Mulching Experiments

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.

early tomato plants

mulch around tomato plants

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.

vining squash mulched in 2019

mulching inside of tomato cages

mulching inside of tomato cages

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!

weed barrier fabric in garden

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.

squash planted in fabric

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.

bush beans planted in fabric

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.


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5 Responses to Mulching Experiments

  1. Margaret says:

    I always love a good experiment. Sue Garrett has used this type of fabric for a long time on her allotment and it will be interesting to see how you get on with it.

    • Dave @ HappyAcres says:

      It was seeing how Sue and Martyn use it that inspired me to try it! I’m hoping I find it as useful as they do.

  2. The only mulch I use now Dave is fluffed up compost, everything else just becomes a slug paradise

    • Dave @ HappyAcres says:

      The slugs tend to love all my mulches, so it will be interesting to see if the fabric is better or worse in that regard. That said, they usually aren’t a big problem in summer months, but mostly in spring. This has been a dry spring for us, and slugs have not been as bad as usual.

  3. Sue Garrett says:

    We were concerned that the egg would attract slugs but it didn’t appear to be the case. I just wish it didn’t fray so much

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