Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gardening green... weed barrier fabric, not so good.

Plastic weed barrier fabric, the heavily marketed solution to keeping weeds away, is not green (no surpirse). Susan Brackney of Plenty Magazine writes that the plastic fabric, which you find at the major big box plant peddlers (they know who they are) is made with oil, a not so abundant resource (as well all know). Plus it throws off the balance between water content and air flow in the soil, detering beneficial microbes that help with healthy plant growth and development, through providing a healthy nutrient content in the soil.

The alternative, Brackney says, use newspaper, its biodegradable and keeps the weeds down, with a good mulch top layer or worm castings ("gardner's gold" in my mind). Helps the soil breate which ecourages growth of helpful microbes enhancing the soil's nutrient level.

Have a Happy Friday fellow gardners!


CanadianGardenJoy said...

Sea .. we have black fabric landscaping fabric .. thin and breathable .. so water migrates through it very well .. are newspapers still better than this ? .. I want to do the right thing .. I just relyed on this because it was breathable etc ..
Your thoughts ?

Unknown said...

I'm no fan of landscaping cloth either. Someone used it in a couple of beds around the house before we came here, and I"m still digging it up nine years later. I did get some to use in the greenhouse; I lay it out on the bed of the greenhouse to smother out weed seedlings and then plant the tomatoes in it. It provides extra heat for the tomatoes, keeps them clean from soil splashes, and I can use the same amount I put down for several years (I only tried this last year and was pleased at the results, so I'm going to see how long it WILL last.
In the gardens, when making a new bed, I always use newspaper and the hay or straw from banking the windward side of the house in winter. Plus I shred newspaper and put it in the compost. Worms love it, don't they?

kate said...

Last summer, I discovered that the newspaper that I'd use to kill off some grass was still there, despite watering, rain and snow (I put it down 3 years earlier and covered it with pea gravel). So, it struck me that it was more durable than I thought.

On Sunday at 3:00 p.m., I am going to receive my worms and bin to start vermi-composting. How exciting is that!

Enjoy your weekend...

The Cheap Vegetable Gardener said...

I have been ripping up the landscape fabric beds as well to find dozens of worms struggling to survive in the clay below it, when they could be feasting on the selection of organic matter in my soil.

Mad Man Bamboo Nursery said...

GardenJoy4Me - in my mind the issue here is that these are oil based and synthetic, with plastic never trully breaking down (just into smaller pieces), it poses an environmental impact, paper does eventually biodegrade, hence that advantage there.

jodi - from a nuerseryman or woman's perspective this fabric does work well particularly since ag departments require stock to be weed free, or you could lose your license, at least that is the way here in CA. That said, using it in the application you describe does make some sense, maybe using it for the right reasons is a good way to frame it, from a gardners perspective.

Kate - Vermi-composting, we are considering giving that a try as well, please be sure to share the results.

CVD - your observations seems to affirm the concerns of the post, thanks for sharing!