Sep 232011
A thick ground cover keeps the weeds out

Dragon's Blood Sedum makes a thick ground cover to keep weeds out (click to enlarge)

In this post I want to address the issue of weed barriers.  Most garden supply stores will sell rolls of weed cloth made from polyethylene. It may have holes to allow water and air through it, but it is not biodegradable and will not break down.  It will break up, however, leaving you with lots of torn pieces of useless plastic in your yard.  It keeps the weeds down for a short while, but soon, the mulch you’ve put down to cover it, will turn to soil and weed seeds will blow in and grow on top of the plastic.

(Two exceptions: Gardener’s Supply sells Biodegradeable Sheeting. icon Amazon sells a biodegradable paper mulch too. )

When planting an area that you don’t want weeds in, think of planting a ground cover that grows thickly and will make what we call a living mulch. The more your soil is covered the less trouble you’ll have with weeds. In the short period of time it takes for the plants to fill in, you will probably have to do some weeding by hand. Over time this will soon drop to almost zero weeding.

The plant in the photo at the top of the post, is a very low growing ground cover in the Sedum family.  It will grow thickly, need little care and prevent weeds from sprouting. Another type of ground cover is a low growing herbaceous shrub like the Ceonothus griseus, pictured below.  One plant can spread to 8 – 10 feet in diameter.  It needs little water, and grows to about 2′ high. You can see how dense it is.  No weed barrier, no weeds, just a very nice planting.

Ceanothus griseus - thick ground cover

This creeping Ceanothus grows quickly and thickly


The weed barriers that I like to use the most are cardboard, old sheets, towels and blankets and even old rugs. Most people are shocked when I tell them my paths are covered in old sheets.  These materials definitely keep the weeds from growing, but they are also biodegradable and will eventually go back into the soil. This means they don’t last forever, but they’re free, garden worthy and will improve your garden, not harm it.

Sheets and towels under path keep the weeds from growing

Path with chips, covering the weed barrier made of old sheets

In paths I peg the material down on the leveled path and then cover it with chips.You can see in the picture on the left that the casual path can look very nice with free chips that one can get from your local tree trimmer.

When deciding which weed barrier to use, always ask yourself what the long term effects will be. Which is the best for the garden, the planet, and your pocket book. In the case of old cotton sheets and chips, it’s a win – win situation for you and your edible landscape.


P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.

Sep 222011

Sheet Mulching for the Edible Landscape:

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

Former Lawn, now vegetables and fruit

What is sheet mulching? Simply put, it is putting several different layers of materials on your soil to get rid of your lawn, weeds and unwanted plants.  It consists of manure, cardboard and  mulch.  You can use different kinds of manure and different mulches. The main purpose is to cover the weeds, allow worms to eat them and to create fertile conditions for growing your new plants. Let me tell you how I got rid of my old lawn.

The day I decided I could no longer stand to mow my lawn one more time, I also realized I wasn’t going to break my back digging it up either. Sheet mulching was my solution, and something you can also do fairly easily. Fall and winter is the perfect time to do this.  You can let the covered area sit over the winter and in spring it will be ready for planting.  Follow the simple directions below and you will be amazed at how easy it is turn turn old and in the way into new and the only way to go.

Decide on an area that you would like to replant.  In  many cases, an old lawn really suits the bill. First you mow the lawn, or cut weeds and leave them on the ground. Next, spread manure 2” deep over the whole area. If you live near horse stables, they will usually be happy to give you the manure for free.  Be sure it has composted and is not fresh.  You don’t want to bring in weed seed. If you can’t find local manure, then you can buy manure in bags from your local nursery. Thirdly,  cover the manure with large pieces of cardboard (obtained free from a nearby appliance store).

On top of the cardboard you can lay another 2 inches of manure. Cover it all with six inches of fluffy hay or any other good looking mulch.  Once done  it looks fine. Your next  help comes in the form of hardworking earthworms.  Imported in the manure they make themselves right at home under their cardboard roofs, and over time (that would be Fall and Winter) they turn the lawn into beautiful soil.  I  sheet mulched my old lawn in the fall and when spring came, I planted varieties of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as lilies, roses, herbs and flowers.  It turned into a cornucopia of beautiful food. The best news was that I didn’t have to dig up the lawn at all, the worms just ate it and turned it into perfect soil.

This is really turning your yard into a beautiful Edible Landscape.

P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.


Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn

Close up view of new area for fruit and vegetables, used to be lawn


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