Tarps for ground clearing

tansy_moonMarch 17, 2008

Does anyone have success stories with using tarps to kill large areas of vegetation?

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stage_rat(5--Indiana Riviera)

I tried using clear plastic to kill the grass in my yard. It turns out that in the cooler parts of the year, this just creates a greenhouse! A solid tarp may act differently.

I think weight is a big factor in killing stuff off--I've had more success killing grass with flowerpots! For small spots I use stepping stones, large pans filled with dirt, and I've used flattened soil bags with soil piled on top.

For big spots I put down newspaper or cardboard and then pile on soil, wood chips, or grass clippings. Last autumn I put newspaper and wood chips over the bulbs I planted in the lawn (I got tired of trimming grass between them). My bulbs are poking up through the paper and chips ok, which is good, but the grass under the newspaper is still green and happy. I hope it doesn't manage to push through!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 6:50PM
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I believe it is called solar sterilization. I have used the rolls of the heaviest black visqueen I can find. roll out and weight it down. I take it up and till then put it down again - while some say it can take as little as a week I have left it on an entire summer just to kill everything.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 7:28PM
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I've been doing some web searching on roofing paper used as weed block. Has anyone heard any negatives about that.

I've seen it before, and it looks like thick brown paper.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 9:19AM
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The VERY best thing I've found for clearing ground is straw. I go and ask for all the straw bales at the local pumpkin events every year because we have such an overgrown lot and many places to tame. Before that I've tried super thick layers of fall leaves, layers of cardboard covered with mulch, and thick slabs of newspaper (a whole Sunday paper overlapped with other Sunday papers) and with all of those the jungle would grow out from between or push the covering aside or just grow up through them in no time at all. With straw I just pull off chunks a few inches thick and lay it down being careful to overlap any gaps with thinner chunks. It's a nice solid surface to walk on and will decompose very well and fairly quickly leaving behind a nice bare patch to plant in or turn into a pathway.

I've had some luck asking on Freecycle and Craigslist for old straw bales that people want to get rid of. I can never have too much straw. The bales even work to make quick and easy raised beds. I have a huge pile of bales from last Halloween still and I'm trying to figure out how to put them to the best use this year. I want MORE! :)

For me tarps didn't work at all when I tried them way back when because the weight isn't there and they quickly start fraying in the sun. They don't really look very nice either! Good luck with the clearing!


    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 2:43PM
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Alina: that is a great idea.
I am surrounded by "jungle" with more weeds every year, except for the few I handchopped last spring. Besides grassy weeds, I have honeysuckle (non flowering) and blackberries, the wicked kind that have major thorns.

In the sunny clearing we had a patchy, rocky lawn. That's where I layed down a lot of straw at the end of 2006 to make a start on a vegetable garden for 2007. It worked great! We had very few weeds and it all turned to lovely dirt except for the very top which is still a nice looking mulch even now, though it has lost it's gold color.

If it wasn't for straw, I wouldn't even HAVE a veggie patch. We built all the beds using mostly straw!

I already bought about 7 bales this spring (all I could fit in my mini-van), but I think I will take your advice and get more use it to crush down the old weedy lawn. Then maybe I could combine it with the leaves, cardboard, straw, and mulch combination to get rid of the vines and blackberry whips.

I'll check on freecycle too. Thanks. Maybe that's a good way to get free horse or cow fertilizer too?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 3:14PM
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stage_rat(5--Indiana Riviera)

I've used roofing paper, too. I picked up a roll at the curb, and cut strips to go under my fence, since my grass grows very high and that looked pretty nasty along the fenceline. It worked for a few months, but even a small hole would allow grass to grow through and make the hole bigger. The paper has broken down almost completely since 2005.

Now, carpet scrap--that's something that won't break down for a long time, and is pretty heavy in its own. I know someone who has been trying to smother poison ivy with it, apparently with success (she's had it down a few years, and if she takes the carpet up, it comes back, but very weakly). I should have mentioned carpeting earlier. I used it to kill grass for a new veggie bed, and it actually worked well in the cool months. Partly because it kept the pill bugs warm and happy, and they ate all the grass and roots. After the grass was killed, I cut the carpet into strips for between rows.

Some people don't use roofing paper or carpeting because chemicals were used to make these things, and it makes sense that as the sun or bacteria break them down, chemicals of some sort are being released. I'm ok with it, because it's not affecting a huge area of my yard, and goodness knows my yard was no pristine wilderness before I started organically gardening here. Plus, nobody makes a superfund site when they find old carpeting scrap at the side of the road. :)

Now, on to free manure: you can ask for info on freecycle or Craig's list, but you can also do a google or phone book search for riding or boarding stables. I just contacted two, and both were happy to have someone come and take some manure away. One had pretty well-aged stuff, the other has it hauled away in dumpsters so it is fresh. Both were within 7 miles of my friend's house. If you have a nice car, just line your vehicle with a layer or two of tarps and blankets, in case there's a spill. I use 5-gallon buckets, some use really strong trash bags, but don't fill them very full.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 10:29PM
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Those are great ideas Stage:
I also used carpet strips to start some paths. I don't have them right up next to my vegetables, but on the perimeter of the veggie garden. Now that it's been there for a year, I can pull it up and plant some real grass paths--or something like that.

Meanwhile I can use the carpet to kill more of my patchy lawn.

I don't think my carpet is all that poisonous to nature, because the bugs certainly are thriving in its vacinity!

I'm nervous about manure in my car. Guess I'll use my husbands--LOL! We are near a big race track in horse country, so I'll get my courage up and see If someone will let me have some of that black gold.

If it's well rotted, can you put that right next to your vegetables?

Or do you think it's best to mix it in the compost pile?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 12:00AM
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stage_rat(5--Indiana Riviera)

If it has no smell, or smells like dirt, it's ready to go in with veggies. If it still has an odor, it probably still has enough nitrogen to "burn" your plants. Some people are concerned about seeds coming in with manure, and they try to compost it at high temperatures to kill them. I have so many weeds popping up, whatever comes in with the manure just doesn't matter. But if it matters to you, now you know!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 1:26AM
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be careful with horse manure - if not well rotted it is still full of weed seed. A horses stomach doesn't do much to kill them off. Cow manure is much a much better bet as it's been inside longer and is less likely to have viable seeds.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 8:29AM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

I problem I had with tarps was being able to weigh them down enough. Maybe Murphy's law, lol but areas I tired to tarp with a single layer didn't work well, but a tarp that was folded to put away killed underneath. They must allow enough light when single layer to get weed seed germinated.
For maunre, I get horse and have enough room in a filed to sit for a year. Good thing, as last year load was loaded with foxtail grass. The manures I use that the animals digest seeds so I can use the same year are chicken and rabbit.
Mushroom soil, and a fav in PA is grear but make sure it is also filedd for one year, otherwise too hot for seedlings.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 8:50AM
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So in a pinch,tarps held down with fabric staples will work?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 9:36PM
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I tried using a tarp this year weighted down with rocks....big fail. The grass and weeds there just grew like insane super fast! Where I laid black plastic bags, the area was yellowing and dying off. If I were to ever use tarps again, I think I would rather use a heavy canvas tarp.....the plastic ones just don't cut it. Better yet old hay and even grass clippings spread out about 2" thick works....at least the clippings did the job in my former yard where I would spread them out in a certain area to dry for use as mulch around the gardens :)

I hated to do it, but because it was such a big area and I needed it quickly before the campers begin arriving (June 1st) , I resorted to Roundup....


    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:01AM
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My garden is constantly growing as I add new beds ands spaces for new spots. Especially when I've been able to plan ahead, even as much as a year ahead, I've found the best method for clearing away existing grass is with grass clippings from the lawn mower. I put the bagger on and simply dump, pile, and spread the clippings thickly over where I want the new bed. Sometimes I've let the grass clippings sit and break down for an entire season extending the new bed to be readied for the next season. What I like about this method is that, after the existing grass is good and dead, I then have a lot of organic matter to shovel into the soil when it's time to prepare the bed. I've shoveled it all in sometimes in the fall or early the next spring.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:22PM
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