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