Using Landscape Fabric
One of the greatest labour-saving and quality-enhancing materials I use is landscape fabric. It has radically changed how I plant and tend to crops, and has saved so much time (and frustration) when dealing with weeds.
Some of the benefits of landscape fabric:
lasts for many years (at least 10 years)
suppresses weed growth (all you have to look after are what may grow up through the holes)
retains moisture around plant roots
allows moisture (rainfall) through
provides protection for earthworms and other soil life - they LOVE living under the fabric
allows air exchange to / from the soil
balances the soil temperature, and prevents the soil from getting too hot in the summer (also, very pleasant to walk on)
The type of landscape fabric that has all the above qualities is a woven fabric that has a bit of a shine to it. It is NOT fuzzy (which is a lower grade of “landscape fabric” available at many local stores - I would not suggest using that type).
It is also NOT “black plastic” that is commonly used in agriculture (which has one season of use, does not let water or air through, and becomes very hot in the summer).
How to use landscape fabric
There are 2 main keys to success:
Sear every cut edge with a flame to prevent it from fraying
Keep the fabric taut when securing it to the ground, to prevent wind from getting under it and loosening it
To use the fabric:
Cut it into standard lengths that suit your garden space; carefully sear the cut ends with a flame
Burn holes into the fabric, according to the crops that you’ll be growing. For example, a standard spacing for a lot of crops is: holes 12 inches apart in the row, and 3 rows together, 12 inches apart.
The fabric has lines printed on it, at 12 inch spacing. Therefore, for a 4-foot wide piece of fabric, I make holes down those lines, 3 rows together, and leave the edge spaces for walkways.
Lay the fabric over your planting area, and insert 6 - 8 inch long landscape staples into the corners at one end. Set the staples about 1 inch from the edge of the fabric.
Tip: Pierce the fabric with the staples, and then push the staples into the ground. This will minimize tearing the fabric.
Once one end is secured, pull the fabric tight and insert more staples every few feet.
The spacing of the staples depends on the amount of wind in your area. In high-wind areas, set them about every 3 feet; they can be spaced further apart if you don’t get much wind.
Lay the 2nd sheet of fabric beside the first, and use the same staples to secure the common edges. Be sure to overlap the sheets by at least 1 - 2 inches.
When securing the second sheet, pull it lengthwise AND crosswise to keep it tight and aligned with the first sheet.
TIPS FOR BURNING HOLES IN THE FABRIC
Choose a spot with no wind, out in the open
Use a small, handheld propane torch
Use a template, if possible, to maintain even edges on the sides of your holes, and evenly sized holes.
(I usually use 2 inch holes, and made a template from an old piece of plywood. Another version is to cut holes from a piece of cardboard, and press a piece of tinfoil around each hole, so that the edges of the hole are lined with foil.)
Lay the template over the fabric, turn on the torch (it doesn’t need to be on ‘high’), and touch the end of the flame to the fabric for a second or two, to melt the fabric inside the hole. Make a circular motion around the edge of the hole.
Move your template, and continue burning holes until you’ve completed your rows!
Where to Find Landscape Fabric
My usual supplier had an ordering issue this year, so I’ve had to look around for some other options.
Two places that carry it: