Is landscape cloth under a thick layer of mulch necessary?

sfg_newbie(6)August 8, 2007

I'm planning to mulch around my fruit "patch" (about 30 feet by 12 feet) with bark mulch, but I'm debating on whether I need to lay down landscaping cloth first. My thought is that as long as the mulch is thick enough, I shouldn't need the cloth. But, also, I don't want to be picking weeds out of the mulch. So, better safe than sorry and use the cloth under the mulch? Or should I go cloth free?

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I would go cloth free, because you are going to end up picking some weeds out of the mulch whether you have cloth down or not...

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 11:00AM
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david52 Zone 6

I'm a fan of the stuff, but then I live in a very arid, windy climate where maintaining soil moisture is an ongoing problem. I have 5 to 10 tree mini - orchards around my 3 acres where the soil is appropriate. Those with black woven polypropylene weed barrier grow twice as fast.

That said, if you could put down a 6" deep layer of mulch, you'd get the same effect.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 11:43AM
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bunkers(z5 CO)

I always thought it was insane to not have the fabric, here in Colorado.

But after installing 150 yards of mulch into my back yard and living with it for two years ... and having done some areas with fabric and some without ... there is very little difference. If I had to choose, I would have saved the money I wasted on the good contractor-grade fabric. The areas with fabric was as bad or worse overall. In fact, the areas where I put rock over fabric are the worst. So I'll take plain mulch on the ground any day now.

In fact, the wind (in CO) carries in so much dirt and weed seed that all areas get compromised either way. The areas with fabric are actually more of a pain than the areas with nothing because the weeds are harder to remove when rooted in the fabric. Plus the mulch can deteriorate into the soil naturally without the fabric. Hand pulling weeds int the mulch (without fabric) is actually really easy ... and the entire root comes up every time.

I'd skip the fabric, do pre-emergent once or twice a summer and just be prepared to pull a few weeds and use lots of roundup as needed.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 1:51PM
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david52 Zone 6

bunkers, you got 150 cubic yards of mulch? I wish I could get my hands on that kinds of stuff.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 2:42PM
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Whether to use some kind of barrier under any mulch depends on which "weeds" you have in the soil. Some, Thistles for example, will grow happily up through a 6 to 8 inch mulch depth unless something is put down to stop them. Over time any "weed" could be seeded in the mulch itself.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 8:02AM
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I don't use the landscape fabric under mulch, cause weeds grown into the fabric and it is a super pain to remove them. Instead, I put down newspaper (about 3 sheets) and it is great. Have to do it each year, but once it is down I have no extra work on that bed.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 9:14AM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

Personally I am against landscape fabric in just about all situations.

I used the black plastic type cloth with the tiny holes once on my clay soil in Portsmouth VA. 2 years later I pulled it up. The soil underneath was nothing but muck.
Swore I'd never use it again and I haven't.

Moved to new house where previous owners used the same black plastic stuff with holes. The stuff was dry rotted and came up in pieces. It was a mess. Reaffirmed my decision to never use the stuff.

I did use that other type of landscape fabric that is like a sheer veil type stuff around my central a/c/heating unit that I then put white stones over it. I don't want anything growing in that area. So far the only weeds to come up are at the seams against the house and the unit itself.

I am with the newspaper/paperbag/cardboard crowd. Easy, cheap (as in free), and actually adds to the soil. Love the stuff.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 2:49PM
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My vote is against the fabric but in favor of newspaper or cardboard. You eventually get roots of weeds in the fabric and it is an annoyance. It also interferes with future digging in the area although that is not insurmountable. Various kinds of fabric have their uses such as behind retaining walls and to wrap perforated pipe but as a weed barrier I find it to be more trouble than it solves.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 2:47PM
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maupin(z6 So. IL)

I have a melon patch exactly your size. I vote strongly in favor of the weed barrier-- it is a good pretector against disease as there is almost no soil spalsh up, and the melons lay on the mulched berrier--none lost this year to disease. Also easy to water. I have tried it both ways and the barrier method works better for me.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 12:53PM
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Kat dog turf,
Trying to understand ~ if you have to lay the newspaper/cardboard down every year, isn't that a lot of work to move all the mulch out of the way and then recover the paper? I am so grateful for this site and all the advice!! I was about to cover ALL of my flower beds with the LCloth. Wish I'd thought to check here first before doing the two I've done. Thanks everybody!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 7:06PM
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Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm speaking more from recent research than experience, but the issue I see here is that the bark mulch will break down over time and create its own soil for weeds to grow in. So, it doesn't matter whether or not you lay the fabric; you're going to get weeds. (But they'll be easy to control thanks to the mulch.) In fact, the fabric would then become an annoyance if/when someone wants to do something different there.

I have heard that 3-4 inches of hardwood mulch can be a pretty effective barrier against weeds, thus making it even more pointless for to lay fabric.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 8:48PM
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I wanted to ask Kat dog turf above if it isn't a heck of a lot of work every year then, to move the mulch, and re-lay another layer of paper and recover again with the mulch?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 9:38PM
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I vote for free, permanent, mulches.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 10:39PM
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witeowl - Since I laid the mulch last year (with landscape cloth) not a weed to be seen. However, in an area where I didn't use the cloth and just 4-5 inches of mulch there are weeds galore growing up through the mulch. So, if you want to be weed free go with the cloth.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 10:55PM
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Annpat ~ what do you mean by free permanent mulches?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 8:32AM
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