The Secret to A Weed-Free Garden

So, how’s the weeding going for you this summer? You have all my sympathy. I know exactly how hard it is to keep on top of eradicating weeds. But I don’t have weeds in my veggie garden anymore. It’s practically weed-free, and will be all season long.

No chemicals.

No all weekend weeding frenzies.

No hiring someone to help catch up.

It’s the most awesome thing having a kitchen garden that only needs watering, and maybe 2-3 hours a month clearing a couple of 4″ wide unprotected strips that can’t really be done any other way.

You see, there’s this stuff called ground fabric. Not weed blocker. Not landscape fabric. It’s what they use in plant nurseries, garden centers and greenhouses – far tougher stuff than what you can buy at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the garden center.  That stuff’s useless. Weeds come right through it. You could put down 10 layers and they will still find the sun. Don’t waste your money.

What you need is agricultural grade non-woven ground cover fabric. You can use a woven product, but it will unravel on the edges, and anywhere it is cut or a hole is poked in it for planting or caging. You don’t have to be a contractor or nursery company to purchase it, at least not in the US.

Now, a lot of backyard gardeners would look at the price of a UV-treated 4 oz. non-woven nursery groundcover fabric and cringe. But, not only will it last for years (make sure it’s UV-treated), it is going to give you back your weekends, improve your crop conditions, and conserve water too. After a short argument with myself over the investment, the purchase was not so hard to make. All you have to do is add up how many hours you lost weeding last year. Free time is scarce. Regaining some of it for something other than an endless war on pigheaded weeds around your vegetables is super valuable.

My garden is pretty good sized at 55′ x 45′ ( it was bigger, but the raccoons steal all the corn). I’ve got better things to do than spend every spare moment out behind the trees pulling weeds and swatting at mosquitoes… like keeping the weeds out of the flower beds.  They’re looking pretty snazzy these days too.

On top of those perks, my tomatoes, peppers and everything else out back does a lot better than before. The soil warms up faster under that black fabric – a miracle in a cold climate. I only have to water about half as often as I used to too, because the ground fabric helps to retain soil moisture amazingly well. And this garden is growing in rather sandy soil, so this is another huge perk, but cutting back on the amount of water your fruits and vegetables require will be of interest to anyone who grows outdoors. Oh yes, and planting is a lot faster too, because the stripe woven in every foot gives you straight rows without stringing them off. The first year it takes a bit longer because you have to cut an X where each plant goes. After that, just pop ’em in where they go.

I have 6′ wide and 3′ wide fabric. Things that are seeded in a row, like pole beans, radishes, lettuces, etc. I leave 4-6″ uncovered soil between the 3′ wide walk strips. These still need to be watered like any uncovered garden does, but its only 3 rows. The rest is covered in the 6′ wide fabric with a 12″ overlap. What goes in each strip is marked with paint on the ends and they’re numbered, so they get laid in the right order every spring. I reverse the leading edge each season so the same crop isn’t in the same are every summer.

It’s beyond awesome. The best $300 bucks I’ve ever spent. Don’t skimp on u-shaped ground staples. You need them to anchor it securely to the ground so the wind won’t pick it up and ruin everything. Roll it up in the fall after the first frost and store it in a shed or the garage.

You’ll find that both Growers Supply/FarmTek and A.M. Leonard have the same pricing, and the lowest prices too. I prefer the groundcover product sold at AM Leonard because they sell the non-woven (spunbond), where I’ve yet to find it available at Grower’s Supply when I needed it. But if all you can find is woven within a reasonable shipping distance, it’s far better than pulling weeds, though it will not hold up as long with you cutting holes in it, poking it with stakes and cages, and relaying it every spring.

In the US, if you live closer to Iowa than Ohio, I strongly suggest you purchase from Grower’s Supply or FarmTek, or the shipping will be astronomical. Like, the same $60 box of 1000 ground staples/pins this spring runs $23 for shipping for me versus a local market farmer I know paying about $60 for shipping from Grower’s Supply. Both the rolls of 100′-300′ long rolls of fabric and the staples are heavy, so buy it from the closest source you can, but you won’t find better prices than these two farm/nursery supply houses.

Central to Eastern States: Ground FabricStaples

Central to Western States: Ground FabricStaples

Growers Supply does ship to Canada, but check J & MTerralink, and Martek. In the UK, you want something like the 100-110 g/sq.m. from Tubex or Boddingtons.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.