Does laying a physical barrier really prevent weeds?
GROWING TIRED OF WATCHING the weeds in your garden grow faster than your veggies? It's a common garden dilemma. And it's common for proactive gardeners (like yourself) to look for a way to put an end to this cycle. Looking for a way to keep the weeds at bay without resorting to spending a lot of time on your knees or working with a hoe. But do any of them actually work?
If you have ever looked at a professional garden installation, you may have noticed they don't have much of a weed problem. One method used to make this happen is the use of landscaping fabric, but there are others such as landscaping plastic, mulch, cardboard and more.
Okay, so let's start this off by saying the jury is still out on the use of landscaping fabric or plastic sheets.
While many gardeners, both professional and amateur alike swear by these products (yes, they will keep out the weeds), many others say they are not good for your garden and should not be used (they kill off valuable microorganisms and earthworms).
In the end, you have to decide who is right and which of the different weed control methods is going to work best for you.
Landscaping fabric is a porous material designed specifically to help keep the weed population in your garden under control. It is intended to be placed on top of your garden's soil and then pinned in place and held down by using more soil or mulch.
The fabric is designed to allow water and air to pass through but to ensure no sunlight reaches the soil below it. In doing this, it prevents weeds from being able to germinate and grow. It can be used when planting your garden or added after your plants have come up.
Landscaping fabric can be very helpful if your garden suffers from soil erosion problems such as those caused by heavy rains or high winds. It is also very useful if your garden is on a hill to help keep your soil where it belongs.
The fabric will also help to protect your plants' roots from exposure due to erosion that might cause them to succumb to disease, root rot, or many other forms of damage.
Landscaping fabric done properly will prevent weeds in at least the medium and short term
We all know that weeds are great at stealing the nutrition your veggies need to flourish from the soil. By keeping the weed population under control, your plants will have a much better chance to grow big and strong, providing you with an exceptionally good harvest.
It is perfect for smaller plants that will in time grow large enough to provide more shade that will also help to keep weeds out of your garden.
One of the biggest disadvantages of using landscaping fabric is that over time it will have an adverse effect on nutrient levels in your soil. These nutrient levels are dependent on the decomposition of mulch and other materials over time. The fabric will reduce or stop this from happening, leading to "dead" soil that will require significant amendment on a regular basis.
A typical set up of a garden bed covered with landscaping fabric
Many gardeners like to move their plants around or add more as and when needed or wanted. Landscaping fabric was never designed to be versatile and must have holes cut in it every time you want to add more plants. At the same time, if you remove plants, you must patch the fabric or you will soon have weeds growing through the holes.
If you are going to use a landscaping fabric to control weeds in your garden, this one by Scotts may be your best choice. It is designed to provide you with up to 25-years' service without breaking down. It also offers excellent erosion control. Thanks to the woven design, water flows through easily, but nothing can grow underneath it.
The fabric is rated at 1.5 ounces and is strong enough to be used under gravel for paths and driveways without suffering any damage. It is easy to work with and comes in a 3-foot wide roll that measures 150-feet long. One thing you should note is that in heavier rains water will pool on the fabric until it has time to drain through.
|Easy to cut and work with||Some complaints it rips easily|
|Blocks the growth of most weeds||Slow water soak through|
|Has a long lifespan||Grasses may grow through weave|
Some gardeners find that using landscaping plastic can be a good way to keep weeds under control. As with landscaping fabric, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to using plastic sheeting in your garden. The most common forms of landscaping plastic are clear and black. Depending on what brand you buy it can vary significantly in thickness and overall quality.
While black sheeting is more commonly used, there are some very distinct advantages to using clear plastic instead. The most obvious advantage to using any kind of plastic sheeting is that it will prevent the growth of weeds. But clear plastic will still let the sunshine reach your soil.
This helps to warm the soil and in many cases will allow you to start planting a little earlier. The heat will also help to kill off any soil borne pathogens. This process is called "solarization" and can help to rid your soil of disease-causing organisms, insects, and of course pathogens.
At 4 millimeters thick, this clear plastic sheeting is more than strong enough to keep the weeds in your garden under control. Each roll is 10 feet wide by 100 feet long, giving you plenty of coverage.
While it is not listed as being for use in landscaping, but it is definitely up to the task. Unlike many other so-called "clear" plastics that end up being milky, this one is crystal clear and will let plenty of sunlight reach the ground under it. It is easy to handle and easy to cut.
One word of caution, however, be sure you are cutting in the right place as repairing erroneous holes can be challenging as most tapes (including duct tape) will not stick to it very well. If you are covering a large area, be prepared to overlap pieces for best results.
|Rolls are 10 x 50 Feet||Does not allow water to pass through|
|Crystal Clear||Rips easily|
|Easy to work with||Hard to repair rips and tears|
Black plastic landscaping fabrics come in many guises, but those that are at least 4 feet wide and at least 1-1.5 millimeters thick are the most commonly used. Bear in mind that if you plan to use the plastic for several years or bury it under mulch, gravel, or a layer of soil, thicker plastic will last longer. Be sure that any sheeting you buy is listed as being UV resistant to help keep it from breaking down.
Black plastic will help hold in any warmth your soil happens to have and may allow a certain amount of heat to build up during the day. However, it will block out the sun's UV rays and in doing so prevents them from killing pathogens, disease-causing microorganisms, and pesky insects. If you live in a colder climate, you may find the heat generated will not even be enough to help kill weeds.
No matter whether you use clear or black landscaping plastic both will not allow water to reach your plants and will also stop any water in your soil from evaporating. This can lead to problems such as root rot that can kill your garden rather than helping it to grow.
This roll of black sheeting can easily be adapted for use as landscaping plastic and at 12 feet wide is sure to cover a large area of your garden in a hurry. Each roll is 100 feet long each roll provides a lot of coverage. At 6 millimeters, the plastic is thick enough to take significant abuse without falling apart.
Although listed as a construction material, it is perfectly suited to being used out in your garden to help get rid of the weeds. You should be aware, however, that black plastic can trap in excessive amounts of heat that can "cook" your soil and everything in it (including the good bacteria and microorganisms).
|12-foot-wide rolls offer plenty of coverage||Can overheat your soil|
|Durable enough to walk on||Rips easily|
|Keeps weeds at bay||Hard to repair rips|
Mulch is one of the oldest forms of weed prevention short of getting down on your hands and knees so you can pull each weed complete with its roots out of the ground. Depending on the type of mulch you intend to buy, it can be a great way to control the weeds in your garden naturally.
This being said, you can buy mulch made from wood chips or bark, locally at very reasonable prices. This type of mulch will break down over time and help to add nutrients to your garden.
But at the same time as it breaks down, you will need to replace it on a fairly regular basis. You may find that unless you put landscaping fabric or plastic under it, you will still see a small quantity of very brave weeds poking through any holes.
There are a number of rubber mulch alternatives that do not break down or blow away. These have the added advantage of lasting for many years without losing their looks or effectiveness. But, at the same time, you are putting another unnatural layer in your garden.
Unlike some "wood" mulch, Scotts never uses wood pallets or old construction debris to make this mulch. It is made from natural recovered forest products that do not contain harmful chemical or nails.
It is available in a range of colors that are guaranteed to stay vibrant all year long. Each bag measure 2 cubic feet for maximum coverage. It should be spread 3 inches thick for maximum weed prevention while still allowing moisture to reach your plants.
|Color lasts a long time||A bit expensive|
|Made from natural recovered forest materials||Color will come off on your hands when putting down|
|Reduces amount of water needed for your plants||Mixed texture may include twigs and sticks|
Using cardboard, newspaper or a combination of both has become a popular way to mulch gardens and prevent the growth of weeds at the same time. Along with this, it is a great way to recycle these materials rather than seeing them end up in your local landfill.
Many gardeners will place a layer of cardboard or newspaper in their garden at the beginning of the season and then cover them with mulch. The idea behind this is the same as using landscaping fabrics, plastic sheets, or for that matter mulch by itself.
This idea is to block sunlight from reaching the soil, which in turn will help to prevent the growth of those annoying weeds. Both materials will help to insulate the soil and keep a certain amount of warmth in.
Over time they will also allow water to slowly soak through and add moisture to the soil. Both will eventually decompose and add a number of nutrients back into your soil. The best part is you can find plenty of cardboard at most local businesses and they won't charge you a dime to haul it away.
|Both decompose adding nutrients||Both are messy|
|Both are free||Newspaper can blow away|
|Both are being recycled||You still need mulch or rocks to hold in place|
As with many other facets of our lives, weeds can be controlled through the use of chemicals. Weed preventers and weed killers have become a major factor in both home gardens and industrial farms where growers are more worried about producing large quantities of their crops than they are about what ends up in the end product.
Does this mean you should not use chemical weed killers in your garden? Not necessarily, what it does mean is that you need to decide for yourself if you are comfortable with using products such as Preen to prevent the growth of weeds or if you would be better off taking a more natural approach.
One thing you need to know up front is that Preen is not a weed killer and should not be used to take care of an existing weed problem. It is designed to stop most weeds from being able to germinate.
It can be used after your plants have germinated and reached a height of 2 to 3 inches. It will not harm most plants and can be incorporated into the soil before you plant, while you plant, or applied after you have mulched your garden beds.
For best results, it should be reapplied every 9 to 12 weeks.
|Keeps weeds at bay for up to 9 weeks or longer||Must be reapplied every 9 - 12 weeks|
|You are adding unnatural chemicals to your garden||Does not kill existing weeds|
|Will not harm most garden plants and flowers||Not always very effective|
There are so many different ways to prevent weeds from growing in your gardens. Some like landscaping fabric offer a long-term solution but may affect the overall quality of your soil. Others like Preen add toxic chemicals to your soil that can have a range of adverse effects.
For my money, I use plenty of cardboard along with a healthy layer of cardboard. This lets me enjoy watching my garden grow without the back-breaking work of pulling weeds all summer long. I also use natural mulch so that over time my garden gets plenty of natural nutrition.
If you have enjoyed reading about landscaping fabrics and other forms of weed control please let me know.
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Having a yard you can use at night doesn't have to cost a lot of money
LOOKING FOR A WAY TO LIGHT UP all your hard work out in the yard at night? Welcome to the club, you could, of course, go out to your local discount hardware superstore and spend a fortune on lighting if you really want to.
The good news is that you can get the exact same results by looking around for cheap landscaping lights that can get the job done. Bear in mind that just because these lights cost less, it doesn't mean they won't work just as well as their more expensive counterparts.
Below you will find my "Top Ten" picks for cheap landscaping lights. If you are like me, cost plays a pretty big role in everything I buy for my garden and landscaping projects. My goal is to get the most "bang for my buck" I can.
Not only does this keep my wife happy, but it also keeps my bank account smiling. In this list of lights, I have looked for low-cost but high-quality products to ensure you are not going to be wasting your money.
You get three solar-powered mosaic lights in blue, purple, and yellow. These lights can easily be stuck in the ground to provide a decorative glow to your pathways, driveway, gardens or flower beds.
They are completely weatherproof and can take anything from the hottest days of summer to the coldest days of winter. Made from stainless steel and pieces of colored glass. They are solar powered so you never have to worry about changing batteries or running wiring out to them.
|Stainless steel won't rust||On/off switch hard to find|
|Solar power – No batteries required||Stake glued into head cannot be removed|
|Colors look beautiful at night||Glass might break|
Add a charming glow to any area of your lawn or garden. Light up walkways, flower gardens and more with several of these easy to install stainless steel lights. They are solar powered but use the pre-installed Ni-Cad rechargeable battery to ensure you get maximum light over the long haul.
Light comes from a single LED bulb. Lights will come on at dusk and go off at dawn and feature an on/off switch for those times you don't want to light up your world. Will provide light for up to 10 hours.
|No wiring required||Not extremely bright|
|Battery back-up for maximum life||Plastic spike may break when pushing into hard ground|
Why not add a touch of color to your gardens/paths with these amazing lights from Vivian. They are made from stainless steel and plastic to withstand all that Mother Nature can throw at them. The lamp is a cool diamond shape and rotates through a myriad of colors all night long.
Add several of these cheap landscaping lights to your flower gardens and along the pathways in your front yard and garden and impress your neighbors. They can be easily pushed into the ground and require no wiring.
|Low Cost||ABS lens may discolor over time|
|Rotating colors||Lamps may break off posts|
|No wiring required||May only run for 6 hours|
If you have a fence around your yard or garden, why not put it work. These nifty solar-powered lights can be mounted on any wooden fence and provide you with plenty of warm white light.
Like most solar powered lights, they come on at dusk and will burn through most if not all night long (depending on the time of year). They feature an ABS plastic shell that is waterproof and will not fade or crack.
Add several of them along your fence line to help illuminate pathways and your gardens.
|Lightweight easy to install with screws or double-sided tape||Batteries may not have long life|
|LED light is warm white not harsh white typical of LED bulbs||Must have full sun to charge not for shady areas|
|Stay light for many hours||Not super bright|
Add a touch of the whimsical to your gardens with a few of these solar-powered purple tulip-shaped lights. They feature an automatic light sensor that turns them on and off as needed.
The built-in solar panel charges the battery all day long to provide your garden with gentle purple light that lasts all night long. They also feature a manual on/off switch and measure 12 inches tall, perfect for use in gardens and along pathways.
|Beautiful purple color||Flower heads are small|
|12-inches tall||Plastic materials may break|
|Solar power charges battery||May receive various colors if you order multiples|
Your deck is just as much a part of your landscaping project as your gardens so why not add some extra light? These aluminum deck lights come with a copper finish that will last for many years.
They are not solar powered but do come with 12-inch SPT-1 18g wire, connector box, and 7W wedge base bulb to make installation a breeze. They can be used with any 12-volt outdoor lighting system and are very easy to install.
|Copper finish looks great and lasts||Must have your own power supply|
|Provide plenty of light||Cannot be converted to LED|
|Bulbs are easy to replace||Bulb is not protected by any type of globe|
These solar powered lamps are designed to be used virtually anywhere outside and are made from high-quality crystal glass. They feature an automatic on/off switch so you never have to worry about going outside to turn them on.
There are two modes of operation, single light mode or an RGB mode that constantly cycles. They are completely water and weatherproof. As they are solar powered, these cheap landscaping lights require no wiring.
|Rotating Colors||Switch is weak|
|Crystal glass won't fade or discolor||Solar battery sits on top not secured|
|No wiring required||No protection for glass bottom|
Use several of these solar powered lights to brighten up your gardens, sidewalks, and pathways around your home. You get two lights in each set that will charge all day long and then light up your gardens and pathways at night.
On a full charge, they will remain lit for up to 8 hours. Since they have no wires, you can place them anywhere in your gardens where there is enough sunlight to charge them during the day. LED bulbs are used to ensure you get maximum duration each night.
|LED bulbs for maximum duration||Top can be hard to remove to access battery|
|Large globes for maximum light||Light level is a bit on the low side|
|Have a soft bluish-white light||Can be challenging to remove battery protector tab|
Sometimes you just need a little more light or perhaps you have a special plant like a huge rhododendron you want to show off, even at night. This solar-powered spotlight is just the ticket. At 20 lumens of light output, it will do just that, without blinding anyone.
The entire light is made from heat and weather resistant plastic and measures 12.8 inches tall. Once you push the stake into the ground, the light sits 9.5 inches tall and the head can be adjusted up or down to ensure you hit the right spot.
|Plastic housing is weather resistant||Not super bright like you would expect from a floodlight|
|LED bulb for maximum battery life||Some issues with batteries not charging|
|Bright enough to light up a plant or sign||Battery life is 3-6 hrs.|
This solar-powered light uses 6 LEDs to add directed light in your gardens. The design is completely waterproof so you don't have to worry about rain, snow, or your automatic sprinkler system.
You can mount it on a fence, a wall, or simply place it up against your border rocks or pavers. The solar panels spend all day in the sun recharging the built-in battery pack and will give you plenty of light for up to 8 hours on an 8-hour charge.
|Lightweight, compact design||Limited range of light|
|Runs for up to 8 hours||Overall size is a bit small|
|Waterproof||Is not fully sealed against water intrusion|
Nothing highlights your gardens more than adding a splash of color at night. This solar-powered spotlight has two settings one for more light and one for longer light.
The light can be adjusted through a full 90 degrees as can the solar panel to ensure maximum power. The automated switch will turn it on at dusk and off at dawn.
|Multicolor output on a rotating basis||Light has a low footprint|
|200 Lumens output||No option for color rotation|
|Runs 8 hours on high 14 hours on low setting||No on/off switch|
If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that as long as you shop wisely, it is possible to buy cheap landscaping lights and get the exact same results as you would buying the expensive ones.
I like to save money every chance I get. By saving money on lights, I have more to put towards big ticket items. I have several different styles of landscape lighting scattered around my home, but the ones I use most of all are the simple stick lights like those above that can be purchased by the case.
I hope these ideas for cheap landscaping lighting help you shine a light on all your hard work out in the yard.
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