Best brand of landscaping fabric?

bart1(6/7 Northern VA)March 1, 2010

I'd love to hear recommendations for your favorite landscaping fabric. I can only get to my garden on the weekends so I rely heavily on the landscaping fabric to keep the weeds under control. Unfortunately, I've had some bad luck with my choices.

The most durable type I've used was some type of spun fabric that could be walked on year after year, but didn't block all the light. Plants grew up under the fabric like it wasn't even there. I had to weigh down the middle of the fabric with logs to keep it in place. This was really a shame because this stuff was super durable, it just didn't block the light!

The kind that blocked the light well was not very durable and would only last one season for the most part. This was the type that had uniform dimples across the entire surface. This seems to be the most common type out there and it comes in many brands. One type I bought a couple years ago is still hanging on while other types barely make it through the season.

All of that was a long prelude to the simple question: What is most durable brand of landscaping fabric that blocks light so weeds donÂt grow below it?



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IMO, none of them are very good, especially for your type of use. Personally, I would go with 6 mil black plastic, and run a 1/8th inch to 1/4 inch drill through the roll about every 4 inches prior to unfolding it to give yourself a lot of drainage holes. This is what I use, and it will last up to 3 seasons.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 1:47PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)


Is that a generally accepted method for "regular" vegetables? I use black plastic for my melons, but would it also work for tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers, and zuchinni. Those are crops that I've been using the landscaping fabric for.

Will the plastic cause them any problems?

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 8:24AM
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I've been using black plastic extensively for a number of years and love it. Plants seem to do much better for me with it than without it, especially in dry years.

But, there are some disadvantages, too: 1) cost -- can get kind of pricey for a large garden. It's gone up a lot in the past couple of years, since it's made from oil. Don't know how it compares in cost to landscape fabric, though;

2) Drainage -- you need to take the drill and make some small holes at about 4 inches apart when it's still tightly rolled up. It's not too hard to do. Even with this, you will still have areas where water collects. When I work in the garden, I usually have something sharp with me to punch holes in the puddles and let them drain. A nail taped onto the end of a stick works fine. Keep the holes at about 1/4 inch or smaller, and you won't have any weeds grow through them.

3) Access to the soil for tilling, enrichment, cover crops. I have about 2/3 rds of an acre total under plastic, and can't do the work to take it up regularly (yearly) to till, enrich the soil, etc., so I do it every 3 years (roughly) when I have to take the old plastic up and replace it. It does make me wonder long-term if this is depleting the soil, especially of organic matter, under there, so I try to amend and enrich as much as possible when I do take it up. Can't grow a cover crop this way, either. In smaller gardens, it wouldn't be as much work to put the plastic down in the spring, take it up in the fall, sow a cover crop, etc.

4) Heat -- well, I don't know if this would be bad in warmer climates. Here in Michigan, the added heat is a big bonus, especially in the past couple of years, which had freakishly cold summers (several nights last July dipped into the upper 30s here, just barely warm enough to avoid frost -- eek!).

    Bookmark   March 4, 2010 at 10:24AM
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When I did landscaping 10 years ago, we used Dewitt pro-5 weed barrier. It was very good then, but not cheap. I googled, and they have Sun Belt which is resistant to sun rays. This may be an option so as to not have to cover the fabric(not sure about water and air penetration tho.) Try to find it from a local supplier.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 8:50AM
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Any landscape fabric needs to have a thick layer of some sort of mulch on top to be effective and last. Landscape fabric on its own doesn't block all sunlight and as you have found, weeds will come. Also you need to block the sunlight from the fabric so it doesnt degrade. EVen so called UV resistant ones need this.

I found that every year(around here) Costco sells a super nice heavy duty commercial grade fabric.
I just picked up a 4'x400' roll for $35

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 5:30PM
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You are asking the right question but so far have not been given the correct answer.

See Lumite at

I've been buying the 15' by 300' rolls for several years now. It is highly durable with no mulch covering. It is also expensive, about $1.10 per linear ft delivered. Is it worth it? Yep. 5 years from a sheet that is put down and pulled up each year is pretty good in my opinion.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 8:13PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks fusion! That stuff looks great. Do you (or anyone else) have any idea how it traps the heat compared to black plastic?

I've been using black plastic for my melons for the last few years and it really heats up the soil so I can plant early. For the last 2 years, I harvested my first watermelon before my first tomato! I wonder if that woven mesh will do as good a job? The answer is probably no, but I wonder how much worse it will be as far as heat loss goes.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 9:22AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I grew my melons on Lumite last year. They did great. I don't think either black poly or Lumite work by trapping the heat so much as by absorbing it and transferring to the soil. If you want heat put clear poly over lumite. That will get way too hot unless you ventilate.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 10:25AM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Good point fruitnut.

I was thinking of the plastic acting as a greenhouse or a car window.....heat gets in but can't get out. But I think what I failed to realize until your post is that clear plastic lets the light and heat in and keeps in, but the black plastic doesn't let light in. It just warms the soil like you said, so it shouldn't matter if it's plastic or cloth or synthetic fabric.

Anyone else care to weigh in on this? Am I on the right track or off in left field......that's the field where I grow my tomatoes!! ;-)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 11:35AM
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you are close.... to left field!!!

Black plastic absorbs sunlight and then transfers one of three ways. Heat is transferred to the soil by condution, re-radiates as infrared back into the air, or is transferred to the air via gas flow convection. Unfortunately, at least 2/3 of the heat is lost to the latter 2. If you want to trap more of the heat, put a sheet of clear plastic over the black and you can easily reach temperatures of 300F and roughly 60% of the heat stays in the soil. It is important to have an air layer trapped between the black plastic and the clear plastic. You can use something like a cola can on its side to maintain the spacing for the air gap.

Is it worth it? Not really. I just use the woven black plastic mesh on bare ground with excellent results.

Do NOT grow squash or pumpkins on black plastic mesh. Squash beetles and various pests LOVE to hide under the plastic where you can't kill them. They will decimate C. Maxima and C. Pepo. Gourds (Lagenaria), melons, and watermelons do not have this problem and grow very successfully on plastic.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 2:01PM
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I also grew my melons on Lumite last year, with no mulch,
and with great success. It's well worth the money. I'm fixing to pull mine up, add some manure and til the soil.
Then I'll relay the same Lumite. It looks almost brand new, and most importantly, it keeps out the weeds.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 5:24PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

This year I'm trying another woven polypropylene material. It's from It's woven with both black and white fibers such that the top is about 80% white and the bottom 80% black. So it will control weeds and reflect some light back into the crop. I'm hoping it will help keep aphids out of my melons. Reflective materials do ward of some pests, notably aphids and whiteflies.

A roll 6ft by 300ft is $127 plus shipping. It doesn't look quite the same as Lumite, more shinny. Doesn't look quite as durable but that's totally conjecture on my part.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 7:46PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks folks, but every answer you give prompts me to ask another couple of questions!

Dar - how do you control the weeds in your pumpkin patch once the vines start growing?

rayrose - do you ever have problems with rain water and your melons? My understanding is that another benefit of black plastic for melons is that blocks a lot of the rain fall that could hurt the crop especially at the end of the season. In other words, the plastic stops them from absorbing water that could cause them to split and/or dilute the flavor.

That was my understanding anyhow. Does that make sense and do you think it's "risky" to change from plastic to the fiber that allows water to pass through?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 9:50AM
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Black and certain shades of grey absorb most of the energy from
light and heat waves, even in cloudy day. That is why solar
panels are painted that color. And also material with those
surface characteristics will not emit any energy away by radiation at nights.
That is why the soil underneath it will only cool down due to convection of air over it, no radiation.

So then black plastc does not trap heat. but absorb heat and can work like a heat mat, blanket.
but it may/can trap vapors.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 10:15AM
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The main reason that I put down Lumite was for weed
control, but also because its porous and allows rainwater
to flow through it. I used the solid plastic the previous
year and hated it. I tried punching holes in it, but water
would still puddle, when it rained and I was constantly
providing a breeding ground for mosquitos. Whether you
use plastic or not, when it rains in excess, you're going
to risk your melons splitting. Nothing you do can prevent that. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't grow melons without it.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 5:35PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks everyone! Lumite has been ordered.....a 3x300 roll and a 10x300 roll and a box of extra long staples. The shipping cost was about half of the product cost! Yikes!!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 6:13AM
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I had the same problem with shipping costs. I shopped around and found a local green house supply company that
sold me the Lumite cheaper than I could buy it online and
with no shipping costs. The same with a box of staples.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 10:50AM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I no longer use any landscape fabric bc they all allow the weeds to grow and get tangled thruout the fabric making a complete mess when you try to remove a weed.

Now I won't use anything the won't decompose in the soil. Such as newspapers, cardboard, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or compost. Your own compost is prob the best.

So what if I have to replace it every year. The IS how Mother Nature does it. I save all my cardboard just for spring - well after the sun warms the soil. Any weed sprouts are much easier to remove. :)

My neighbors all despise leaves - I collect them :)

ps. I haven't fertilized in years.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 1:00PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

To anyone who has used Lumite....

What's the best way to cut it? Both at the ends of rows and in the middle where you want to place a plant?

I'm concerned about it fraying and unraveling where I cut it. Can you use a blow torch to melt and seal the cut edges?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 6:59PM
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I use a 200 ft long tape measure and cut holes in the fabric at the exact measurement I need. This works pretty well over the long term. You could try using a propane torch, I've never done that.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 8:59PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks Dar.

Is there any fraying or unraveling where you cut the holes or along the edges? I'm not talking about right away, but more like after a year or 2, or 5.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 9:33PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

My main concern with Lumite is that it may not warm the soil. I tried a small piece of it and it didn't seem to warm the soil underneath like clear, black or IRT 100 does. This may not be important in the southern states, but is important up north.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 4:28PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

If anyone is playing along at home, I have an update.

I called the folks at Shaw Fabrics (the Lumite people) and they said using a blow torch is the best way to seal the edges and also cut planting holes in order to prevent the fabric from fraying. He also said you could bury the edges to keep them from fraying.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Best Landscape fabric around is on ebay. User ID is rosie2280. It is a nonwoven fabric, thick, and doesn't fray.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 5:13PM
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charleney(8a PNW)

what gumby said. Sometimes I put hot horse manure in the bottom of a deep hole put in 3 or 4 " of good soil and plant over that in a mound. Keeps the plants warm and they do fantastic.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 7:05PM
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