very large Manitoba Maples (40 foot trees) near my property and the propellers do start to root in the bark but then again if you get them within the first 10 inches they just lift out with no trouble.

    I also used white crushed marble and found it was not quite as reliable with slightly more weeds; but I had a tree die and had to remove it. I found that the fabric made it easier to remove the stone. Even after 10 years the fabric held together enough to pick up most the stone a one time. So I think it does depend on the use and the materials used. If you use cheap fabric it will not hold and I wouldn’t think thaplasticic would hold either especially if it get exposed to the sun. I have seen lots of heavy plastic even thick pail disintegratete outside in the winter, so I would never used the plastic.

    In the past I have used just the mulch in a perennial flower garden; I have to constantly weed it, and add new mulch all the time. This year I will be digging up that garden and put down landscaping fabric with the bark over it. I think that the difference is that the large bark doesn’t break down as fast as the smaller mulch and the better quality fabric also resists breaking down.

    By the way, last winter two of my tall (12′) junipers fell down in heavy snow and I had to remove them. After cutting down, it was quite easy to push back the bark using the fabric to remove the stump…after a full 20 years and it didn’t fall apart!

  132. Glenda says

    How can I get rid of Bermuda grass in the flower beds…I have used a whole lot of Roundup and after a couple weeks or less it is back…I am at my wits end..Please help me…I have even dug it out and it still pops right back..HELP

    • Mike says

      Glenda, the best thing to do is treat the Bermuda grass that you see with a non selective herbicide like Roundup or Roundup, then stay on top of treating it weekly as it pops up. Just apply the herbicide with a foam paint brush. Then apply Preen as per the label to keep the seeds from germinating. The spray herbicide will only kill the grass you can see and won’t phase the seeds.

      The other option is to put down a layer of at least 9 pages of newspaper, then mulch over the newspaper. That will help for a while, but the Bermuda is creeping in from somewhere, probably your lawn, so you have to be diligent about what ever you do.

    • Donna L. says

      Hi Glenda,

      The thing about Bermuda Grass is that it is one of the most obstinate, aggressive living things around. One can keep it at bay but eradicating it takes an extraordinary amount of effort.

      Bermuda grass is the consummate reproduction artist. Above ground are stems called stolons that creep along the surface, take root and efficiently produce new plants which produce more stolons and so on. Below ground are rhizomes that rapidly produce more roots as well as send up shoots to the surface to make more plants that make more stolons, etc. This underground maze of roots and rhizomes can penetrate 10′ deep or more.

      Many methods are only temporary. Systemic herbicides initially kill surface grass but not all the roots deep below the surface. It may take several attempts to eliminate the majority of these.

      Digging up bermuda grass is an option and also hard work. Who needs to go to the gym for a workout…try the bermuda grass eradication workout.

      What tends to keep bermuda grass at bay is drought and shade. However, if those durable rhizomes find water/sun they will continue on where they left of.

      Sometimes on has to “think” like bermuda grass in order to outsmart it. A combination of the above may be your best bet…Patience is a virtue and necessary when trying to eliminate bermuda grass.
      Best of Luck

  133. Jean says

    Question for anyone who can help. I have a stepped area of retainer walls where I want nothing to ever grow again. Is there a reason I should NOT use the plastic weed block in this case?


  134. Viola says

    I have read all posted about weed block cloth/plastic, I have an area of stone very large area in front of my home. I’ve been taking the weed barrier out, but will be putting the stone back no barrier any suggestions.
    Please email me

    • Mike says

      Viola, Stone is the one exception where I agree that some kind of a weed barrier should be used. Not so much for weed control, but to keep the stone from finding it’s way into the soil. But for this application I’d try and find something that is heavier so it can be removed easily when the time comes. In the nursery industry they use a material that looks like weed barrier, is porous so water and air can pass through it, but it’s durable enough that it lasts a long time. They use it on the floor inside of greenhouses, and outside under nursery containers.

  135. Anthopny says

    Hey Mike,
    Thought I would add a little something to the topic. In my experiences in dealing with landscape fabric I have encountered the same problems, the most humiliating is going back to one of my own jobs a couple of years later and having this problem. Its good to have some one who can bring this topic to light. Naturally I could not let this go down as a defeat so I am on the to a solution, I have come to the conclusion landscape fabric must be applied in a medium to high maintenance project. I think some of the problem, maybe most of it in some cases, is the garden center salesperson who is eager to help, even if he know the problem most times its make a sale. It will not eliminate weeds growing through there is an aging process which takes place on the fabric, its mainly biodegradable, so with that in mind us as contractors should set a schedule and when applying fabric its not to shun it completely but let the client know that it has a time limit and will need to be replaced by a certain period. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water Mike. P.S. great stuff you earned a personal file on my pc Mike.

    • Mike says

      I agree, there is a time and a place for it, but it’s not the quick easy solution that people are looking for. Weed control is all about getting ahead of the weed then keeping up with them. You can’t weed the garden once or twice a year. It’s a weekly process just like mowing the lawn. If I’m going to put stones in a landscape, then you almost have to use some kind of fabric to keep from losing the stones into the soil.

      But at the end of the day I like mulched beds, keep the mulch loose until it decomposes then mulch again. I also use pre emergent herbicides. As a grower it’s almost impossible not to.

  136. Anthony says

    Oh another thing I forgot to mention when I apply landscape fabric, I developed a routine, (after sharing so much why not)I would clear the either manually or by herbicide, that will depend if the client has any reservations. I would incorporated a granular herbicide then water and place the fabric down. this would depend on the specifics of the selected area.

  137. Anthony says

    After seeing those photos I understand your hate for fabric, point taken. Mercy! The fabric company should sue the guy who put that in your yard.

  138. JJ says

    I have an area that I plan to cover with rock…like a decorative gravel. Each year this area is full of weeds. So I was thinking of covering the area with black plastic to kill the seeds before they sprout, then mid summer once I have a good control of the weeds I would put a thick layer of newspaper, cover with fabric and then lay the rock.

    Does this sound like a good plan?? Or should I just put the newspaper down now? I know there are lots of seeds from last year, just waiting to sprout soon!

    • Mike says


      Truth be told, you’ll never beat the seed game. Not only are there seeds in your soil, there are more blowing in daily. I love the newspaper idea, but even with stone if I could avoid fabric I would. More than likely I’d opt not to use stone so I don’t have to use the fabric. Covering the area with a heavy layer of newspaper would probably be a lot better for the soil than plastic, even temporarily.

  139. David says

    My wife and I have two large oak trees in our front yard close to the house. Grass does not do well under these trees so we plan on making shade gardens under the trees with various shade tolerate plants. The remaining ground we were going to cover in thick mulch. There will probably be more mulched area than plant area. Would you still recommend the newspaper?

    • Mike says


      I would. I’d recommend newspaper, or cardboard, or brown paper like they use for meat packing. In short, use something that will decompose, not stay there and haunt you forever!

  140. Sara says

    I have a garden spot that has very nice soil but is overrun with bindweed or morning glory. I am not very handy with hammer and nail so I build my raised beds with boards and stakes which I layered with cardboard (free), wood chips from the tree service, (free)compost, and then just 2 bags of store bought soil to top it off. Some I have then covered with weed barrier cloth that I take up at the end of the season. I experimented with building my raised beds with hay bales which I layered the same way but I did not plant them. 3 years later I started working the hay bale beds. The cardboard was long gone, the wood chips were breaking down. I double dug the bed and came up with thick white roots of the bindweed, they were albino from having no sun. The soil was clay intertwined with clay and more earthworms than you could count. Clay? where did that come from? I decided that was the purpose of the bindweed to bring up the clay and break it apart with the help of the worms. How miraculous was that? God in it’s Glory? The hay had broken down and I ended up with the best beds in the whole garden. Grew 20 ft sunflowers, the best corn I ever grew and over 200 tiny tim pumpkins from a 4 pk I had purchased at the nursery. and I used comfrey fertilizer tea, best fertilizer on the planet. Wow I have used this method for reclaiming my weed farm with this layering effect. Herbicides do not work they just promote the strongest and meanest weeds. survival of the fittest I guess. I have not and will not use another chemical on my place again.

  141. Rose says

    My neighbor has a very invasive bamboo that’s now growing in our backyard. I dug out the ones that pop up, can’t do this forever. What should I do?

    • Mike says


      This is my best guess at controlling bamboo that you don’t own. You really have to dig down, and I’ve been told you have to dig 18″ to 24″ deep then put something in the trench to prevent the roots from coming on to your property. I would not use regular weed barrier fabric, I’m pretty sure the bamboo will find it’s way right through that. It would almost have to be something vinyl.

      The other option would be to spray the sprigs that pop up into your yard with a non selective herbicide which would be any product that contains glysophate.

  142. Angie says

    I have a question actually about the weed barrier fabric thats not to do with weed control but rather would it be a good source to make potting bags out of as well as safe/organic for a deck garden? Or if this isn’t are their any suggestions for any other type of fabric/plastic that’d be good to make square raised beds to put dirt in that are movable and strong enough?+

    • Mike says


      I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for that, given that it is strong enough to support the weight of the soil when lifted.

  143. bee says

    what about using old/used carpet as a weed mat for the walkways. i have heard that the chemicals used in carpet stay in the carpet for many years and when watering or rain off, these chemicals drain into the soil and the plants and veges. does anyone know about this?

    • Mike says


      I don’t think old carpet belongs in the garden. For one, it will hold moisture, get moldy and that could be an issue for humans. Not to mention the garden. Lots of mulch is a much better option and for walkways where you are not growing plants the free mulch that you can get from a tree service is a good option. Don’t use it around for plants until it has aged for at least a year, but for walkways it’s great.

      • Anonymous says

        Mike — in our climate it doesn’t get moldy, or at least no more so than any organic material that gets wet. The pile is synthetic — it won’t mold. The back is most commonly jute, which will mold and rot, but because it’s exposed to air and sun it doesn’t do so very fast.

        In my black current patch, I use a 4 foot wide strips between the rows. I can roll them up to deal more easily with weeds at the edge, or to rototil the area next to the patch.

        Shredded trees get weedy in a year, particularly if you walk on them. A thick mat of newspaper can be used to extend this by a couple years. But newspaper isn’t much different from carpet regarding mold.

        Mold is everwhere. We notice it in our houses because we have light coloured surfaces. But a very large fraction of the inhabitants of any good soil are molds and fungi.


        I agree with you about glue down carpet. Fastened down carpet should be relatively innocuous. Afterall, small kids crawl around on it. By the time that carpet is retired, it should have outgassed most of the chemicals it will outgas. Water soluble compounds should be removable with a day or two of letting a sprinkler run on it (use the lawn as a sacrificial victim) However, if you are concerned, then don’t use it on food crops.

  144. says

    I have had good success using old carpet for weed barriers: Put fuzzy side down, and don’t cover it. Most carpet will turn a non-descript grey or brown with exposure to the elements.

    Bad carpet lasts 2 years. I’ve got some that has been in place for 4 years and no problems.

    The best carpet for this is the commercial stuff with a very tight loop mat.

    This method is not terribly pretty, but from a distance looks like blah patio stone. Of course you could color it. (Fill bingo markers with various colors of paint, and stipple the surface for faux gravel.)

    DO pin the corners down. Catching carpet in the mower is a mess.

  145. Stacy says

    Thanks for the info. I have a 12×5 bed that is covered in weed paper and then river rock with weeds and vine like weeds coming through. The vine like ones like to crawl up my 1 year old hydrangea and black lace elderberry, It seems impossible to pull the vine from it’s root probably because it is traveling. If I choose to move the rock aside, take out the weed paper and place 10 layers of newspaper down, do I need to clean up the weeds underneath? Or will the paper take care of their death?

    • Mike says


      If you put the paper down thick enough, or use cardboard, that should take care of the weeds. Just just have to make sure those weeds are not getting any light, especially around the edges and near the plants.

  146. mike says

    here is a question: I live on a lake and the army corps did some repair on the damn. In the process they inadvertently lowered lake by about 6 inches. Now where the lake edge meets my property is getting weedy as soil is exposed. The weeds are growing 3 feet high ruining my views. Who wants to look at 3 foot high weeds! NOW they drained the lake to do some more repairs. I have pulled all the weeds out of the edge and the shallows and I am thinking of laying down the dreaded landscape filament, staking it down and weighing it down with some stone. Thinking that when the water comes back up the weeds wont be able to grow. My only other option is to deepen my shore line by shoveling our the first 6-10 feet of lakefront allowing for the water to fill it in more deeply thus avoiding the weed growth but thats a lot of shoveling!!! any thoughts?

    • Mike says


      Some how I think that weed barrier cloth would be a huge mistake but it’s your call. Chances are it won’t work as you expect it to unless you have it completely covered with stone. Even then I have my doubts. I’m concerned that no matter what it will become exposed and look unsightly. I think I opt for using a string trimmer to keep the weeds down for now just to see if the lake level changes.

      As you’ve read I really don’t like weed barrier materials, and to use it along a water way I think is just going to be a problem down the road.

  147. Steve Kind says

    Because we live in an area with a lot of former family homes now owned by landlords, often in multiple lets, I see a lot of bad landscaping – and what strikes me is that real problem with weed barrier is that it is mis-used. Landlords – who are far more inetersted in collecting rents than in keeping their properties in good order – lay it in front gardens as a “quick fix”. The problem is, they treat what is only ever going to be a LOW maintenance garden as if it were a NO maintenance garden. I’ve never used weed barrier in my own garden – but this winter I’m making an alpine bed hich, after preparation, will be covered with weed barrier and capped off with 50mm of gravel. BUT – I don’t expect to NEVER have to pull out a weed! Hopefully, if I catch those that do manage to germinate in crevices, round the edges and where I have cut slits for the alpines, they will not get a chance to hook roots into the fabric. I may have to rake off the gravel every couple of years ago and replace with fresh (recycling the old, after washing, to other purposes) – all of which should be much more manageable than the constant battle against weeds that I have in my open bedding. As with many things, weed barrier is a tool that needs to be used for the right job in the right situation.

    • Mike says


      I agree and when using it with stone it works better than if you put mulch over it. The weeds are a lot less likely to grow in the stone than they are in the mulch. If you use a pre emergent herbicide over the stone a couple of times a year you should be able to keep the bed weed free for a long time.

  148. says

    Any advice for a vegetable garden that has the barrier fabric still intact (well most of it) from the last growing season? Does it need to be pulled out so the soil can be tilled and put down new fabric?

    Thanks so much!

  149. Ricki Johnson says

    I used a lot of horticultural cloth on a 20’x140′ 35 degree sloped bank around my house because I thought it would help prevent erosion. It was a colossal mistake, for all the reasons you gave, plus it interfered with absorption and contributed to mud slides over and under the cloth. Not only did we bear the expense of having to remove it (and all the plantings that had gone in to anchor it), we ended up having to invest thousands in curtain drains to prevent flooding out the house. Very expensive lesson.

  150. Janet says

    This place I bought 8 yrs.ago had black plactic everywhere (8 acres) I’m still taking it up along with the weeds growing on and though it.

  151. Nan Ray says

    So glad you talked about this weed barrier. I have had a lot of problems with it too. Just a big old mess. I want to offer a help with the situation you have if I may. It worked for me. I am here in the foothills of CA. heavy clay soil here. It happened I learned to use rice straw for mulch rather than feed store straw because the seeds germinate from that and make more trouble in my raised beds.

    So, I happened to take some of the rice straw and throw it down over a particularly unsightly mess of this weed barrier and crab grass to hide it from company. It rained and then a few days later I went to clean up the straw and tackle this awful mess. Happy Accident! The rice straw and moisture had softened things up. The rice straw had dried and was easy to rake up (another reason I like it as it doesn’t water log and sink into the clay). The crab grass roots had risen and they were very easy to take it up. Much like pulling basting stiches from a sewing project.. Just as slick as you could want.

    Thank you again for your wonderful work and website. I just so appreciate you all.

  152. MK Moore says

    Love your new old house & all it’s possibilities for you. Good find, & Good Luck!
    I also use carpet strips in my garden rows,, Lasts for decades, & can lift & relay as needed! + worms love to breed under it.
    As always, thanks for the tips & the inspiration.

  153. K says

    Can you Roto till dirt that has weed fabric just beneath the soil? Will this wrap up in my tiller and wreck it or will it break down into tiny bits like I want? Have you tried to till landscape fabric before?

    • Mike says

      Unless it’s been there a really long time and exposed to the sun, you are going to make a mess of the rototiller. Ain’t this stuff just great?

    • Sylvia says

      Tried this, this year. I had to stop periodically and remove the cloth from the tines, pick big bits of cloth from the bed and like he says in the article……it’s a nightmare not matter which way I go.

  154. Kathy Doyle says

    OK… So I have that stuff around some huge azalea bushes in front of my house. It’s been down for some 25+ years… Long before I got here… Now that it’s there.. and there’s plenty of weeds… How do you get it… out… up… gone ?

    There’s years of build up leaves.. I can’t get anything (rake, shovel, me) between these plants to get the leaves out yearly, so they have built up on top of this weed cloth.. If I can get the cloth out, can I leave the leaves, old mulch and whatever is in the bed… then newspaper and hardwood mulch over the top of everything ?

    The leaves and old mulch has decomposed over the cloth and everything is growing… including the worms.. and weeds… nicely… But I can’t dig down to plant anything new or replace any plant or add any color, that has to go below this damn cloth !! So.. I’m gonna remove as much as I can.. just need to know if I can leave all that’s on top ?
    PS… Love the donkeys and can’t wait to see the new house pics !!

  155. Kimberly Cody says

    Can you tell me what will work and how to keep the weeds out of your vegetable garden without having to spend all day everyday weeding and weeding. I have ground woven cloth that helps but not enough.

  156. Sandra says

    I love fabric weed barrier. I have never had any problems. If I get weeds, they are usually small and can be easily removed. I have used it for almost 20 years.

    • Mike says


      Your story is a rare one. Two things. You don’t say what you have over the weed barrier and two, you are out there weeding. Most people are not that diligent. And if they are, they really don’t need the weed barrier. Most install it thinking their days of weeding are over. The problem arises the first time any weeds begin to get a foot hold. From there on out it’s a nightmare.

  157. Yvonne Wenz says

    I really need some advice. I am desperate. I have a corner lot. The corner is full of hostas and god knows what else. When I try to dig it is like cement. There is a plastic and or cloth and under that small golf ball sized river rocks. Does anyone, anyone have any tips on how I can remove them? My shovel doesn’t make a dent, I cannot dig. Its bad enough the previous owner also used railroad ties everywhere, which are now rotting, and that’s another topic all together. Grrrr. Any suggestions? I have to do this myself and if I need to rent some sort of whatever to do this as painless as possible I would be happy to do so. I know this is a long shot due to no one has commented maybe for a couple years. I didn’t really read them so I dont know who can remember. Thanks for your time and have a great day.

    • Mike says


      Renting a piece of equipment to do that job really isn’t practical. All you could rent would a skid steer loader and even an experience operator would do more damage than good. You’d be better off leaving it as is and just treating the weeds, or hiring some strong backs to do it for you.

  158. Sylvia says

    I can attest to the rock “Mulch” over weed barrier. I would be happy to take some photos of that for you for proof. When we first got this house I loved the rock mulch with is actually 2.0″ river rock. It was beautiful when it was wet and it seemed white and cool when it was dry. But boy howdy does it EVER collect weed seed. Now I hate this stuff… and I know some farmer is rolling over in his grave about the rock the previous home owner put in this former walnut orchard. There must be 20 yards or more of this stuff about 3 to 4 inches deep in places… and you guessed it… it’s ALL over deteriorating Weed Barrier Cloth.

  159. Brenda Phillips says

    Hi, Mike…and congrats on the weight loss!! I want you to hang around long after I’m gone…Anyway…

    Last fall I used landscape fabric (L-F) to lay over my “WORM” bed. I put all kinds of worm food in my stack, grass clippings, leaves, etc. — then covered it with L-F to allow water, snow, rain, etc. to leak through. It worked great. Had lots of worms and some pretty nice-looking soil. But, I fully agree with you on using the L-F for a permanent thing. I’m still digging bits and pieces of it when I used it about 20 years ago.

    Now, about black plastic — It is wonderful for stopping/killing either grass or weeds…BUT, please do not put it over or too near something that you want to keep on living, like the PEACH TREE I recently killed!!! w/black plastic. I put it over four trees at the edge of my property/road. Well, I found that the roots were right on top of the soil, searching for water… One of the 1″ roots had a bore in it…and eventually this tree died! My best-tasting peach, too. When I found this, I ripped it all out and only use black plastic for places I no longer have use for or want to make a path w/ground cover and stepping stones on it.

    Brenda Phillips – SLC, Utah

  160. Christine M says

    When I first built my large veggie garden, I used it not only on all of the pathways, but also around the perimeter of the fence to keep weeds and grass out. Years later I have finally pulled it all out of the garden (what a nightmare), but it is firmly rooted in place by grass around the perimeter. Oh how I hate that stuff. Since then I only use cardboard which when it breaks down I just replace it and it doesn’t cause such a disaster.

  161. Vicky says

    I feel for you, I would never use that crap. The grasses and weeds become one with that junk and you can’t pull them without lifting up the whole mess. I’ve had to deal with it working for others who didn’t know better. I really hate trying to pull/dig weeds or volunteer starts that I want to keep out of rocks too would never put them down either. Not to mention they get so hot they fry the plants around them. I like what I read somewhere what the person said, “If you need mulch you don’t have enough plants.” If there are trees around the nice bark never looks nice either from all the tree junk falling all over it.

  162. Lisa says

    Does this work on vines, (vinca etc)? Just had a bed cleared of these (cutting and pulling). I’m sure there are plenty of roots still left. Everyone keeps telling me to use the fabric, but just had a heck of a time getting it out of a bed in the front. I know vines are harder to control.
    Please respond ASAP. I need to get it covered quick before the whole area is sprouts again.

  163. Joe says

    I use tar paper or roofing felt. I know the asphalt in it is bad for the soil. So is the asphalt on the roads that get washed into the storm drains in way much larger quantities. Black plastic and other plastics leach out PBA … ok after you come to grips and realize your not going to poison the earth ., I usually use this in walkways where I have stepping stones and gravel or rocks around them . The Tar paper can last 15 to twenty years …

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