Plastic mulch vs. landscape cloth?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I'd appreciate comments from anyone with experience using either plastic mulch or landscape cloth. I'd like to use one or the other this year to keep the garden cultivation as clean as possible and cut down on labor. I'm leaning towards the landscape cloth as its woven (letting air & water through) and appears more durable than the plastic sheeting, though the plastic is cheaper.
Marilyn and Hendo - thanks for your input on drip vs. soaker irrigation.
-- Robert (STBARB@usa.net), March 19, 2000
Platic mulch is used extensively by organic growers. It has a life time of one growing season and then ends up in a landfill! It is another unfortunate exaple of why organic does not always mean sustainable! Kim
-- kim (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 19, 2000.
I had a neighbor who used landscape cloth last year and it worked great. I am going to use it this year for my pumpkins and melons. I don't understand why so many people just toss the things that don't recycle very easily into the dumpster. Everything that we don't recycle goes into the burn barrel first before getting dumped into the dumpster. I guess I don't mind polluting a little bit when I think about how much less landfill space I'm taking up.
-- David (email@example.com), March 19, 2000.
I've used black plastic mulch for years. At the end of the season I wash it, dry it, and roll it up for storage until spring.Never noticed a problem with mold, etc. I've also used the landscape cloth but it won't keep Bermuda grass from growing through. Then it's a pain (you know where!) to pull the roots out. Last year I used RED plastic mulch under some of my tomatoes and there was a remarkable difference! The tomatoes grown over the red plastic were larger and ripened sooner. I cleaned the red plastic and will use it again this year. Paulette
-- paulette mark (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 19, 2000.
THE LANDSCAPE FABRIC DOES LET AIR AND WATER THROUGH, BUT IT'S USUALLY SUGGESTED THAT YOU MULCH IT. I WOULD THINK THAT IF YOU PUT DOWN LOTS OF MANURE, PUT BLACK PLASTIC DOWN, AND PLANT, THE BLACK PLASTIC SHOULD LAST FOR POSSIBLY TWO YEARS. ALSO REMEMBER THAT ONCE THE GROUND IS MOIST, THE BLACK PLASTIC ISN'T GOING TO LET EVAPORATION STEAL YOUR MOISTURE DURING THE SUMMER. ALSO WITH THE PLASTIC, YOU CAN PLANT EARLIER AND HEAT THE GROUND UP WHICH SPEEDS UP PLANT GROWTH. GOOD LUCK.
-- MICHAEL W. SMITH (KIRKLBB@PENN.COM), March 19, 2000.
I've tried both plastic and landscape cloth. Ended up back to Da's favorite, an inch or so of wet newspaper, covered with compost. It decomposes, and it's FREE!
-- Kathy (email@example.com), March 19, 2000.
I must agree. Newspaper 4-8 layers thick with either compost or alfalfa hay or leaves, which are a heck of a lot cheaper, on top is the best way to go. The landscape fabric is better than black plastic as in snake areas, black plastic is inviting trouble!Also, I have heard that if your using the landscape fabric with shrubs it can kill them because they won't root deeply with it. Don't know that for sure, but I read it in 3 seperate places. Also, as far as burning black or any plastic goes, why?
-- Doreen Davenport (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 19, 2000.
Hi, I have a freind who uses the landscape cloth with good results for weed control. It's come down in price enough I'd try it if my time in the garden didn't allow good weeding. My question/answer is with plastic. I live in COLD country and clear plastic is preferred over black to heat the ground. If there is a piece of black plastic on snow, it will shield the suns rays and the snow will melt last under it. Clear plastic will magnify the sun and it will quickly melt under it. I only use black plastic to shade the melons and onions that need darkness in our wonderfully light summers! I know people who successfully use black plastic as mulch here, but these are my observations. Love this forum, from Interior Alaska Jill
-- Jill Schreiber (email@example.com), March 20, 2000.
Kathy, I'm with you. Black plastic eventually rips and cracks and just doesn't ease my workload enough. And I happen to think it looks ugly in the garden. I use layers of chicken bedding, newspaper, old hay and soil to build a new bed. I usually build up the new bed in the fall so it will rot and settle over the winter. By Spring, I can plant without worries over it being too hot. Bonus to this is that I do not double dig anymore, I just start layering over the sod, which breaks down with time. All of this means less work in the long run. Weed control is easy since I add new layers each fall to build the bed and seeds are buried well and composted, or if that isn't the case, it sure is easy to pull the few out come growing season. Check out the book "Edible Landscaping". There's also one called "Lasagna Gardening" which I haven't read but covers the same principles.
-- Anne (HealthyTouch101@hotmail.com), March 20, 2000.
I use the newspaper also and put hay over it. It all eventually decomposes and enriches the soil. I have used the fabric in flower beds and find any place there is a hole where I plant something, a green onion or some other weed will find it! The roots might be several inces away from the hole so then you have to go looking for it and in the process usually end up making the hole bigger. I think just plain old mulch put on pretty heavy works best.
-- barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 21, 2000.
I used black plastic one year and put hay over it. I made some places for water to run down under it when I noticed it was keeping the rain away from my plants. I used it for sweet potatoes which I had made hills for, so there were depressions between the hills, which I lined with newspapers to absorb the moisture and keep it in.. I set the sweet potatoes down in slits in the plastic. This worked very well for me. I also put pie pans and bits of aluminum foil around to reflect the sky and confuse the bugs. I had a really great crop of sweet potatoes, the best I ever had.
However, when I tried black plastic on level areas in my raised, boxed garden beds, without the other precautions, my poor plants didn't get enough water and dried up. A neighbor, observing what i was doing, came to me very unhappy and told me that he had seen someone else use black plastic which they left in place for three years and that the earth turned sour and all the plants (perrenials) died. I didn't see that for myself, so I don't know if it is true.
I have the book Lasagna Gardening and it's a great book.
I got my black plastic by scrounging. It had come off a new mobile home and the owners were delighted I took it away. I have also experimented with old carpeting in the rows between my raised beds. It lets the water and air in and makes a wonderful place for earthworms to gather. It does not entirely suppress weeds. They grow through it and eventually it biodegrades but the price is right and I use every scrap I can get my hands on. I used clear plastic, also scrounged, after wetting down my soil good to "sterilize" my soil and kill weeds, but i pulled it up when it was time to plant. The best thing I have used in my garden to keep down weeds is heavy cardboard from boxes. This cuts off the light and suppresses weeds, but the earthworms LOVE it! They like to eat the glue in the corrugations, I believe, and the cardboard, too, so it keeps the weeds down and also feeds my garden.
I have tried hay and straw and they biodegrade well but generally have seeds which sprout -- don't let them take hold or they have really deep roots and are hard to pull out! I pull up the sprouts and put them in my compost. Weeds do come up through the straw and hay but are easy to pull out if you get them while they are young.
Each material has its advantages and disadvantages but to me, price or cost is a major disadvantage! However, if I had unlimited funds and was going to buy either black plastic or landscape fabric -- the original question here -- based on my own experience, I would opt for the landscape fabric so the earth could breathe and water could get through to my plants' roots. I would not buy black plastic. In fact, there is a third option you can purchase which is paper mulch which supposedly keeps down the weeds, lets water thrugh, and biodegrades. If I were going to buy a weed-suppressant mulch, I would buy the paper mulch.
-- Elizabeth Petofi (email@example.com), March 22, 2000.
I agree with Elizabeth landscape cloth is better then black plastic, Your soil is alive with micro organisums which help to keep plants healthy, when you cut off air they start to die off.Organic growers were i live dont use plastic but If they did they would remove it as soon as possible to let soil breath, It has Its uses [sweetpotatos, sqush, ect ]to warm soil but as permant mulch it will distroy the soil In a couple years of continual use, I found newspaper work the best in short term.
-- kathy h (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 24, 2000.
I must agree with Paulette. I had used black plastic around my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants for years. In Maine, soil warmth is a consideration, and the mulch helps. 2 years ago I tried the red mulch against controls of black and no mulch. The difference was remarkable! Last year I bought a large roll of the red mulch - several years worth - since it is far cheaper in bulk. I only get one year out of it, but I only use it for the above-mentioned. It gets recycled along with the other plastics. Here's a good system for tomatoes. Cut the bottom out of a 4 gallon (or 5 gallon) bucket. Push it @ 4" into the soil and plant the tomato plant inside. This protects the plant initially from wind. On a cool night (suspected light frost) you can cover the top with the lid or a board. As the plant grows, you have a much better watering system than the over-priced commercial ones ("automater" is one - expensive garbage!). I water heavily every week, about 1 1/2 gallons per plant, and every 3rd week I add a water soluble fertilizer (eg. Miracle-gro, Rapid-gro). All the water/fertilizer goes right to the roots instead of spreading all over the ground. Good luck!
-- Brad (email@example.com), March 29, 2000.
20+ years ago I used the black plastic as a ground cover/weed contol in my garden. It created the worst garden I have ever had for all the reasons mentioned above-crops couldn't get enough water and the earth below became a horrible mess; sour, hard & dead. I do use plastic in the garden but only in the spring on my raised beds to keep the springs rains from saturating the ground. I can begin planting even after many days of heavy rain without damaging the soil. I just pull off the plastic,fold it up and store it for next year. I have plastic that is many, many years old and still in great shape. The clear plastic tears up sooner than the black.
15+ years ago I used the landscaping fabric. The fine weeds/grass just came up through it and the tough weeds/grass traveled along the ground under the fabric until it reached a planting hole to sprout from. When I pulled out the weeds/grass, it just tore a big hole in the fabric. Yes, I had a thin layer of mulch on top of the fabric. It didn't help at all.
5+ years ago I began using hay mulch. Finally, something that works! You MUST put it down THICK! I lay the whole flakes down side by side without fluffing them up. If a weed sneaks through, down goes another flake right on top of it. I buy second cutting hay from a farmer who takes this cutting before it makes seed heads. Many people have increased weeds after using hay but I haven't had this problem (maybe I should give a special thanks to my hayman). All summer long, all I do is harvet - seldom do I pull a weed.
I do use a soaker hose but I have not tried drip. I lay the hose down under the hay. It stays there all summer without me moving it. I have enough hose to use on all my beds without needing to move it.
Any of the compost/hay/live mulches will be much better for your soil in the long run. They all give life back to the earth. Plastic and landscape fabric give nothing back.
-- Yesteryear Cottage (oberg @watervalley.net), April 03, 2000.
I'm just starting to experiment. I have soil that's mostly Texas clay. I put the landscape fabric down, covered it in 2 inches of soil followed by about 3 inches of mulch. It's a little more expensive but my theory is that the plants will take in the soil and deep weeds will be prevented from resprouting. Any thoughts? firstname.lastname@example.org
-- robert justice (email@example.com), April 21, 2001.
I have read about red plastic mulch with tomatoes and I am going to try it this year. I hope I can find a plastic does not break down with UV. I would think that wasing and storing would allow me to reuse it.
I often wonder about using newspaper as mulch. What about the ink. Is the ink toxic? Do the plants absorb it?
-- Chris (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 09, 2001.
I just finished sowing this weeks worth of successive plantings in black plastic! We've used it for a few years now, removing it in Fall. I have Post Polio Syndrome so I have my limitations, but I'd hate to give up gardening. The plastic keeps weeds down, keeps the moisture in the ground and it is delightful to sit on was it warms these old bones. I tap the plastic to warn any snakes of my presence. I do want to try red plastic with the tomatoes next year. Also, hubby said he didn't like landscape cloth as it also allowed weeds to come through.
-- Ardie from WI (email@example.com), June 09, 2001.
I've been using black vinyl sheeting for a long time. It comes on 4 foot wide rolls and is used to wrap wire splices like the phone company does. It lasts many seasons. I only cut small holes and slits for rows. I pull it up in the fall and till in a bunch of compost mulch and clover. In the spring I till it up a bit, level it and put the vinyl back down. Never had a problem with plants drying up. Most get water in the early morn and late afternoon. I use the same method in the flower bed except it stays down for years and I put bark mulch on top of it. It's rare I need to pull weeds anywhere.
-- April (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 09, 2001.
The ink in newspaper doesn't break down and makes your garden toxic.
-- April (email@example.com), June 09, 2001.
A friend of mine used old carpet with good results. He would scroung up some old garden hose and weave it around the plants putting small hole at every plant for watering. When it became very hot and plants had fruit on them he put few layers of scrap shrimp netting on poles above plants to block out some of the sun (perhaps 15-20%). Worked good for him.
-- ed (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 09, 2001.
There is one weed-blocker mulch that I havent seen mentioned... cardboard! All you have to do is go through town asking businesses if they have any boxes they are throwing away. Usually there are whole dumpsterfuls to help yourself to. Just open the boxes out and lay the cardboard down between your rows. soak it well and it is there to stay. Of course, if looks matter to you, a little hay on top pretties it up nicely.
-- daffodyllady (email@example.com), June 10, 2001.
I would like to see more information on the toxicity of newspaper ink please.
-- john hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 10, 2001.