Issues with Landscape Fabric for Gardens

I have noticed that the majority of my clients seem to always want landscape fabric in their gardens to prevent weed growth. The product gives users a sense of instant gratification and responsibility, with the idea that they are protecting their garden against weeds for the future. While the intention is to decrease garden maintenance, landscape fabric will become ineffective in a very short period of time and create issues for your garden spaces in the future. A thin layer of plastic or cloth, landscape fabric is usually installed during the initial creation of the garden. Mulch, rock, or some other sort of ground cover, is then, spread on top of the landscape fabric. After installation, it is only a matter of months before the forces of nature drive sediment on and into the ground cover, creating a layer of soil and organic materials above the fabric. This layer of sediment creates an ideal environment for invasive weeds to spread over the landscape fabric. The weeds tend to spread even more quickly over gardens with the fabric because most of the plants that you have planted within the small holes in the fabric cannot compete with these pesky weeds that do not need much of a growing medium to flourish. After a year or two, we find most landscape fabric weak with holes and tears from the weed growth, rendering it completely useless and a nuisance for future projects.

When this happens, many react by adding more ground cover on top of the weed-infested ground cover, and some even do this after adding another layer of fabric. While planting for others, I have seen up to six layers of fabric in seven inches of soil. This situation makes it difficult for plants to grow correctly.


Is there a better method?

Some people will use newspaper instead, so that once the weeds get on top of it, the paper will have biodegraded. This is more difficult to install, but it beats dealing with the cloth two years down the line.

The best way to protect your garden from weeds is to put in the time or money to pull them by hand.


How to Protect Your Plants from Frost Damage

It's April 16th in Minneapolis, and we just got hit with a brief snow fall. Most of us have yet to plant outdoors, but it's not unusual to get a frost later in the year. Plants can be spendy and time consuming, so it is important to know how to protect your plants from these late frosts to keep them from looking like this:  

When the weather forecast warns against a frost, the best thing to do is to cover your plants with a thin linen. This can increase the temperature of your plant's atmosphere by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Bed sheets work great, burlap does just fine, and if your in a hurry, plastic will be okay, but plastics will decrease air circulation.  They also sell manufactured plant covers for such situations at your local greenhouse or plant supply store. When applying these covers, try to cover the plant so that the least amount of the cover is touching the plant because in the frost, the plant will be coldest where it touches the cover. Stakes may help you accomplish a minimal contact.

Take the covers off of your plants as the sun  rises in the morning so that the plants can re-acclimate with the air as it warms up.

Some people, also, like to irrigate before a frost. Because wet soils can stay up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than  dry soils, this is also a great way to prevent frost damage.

Don't overlook the situation in the upcoming months. Easily protecting your plants during a frost will allow you to enjoy your green plants longer and save you money, in the long run.

Tony Cousins

A Quick Guide to Lawn Care Programs

While we don’t offer lawn maintenance at Stone Arch Landscapes, we know that growing adequate turfgrass in Minnesota can be difficult, so I threw together a quick guide to help you establish that lush lawn you've always wanted.

Professional lawn maintenance serves its purpose for association housing, but is costly and inefficient for the average home owner. After observing the work that my friends and family have had done by these companies, and having had worked for one in my teen years (one of the bigger names in the Twin Cities), I have come to the conclusion that they are wasteful and prudent. The best way to a great lawn is through educating yourself and creating your own turfgrass care program that fits your lawn. Every lawn is unique with differences in grass types, soil types, shade cover, and sun exposure, among many other countless factors - the professional maintenance companies fail to account for these vital factors, resulting in high-input, medium-quality, over-priced lawns.

Creating a turfgrass care program may sound like a lot of work at first, but after a couple years of tests and observations, your turfgrass will grow vigorously every spring.

There are a ton of options to sift through, so you will have to make some guided decisions along the way. If something doesn't work, make changes and compare results. Eventually, you will end up with the correct materials and measurements that your lawn needs to thrive.

Soil Type

Knowing your soil composition will give you the best direction for situations down the road, saving you time in trial and error situations. This information can reveal what types of grasses and fertilizers you should be using, how much input your lawn will need, and what types of management practices you will need to perform.

To test your soil, send a sample to the University of Minnesota for a small fee of $17.00.

University of Minnesota Soil Testing Page:           UMN Soil Testing

Grass Type

You will need to know what species of cool-season turfgrass currently grows in your yard. You can identify your turfgrass by following the link to the cool-season turfgrass dichotomy:

Turfgrass Dichotomy

If you need help with identification, bring a fully rooted sample to your local greenhouse. Most greenhouse employees are plant nerds, so they will be more than happy to help you out.

If your current grass type does not seem to be growing correctly, it could be the wrong species pairing for its environment (soil type, shade cover, etc.).

Here is a brief guide on how to choose a turfgrass species:

Turfgrass Species Guide

Fertilizer Type

When applied carefully, fertilizer is an easy concept. Start conservatively and make small adjustments each time. To see which fertilizer best suits the environmental factors that your lawn deals with, view these simpler fertilizer programs:

Beginner Fertilizer Programs

After trying these basics, you will be able to see how your turfgrass reacts to make more advanced judgements in the future.

Learn more about fertilizers and applications in the main page: More About Fertilizers


Water Input

The general rule for cool-season turfgrasses is to water your turfgrass until the water is able to soak the soil 5 inches below the surface, evenly across your lawn. This amount depends on your soil type. A clay soil will require more water than a sandy soil.

The best time to water your turfgrass is in the morning before the sun gets too high. Otherwise, you will lose the majority of your water to evaporation. Watering at night increases the chances of developing molds and funguses that stress your turfgrass.

Your irrigation situation should influence your turfgrass species type. Certain cool-season species are better adapted to drought than others.



Definitely the easiest unit in my college Turfgrass Management course. Never mow more than ⅓ of the leaf blades off, be sure to keep your mower’s blades sharp for a clean cut. Pick up mower clippings that sit on top of the grass so that they don’t shade the grass or cause moisture problems underneath.

Find your turfgrass species on this page to view recommended mowing heights:

Lawn Clipping Management

Spring Tips

Once the snow finally melts, it is best to stay off of your grass until it has dried and is no longer muddy. Once you can walk on the grass without getting your boots muddy, rake the grass to stimulate growth.

Look for any sign of diseases or pests. This is the time when environmental stresses like snow mould or salt injury are very apparent, giving you a chance to mitigate the damage before important growth cycles.

Identifying pests online can be fairly easy. If you use, post a picture of the area that you are concerned about on, and there are many of us that will come to your aid.


Starting a lawn care program is a bit of a puzzle that you need to solve using clues that are not difficult to obtain. Keep your observations and measurements logged in a notebook for future referencing.

I strongly recommend that anyone serious about having the best lawn in the neighborhood visits the lawn extension through the University of Minnesota. It’s a great resource that’s written by my old professors.

University of Minnesota Lawn Extension

Please reply with any comments or questions.

Written by Tony Cousins