In Garden Tips, General


Whoever believes adding a layer of weed fabric will stop weeds may also believe our climate isn’t changing.

As I write this, we have just returned from an amazing adventure in Acadia National Park. It’s always interesting when one goes on vacation or away from their home/garden for any length of time. You work your tail off making sure everything is in order and you won’t have a pile of work awaiting when you return. And when you do get back that to-do list is just as long as ever.

It can be especially challenging when your vacation takes place during the tropical growing season otherwise known in East Tennessee as summer. I’m always extremely grateful for rain during the oven months. I can remember droughts that seemed like they’d never end. But when you put warm and wet together, most gardeners know that the final result is weeds!

I’m not sure when it began but at some point in time, a thought-to-be brilliant mind* believed that if you put something over the soil in a planting bed and then added mulch over this you would never pull another weed. The material used at that time was black plastic, believe it or not. It didn’t work. Time passed and then another equally intelligent genius invented another product some now call weed fabric. If you’ve followed any of my other writings you may already know that I sometimes have opinions on things and for better or worse, I express these (sometimes at inopportune moments). Three words sum up how I feel about weed fabric….”nope, don’t, forget about it, bad news, no way.” Ok, that was more than three words but you may get my drift.

*odds are this person was an engineer 😉

Weed fabric. NOT a good look!

This product also known as geotextile will NOT stop weeds from germinating in planting beds. AND it is really bad for your soil as well. When you think about it, weeds are perfectly happy growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. Why then think that they won’t just love 2-3 inches of organic material that is also known as mulch? This fabric DOES have its place in the garden. It is a necessary membrane when placed between soil and gravel that is meant to keep the gravel from migrating into the soil. It may also be used to wrap slotted drain pipe or behind segmental or stack stone walls to keep the backfill from coming through any gaps. Just don’t use it in planting beds! Ever!

In addition to not keeping weeds at bay this material, although marketed as “breathable” will eventually stop the flow of air and water in planting beds and depending on how often you add mulch, may result in the formation of blocky chunks of heavy soil that almost resemble bricks.

If you inherit a situation like this, put “tearing this garbage out” high on your “to-do” list.

So, what is the answer to controlling weeds? This depends on your personal beliefs with regard to herbicides, etc. but in my own garden there is something really satisfying yanking unwanted invaders out by the roots after a decent rain. Mulch can indeed help deter weed formation but do some research on the best type of mulch for your area as well as how often to reapply. We’ve all seen those shopping centers who pay to change the color of their brown and most often do this unnecessarily. Personally, I’m a big fan of leaf mulch or pine straw. More on that related topic may be found here:


Weeds can be a nuisance if you let them. But with a bit of care and a decent layer of breathable mulch, you CAN keep the upper hand.

That’s it. Not a scientific journal here. Just one man’s biased opinion.  Next time I will share some thoughts on something equally as riveting! Tune back in then and until that time:

Happy Weeding!

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