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Ranting about Weed Fabric

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t stop a customer with a roll or two of “weed-block” in their shopping cart and ask what they are using it for. You know, “week fabric” “weed cloth” “weed block” the stuff you put down in your beds under mulch to prevent “weed growth”.

If the customer tells me it’s going under stones or rocks okay, have at it. But if they say they’re using it under mulch, I’ll stop them and question their decision.

Put simply, these “weed fabrics” are a waste of money – a lot of money, ‘cause they don’t come cheap!!

These fabrics are designed to prevent weed seeds from germinating in the soil and they’re pretty darned good at it too! Weed seeds have a tough time penetrating 3-4 inches of mulch and this fabric as well. (doh!) Not only that, the fabrics does a good job of smothering the growth of seeds that may be underneath them at the time of installation (double doh!)

So why shouldn’t you use it? Inquiring minds want to know….

Among the many benefits of mulch that is often overlooked is decomposition. As mulch decomposes it enriches the soil which benefits whatever you are trying to grow! That’s why you’re at The Home Depot all the time – replenishing mulch that has decomposed and enriched your soil. If you had a fabric under your mulch you would be denying yourself the benefits of decomposition – or denying your soil and your plants!

Mulch has the innate quality of preserving moisture in the soil beneath it while still allowing excess water to evaporate. It breathes. If you read the bags “week block” comes in they make a big deal about how well their product performs in this regard. Retention and evaporation of moisture is a big deal – too wet plants die, too dry plants die. Its only common sense to believe that no matter what they claim, you’re probably better off without it… No?

Lastly, as if you don’t already know this – weed seeds don’t need soil to germinate. They are perfectly content germinating and growing within the confines of your mulch! So what good is a barrier over the soil? If you maintain a healthy 3-4 inch layer of mulch most seeds won’t reach the soil before germinating anyway!

Okay, so what to do about those pesky mulch-germinating weeds?

Go to your favorite Home Depot and buy a non-selective herbicide in concentrate form. (more about that subject in a later rant) Non-selective means it kills anything green it comes in contact with.

For small areas I use a 32 ounce trigger spray bottle and fill to 28 ounces with water and 4 ounces of herbicide. This is a very “hot” mix and will kill just about anything. In large beds I use my trusty 2 gallon pump sprayer. Once a week I walk my grounds with a sprayer and carefully spray any offending weeds. With enough practice you’ll get quite good with your trigger sprayer set on “stream” at hitting those weeds without damaging your plants.

There you have it, don’t waste your money on these weed fabrics. Go and buy some more mulch instead, or take your spouse out to dinner with the money you’ll save.