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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.

1 Simple Trick Produces Massive Roots

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.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • Darleen says

      If you have an informal garden, or live in the country, watch for the tree trimming companies that are trimming around the overhead utility lines. The ones in our area were happy to dump a couple of loads at my place, Free!!
      If you have the opportunity, have them dump as
      close to where you want as possible, assuming you will get it spread within a month or so. Otherwise it is rather unsightly, and you might want it where it isn’t detracting from your garden views. 1 load is a LOT of mulch to move. Previously, early Sat. mornings, I drove to a place, about 5mi away, where there was a huge pile of chippings. I filled bags with it, loaded my vehicle, and made many many trips, to mulch my garden each year. There are sticks and larger pieces mixed in, but it is easy to pull those out as you fill your wagon or wheelbarrow. I have used these chippings for about 10 yrs and find it the perfect choice for me, because my whole place is in garden with a couple of small grassed areas. Purchasing mulch would not be an option. The very few weeds I get can be pulled out with 2 fingers. Super easy, which is good because I only have Saturdays to garden. The sandy soil now has plenty of organic material, and my clay is substantially improved. I also use newspaper and cardboard beneath my mulch, which I use depends on the area and what I’m going to do there. This isn’t as pretty as the commercial stuff but it is neat, does look natural, and certainly does the job, a real necessity in our drought prone area of OK.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

      LOOK AT THE PRODUCTS U PURCHASE WEEKLY ALL ENCLOSED IN PLASTIC THIS IS SUCH A CHEAP WAY TO ENCLOSE PRODUCTS THAT IT WILL NEVER END–SURE WEED-BLOCK NOT GOOD FOR ENVIROMENT BUT PACKAGING OF MATERIALS HAS MORE OF EFFECT ON LANDFILLS . ALSO THE PEOPLE THAT USE THE PACKING SEALERS AND MOLD SEALERS ARE EXPOSED TO FUMES EXPELED WHEN HEATED THAT ARE CANCER AFFILATED.

  6. Patricia says

    Mike,
    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!!!
    Pat

  7. 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!

    Lance

  8. 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,,,

  9. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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:)
        Janice

    • 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

      • Vicki says

        To get rid of fire ant, i throw down bird seed. Within a few hours the birds are well fed, no fireants and good for the environment

  10. 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 !

  11. 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?

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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 !

  15. 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!

  16. 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

  17. 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 !

  18. 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.

    • 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.

  19. Mike Coloma says

    Mike
    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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

    Help
    Lillian in Georgia

    • 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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

  25. 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!!!

  26. 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.
    Steph

    • 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. John O'Day says

    Mike,

    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?

    Thanks.

      • 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!!!

    • 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.”

          • Doug Hargett says

            I am no expert on this, but….when i first read about using newspaper for weed control, it came with a warning to use soy based inks, not oil based inks. Afterwards, I’ve read that no one uses oil based inks on newsprint anymore, due to the cost, and the state of newspapers these days.

            I can say that I am amazed how well newspaper works! I use 8 sheets or so at a time, and overlap generously. I’ve has paper that didn’t even get covered fully stay in place for over a year, preventing the vast majority of weeds. Unlike fabric and mulch, it also doesn’t let seeds germinate and grow on top of it..

            Once it gets wet, it almost vacuum forms to the ground. When you need to get through it, wet it, if necessary, and shovel right through.. I’m really sold on this for weed control! I spread out full pages, crisscrossing them, discarding the glossy printed ad sections, and either stack them, ready to spread out, or, lay them out, roll them up, ready to lay down and unroll on location. I keep a hose handy, and ‘spray them as I lay them’, toss on a little mulch, or dirt, and I’m done!

            One gad thing I’ve found with mulch–it really encourages slugs and snails. Slug-B-Gone works great, but it’s not cheap, and slugs do a lot of damage quickly, and they are so, so gross! I’m seriously thinking of no longer using mulch just for this reason.

          • says

            Doug,

            I’m glad you got great results with newspaper. It really is a great way to control weeds. Slugs? That’s an issue for some but not all.

          • Charline Jolly says

            Doug, do you know anyone with ducks? If you turn them loose in your yard for a few hours, they will clean up the slimy pests. You have to return them to the owners before they start on your plants!

    • 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.

  31. 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 Rocks..so 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 !

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

      Elizabeth,
      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…

  35. 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

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

    Smitty

    • 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!

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