Believe it or not, some gardeners have a secret to that manicured garden bed look. Besides giving your soil beds a sleek appearance, this tip can also protect your plants from the heat, frost and unwanted pests. Welcome to the world of landscaping fabrics!
Landscape fabric or garden fabric is a great material that will benefit your garden in the long run. You may not notice this in your neighbors garden because the material is usually under mulch or rocks. Yes, you can get creative while also keeping your plants best interest in mind!
You can use this fabric as a temporary greenhouse, use for xeriscaping, or row covers – the choices are almost endless. If used correctly, landscaping fabrics can easily become your new tool box necessity. Keep reading to find out how to apply it to your garden!
WHAT IS GARDEN FABRIC?
To start, garden fabric is any sort of cloth or cover for use in your yard; there are several ways to use the material. Durability, color, breathability, materials, and thickness all play a part in its usefulness. In this article you’ll learn what kind of garden fabrics you can choose from and how to properly use them for the best results.
Landscape fabric is defined as a black, woven or non-woven cloth made from polyester, linen, or polypropylene used to help keep weeds in check, and moisture in the ground. Instead of using harmful chemicals, gardeners have switched to landscape fabric as its dark color smothers weeds and keeps the garden in line.
Row cover, or floating row covers are a lighter weight material than landscape fabric made of polypropylene. This material is white, and can protect tender plants from both heat and cold depending upon the application.
HOW TO USE LANDSCAPE FABRIC IN THE GARDEN
Best suited for perennial flower gardens and tree beds, this black fabric is laid out and secured into the ground using garden staples to discourage weeds from taking root. The fabric has an occasional use in annual vegetable gardens to rip up at harvest. The fabrics rising popularity through the years is due to how much time it saves gardeners. Clearing the space of unwanted choking weeds or unruly plant suckers through the growing season just got a bit easier.
Simply place your plant in the ground through the fabric by cutting a hole with a good garden knife before mulching the top to help protect the fabric from the sun. The goal is to cover the ground, not your vegetables, flowers, or foliage.
The fabric is easily unrolled as they’re sold and cut in personalized lengths. When making a larger size, simply overlap at least three inches and staple securely to keep weeds from forcing themselves between the seams. Because of this, sturdy landscaping fabrics are also a popular underlayment for xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is the achievement of a minimalist look in dry, arid regions where water is not readily available for landscaping purposes.
You can also cover the fabric in colorful rocks and mulches! While you have the best interest of your garden in mind, you can still have fun.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN USING LANDSCAPE FABRIC
Not all is made equal and the fabric you pick for an annual vegetable garden will not be the same as your options for long-term use in a flower bed. There is a variety of product ranging in thicknesses, breathability, material, durability, and costs. Before you make your decision, you’ll need to first and foremost consider what you will be using it for. Below are some options to consider:
Non-woven landscape fabrics allow more breathability and small amounts of water movability, but generally they are used to suffocate anything beneath it to keep the area it covers clear of vegetation. This is a popular cloth to use for xeriscaping!
It’s also found under walkways to keep any sort of deep rooting plants from undermining the materials used, and to prevent heaving. Keep in mind that over time dirt and debris can easily create a soil substrate on top of a non-woven fabric that plants can take root in. If the area is well maintained these weeds can be removed easily without causing damage.
Woven fabric is created with the movement of water in mind, and is often found as an annual ground cloth for vegetable gardens, or for areas where vegetation will be used. This is what you want to use in your garden!
The woven material creates porous openings for both air and water to reach the plants. A woven structure allows the soils underneath to receive the moisture and fertilizer you may provide. It also helps retain moisture and halt evaporation. This creates a helpful garden product in arid, dry climates.
To use, simply spread it out and secure it down before cutting holes in the material to plant your vegetation choices throughout. If using annually as a garden weed fabric you can simply take it up at the end of the year and discard it. If you’re using it as a permanent underlayment, simply cover with mulch for further moisture and weed control and leave it alone.
Since this fabric is porous, it allows weeds to sprout through the holes. It’s imperative that you use a weed killer regularly, or be sure to pull weeds early on to keep from ripping up you fabric later down the road.
Note there are different varieties of thickness in both woven and non-woven fabrics. Thicker materials will cost more initially, but they will last longer, and may be more difficult to tear up later on. Thinner materials can more easily tear, so consider what you will be putting on top of it, and how much foot traffic it may eventually receive to get the most life out of it as possible.
Some fabrics have UV protection added, but for a cost. And most fabrics without this costly addition are just as effective. Still, there’s no reason to fret, spreading 3 to 4 inches of mulch is generally enough protection from the damaging sun rays that will eventually break down the materials used to create landscape fabrics.
Keep in mind that organic mulches can arrive with their own variable selection of seeds that may try and take root after watering. Be sure to either treat your mulch with a weed killer a few times a year, as mentioned above, or stay on top of the weed germination and pull them before they compromise your materials.
HOW TO USE ROW COVERING IN THE GARDEN
Row coverings have a variety of beneficial uses in your garden and can do everything from extend your growing season, to providing protection from pesky insects. The most popular use is to drape it over hoops (either bought or homemade) to raise temperatures under it for early seed germination, as a frost protection, and to provide shade in areas that receive full sunlight.
These fabrics are a lightweight material that you can even use directly over plants for protective purposes without worry of crushing your tender plants. The material is also reusable so you can protect your plants from frost when the seasons change.
Something you will want to keep an eye on despite its use as a pest deterrent is that you can accidentally trap unwanted bugs beneath it. Be sure to treat your plants before covering, or watch carefully for destructive insects.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN USING ROW COVERING
Like landscape fabric, when you are looking for how to use cover crops fabric in the garden, you need to consider the different weights and weave choices for your particular use. Some fabrics are specifically for shade and are much more breathable for high temperature climates, whereas heavier fabrics are for cold weather protection. A good fabric should last you at least two seasons depending on the job you need it for.
All purpose fabrics allow 70 percent of available light to pass to your vegetation all while providing protection from the sun, wind, and flying insects. Generally this material can protect from temperatures in the high 20’s for extended periods of time as long as the day time temperatures and sun allow a warming to occur.
All-purpose fabrics are easy to cut with scissors, but difficult to tear. This fabric should last season after season! When you’re ready to store it for winter, simply fold it up!
SUMMER WEIGHT FABRICS
These lightweight fabrics are specific for protection against birds, insects, and airborne diseases. It can also be used as a temporary barrier against damaging sprays if you happen to be treating for weeds or grasses and are concerned about overspray when applying the treatment.
These fabrics will not block precipitation or overhead irrigation, and will allow 85 percent or more light through to your plants. It’s important to note, that summer weight fabrics don’t protect against frost at all, and keeps very little heat trapped underneath. This is a poor choice for growing and winter protection purposes.
Garden quilts, or other heavier weighted fabrics are made specifically for cold weather protection and can protect plants when temperatures dip into the low 20’s, or even upper teens for a short amount of time. At least 60 percent of the available light will reach your vegetation. This is plenty for both growing seedling, or the completion of crop maturity.
Be sure to remove your garden quilt if the weather stays above frost consistently, or replace it with a lightweight fabric. Plants can wither, or even die due to excessive heat.
In some growing zones you can even use garden quilt for greenhouse purposes and keep your crops growing well into, or even through the winter. It’s a great alternative to traditional greenhouse materials, and is much more cost effective.
Certain garden vegetables are less than tolerant of the heat and sun than others, but short of planting in multiple areas, you will have to contend with a loss of crops once the weather hits the dog days of summer; unless you provide protection that is. Shade netting or garden canopy’s are a perfect solution for crops that could use extra protection from the sun and heat. Plus, it won’t compromise the breathability of the material. Leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, as well as peas fall into this category.
If you live in an area that gets extremely warm, many vegetables will not do as well when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher. You may want to consider using shade canopy over your entire crop. Since shade canopy allows air circulation and insect pollination, there isn’t much reason not use this option. Not to mention it’s very easy to erect temporary shade structures to drape the cloth over.
CONSIDER YOUR CHOICES
Hopefully this article has helped define the various uses and definitions of garden fabrics so you can make the best decision for your gardens needs. From woven to non-woven choices, between light weight and heavier materials, your sure to find the right fit for you.
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