This year I’ve decided to try something new in the garden for mulching – woven weed barrier fabric. The material I’m using is four feet wide, and listed as “professional grade 3.2 oz” material. I have used similar fabric in the past for walkways, but not in the vegetable garden. I am only testing a few crops in a few places, and I am anxious to see how it does.
My usual mulching method involves laying down sheets of newspaper or cardboard and then covering with straw. That is what I am doing around most of the tomato, pepper and eggplant this year. Though I have to buy the straw every year, this has the advantage of breaking down eventually and adding to the organic content of the soil. Over the years I have managed to increase the organic material in our soil, and it tested at almost 8% this year. It was running around 5% when I first started gardening in this spot. That tells me I am adding new material faster than it is breaking down, which is a good thing. The organic mulching and liberal addition of homemade compost are obviously helping.
I am securing the edges of the fabric with six inch landscape staples. I am not using the fabric in a permanent location, only as a seasonal mulch and weed control. I don’t plan on covering the fabric, which should be heavy enough to block the light and keep weeds from sprouting and pushing it up. The staples and the fabric should be able to be taken up and reused for several seasons. At least that is my plan!
So far I have planted bush beans and bush squashes in the fabric. For the squashes, I used scissors to cut an “X” in the fabric where I wanted to set the plants. Then I worked in organic fertilizer before setting in the plants and covering with soil. I will thin to one plant per hole once they are established. I set them at two foot intervals, which is my usual spacing for most of the summer bush type squashes.
For the beans I cut a long slit in the fabric then folded it under to make an area to sow the beans. After making a shallow furrow, I sowed the seeds and covered lightly with soil. It wasn’t difficult to get the seeds planted this way, and I am hopeful they will keep the weeds down as well as help conserve soil moisture.
I also plan to set out a couple of pepper and tomato plants in another area with a short section of the fabric. Since I use cages to support those crops, we will see how difficult it is to secure the cages in the soil through the thick fabric. I’ll be back later to share how all of these areas are doing as the season progresses.