Weed Cloth: A Rant

A rant, but also some good advice for starting a garden… DO NOT USE WEED CLOTH!

Learn from my mistakes; below you’ll find out why weed cloth is such a mistake, but you can also stop reading and just trust me that mulch makes a better weed barrier than any weed cloth you will find in a garden center. If you really need to block out some weeds, use newspaper. It is biodegradable and works better than store-bought weed barriers, especially when used in conjunction with mulch.

The Con(s) of Weed Cloth

I have found that weed cloth is at best a hassle, and at worst, it inhibits growth of my perennials, while providing a substrate for weeds to root to.

The topside of some weed cloth that I pulled up from my garden. Weeds are growing out of it.

When I first started my garden, a lot of stubborn weeds and invasive species had had time to become well-rooted. After pulling everything up, turning it over, and renting a tiller, I thought I should find something to prevent the weeds from coming back. I went to a garden store and found the weed cloth and thought, Ho! What Miracle Is This! As always, if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

More crinkled casualties of the weed cloth

I spent a whole day laying it out and staking it down. Over the next few weeks, as I was mulching and planting, I kept catching the stakes/staples with my shovel, or having to move them to make way for whatever I was planting. They became such an annoyance that I started to take them out and throw them away whenever I found them.

A daylily pushes up beneath the weed cloth, grasping at the light

Then, the cloth itself turned out to be difficult to cut into. When you plant something that has been growing in a pot (like most plants you get from a garden center or nursery), you need to dig a hole for it that is twice the size as the pot it has been growing in. This gives you room to mix the potting soil with the earth of your garden, and allows the plant to gradually become accustomed to its new environment. To do this with weed cloth, you must first cut out enough cloth to allow you to dig and mix and plant. I have found it nearly impossible to cut a circle out of weed cloth, plus when I started to dig, I usually ended up with gaps or piles under the cloth, which were difficult to get to lie flat.

On top of the difficulty of opening the weed cloth to plant something, for perennials, it causes a secondary problem as they expand. So many of my lilies and daffodils and crocuses have gotten crushed as they tried to burst forth from the soil, only to find themselves trapped under the black cloth.

Ironically, many weeds seem to have no trouble cutting through it as they grow

…or find the cloth to be a better substrate than the soil itself. This, along with how unsightly the cloth is, and all the other trouble it’s caused me, made me decide to pull it up as much as possible this year.

Moral of the story: DO NOT USE WEED CLOTH!



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