Hello Farmer Tom,
I like your “Organic Growers School” website. I am in the process of redoing landscaping and a garden on the property we just purchased and was wanting a safe landscaping fabric – NO Chemicals!!!. I read your blog about what you have had success with and was wondering what the company and product name of the fabric and staples were. Also, where did you purchase them?
I especially liked the “hole burning” method as I am puling up fabric that was cut and full of weeds!
Nice idea!!! Please let me know about the materials. Thanks and God Bless!
Lori Scears (Pittsburgh, PA) PS – I used to live in Cary, NC – Miss that beautiful state 🙂
Landscape fabric as I use the term refers to a woven geotextile in contrast to the felt-like material often called weed barrier. In my experience the woven material is much more durable and less prone to weeds germinating on top of the fabric and rooting in the soil below. The most common use for woven landscape fabric is as greenhouse floors or to suppress weeds in container nurseries.
Landscape fabric is available in several widths. We normally buy 12’X300’ rolls from greenhouse suppliers. It comes in various thicknesses or weights. I recommend the heaviest that your supplier offers. We ended up with a variety of weights over 25 years and the heavier weight is less likely to rip around the sod stables when we pull up the fabric between crops. Except for those minor tears which we can usually avoid with careful removal, I expect our fabrics to last for several more decades. Several greenhouse supply companies run trucks to our area including Griffin Greenhouse Supply which I believe serves Pennsylvania also. For those in the Asheville area, check with Reems Creek Nursery in Weaverville or Rays Supply in Mills River. I believe they both sell landscape fabric by the foot, in case you need less than a full roll.
We secure our fabric with 1”x5” sod stables which are available at Southern States and other suppliers of sod or erosion control products. Check with your local feed and seed store if Southern States does not serve Pennsylvania. They usually last about five years.
In response to your comment about no chemicals, you will probably notice a shiny finish on new fabric which I assume is some sort of lubricant left from the manufacturing process. It seems to degrade over several months or you can speed up that process by cleaning the fabric with a bristle brush and detergent or soap. Building supply stores have inexpensive brushes used to apply roofing tar which probably will work.
For hole spacing we use two patterns – one in a diamond pattern with one hole per square foot. At each four foot mark across the 12 foot fabric we designate as an aisle. Next to the aisles we place the holes off center toward the beds to allow a little more space for foot traffic in the aisle. The other pattern we use is two rows of holes per four foot bed on 18 inch centers. This second pattern is for cabbage and warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers.
You mentioned hole burning which I covered in this post.
In response to that article Jonathan Rutledge, a grower at Earthaven wrote that he had success in burning holes with a torch which seemed to be less complicated than our heated pipe fitting method. We use fabric created with both methods and Jonathan certainly has a point about the complexity of heating and reheating pipe fittings. If you decide to use a gas plumbers torch, be cautious about the length of the burn on each hole. I recall a story from a fellow grower who smelled smoke and turned around to find the fabric and the lawn in flames. I also prefer the smooth hole left by hot pipe fittings which is easier on the hands of transplanters. Either approach will work in my experience.
Also from that post are the main reasons we like using fabric in vegetable production.
- weed suppression,
- more even moisture across the bed,
- warmer soil in cold weather,
- cooler soil in hot weather,
- most importantly — cleaner produce.
Once a crop grows bigger than the transplant hole, rain and overhead irrigation no longer splash soil on the crop. Clean crops result in quicker harvests and less produce waste.
In another OGS post on fabric contains an explanation of why my wife Karen calls landscape fabric our “marriage saver.” Click on the link below for details.
Thanks for your question.
Ask Tom © 2014 Tom Elmore & Organic Growers School
Author: Tom Elmore
Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association and the Organic Growers School.
Is landscape fabric is safe from chemicals for organic vegetable garden?I have already used thick woven geotxt fabric which is really very strong and nice except long threads come out on cutting
Yes, it is totally safe. What is your concern exactly? Landscape fabric is incredibly durable and in over a decade of using it, I have not noticed any fiber disintegration . Are you asking if it will prevent chemicals from penetrating the ground?
Everything breaks down over time, especially when exposed to sun, wind, and water. The heavy duty landscape fabric is meant to be durable and usually made with a tight weave. It’s even sometimes hard to cut with scissors. It will degrade near the holes or in areas where it consistently rubs against pipe or other objects. Most, if not all, organic certifiers approve of landscape fabric. You could check with the manufacturer about the decomposition rate to be sure. Also see this article on our site regarding landscape fabric:
Hi there. A quick question for you. Could woven black heavy duty landscape fabric be used as a pool cover to keep the heat in. Not required as an actual solar blanket?. Thanks in advance Martin.
Unfortunately this isn’t our area of expertise, but there’s probably no harm in trying, especially if you already have some on hand. Good luck!
what is the brand of the woven fabric you like
I wish Tom had/would address just how safe the landscape cloth typically purchased in stores like Agway is…and what brands he recommends. The larger commercial rolls were not identified by manufacturer and I am also curious if landscape cloth is safe to use in the place of plastic around tomato plants etc.? Thanks….
Hey Bill! I would avoid getting landscape cloth that has been pre-treated with weed killing chemicals, you may have to call the companies to figure out if they add this if they do not advertise on the packaging. If you are looking for weed suppression and don’t want to use plastic, opt for a thick woven landscape cloth or use cardboard/newspaper. Plastic will hold up longer than fabric, but fabric is a good alternative if you want to avoid petroleum based products. I hope this helps!
Here is a website which describes different types of landscape fabrics and the benefits of each: https://www.epicgardening.com/best-landscape-fabric/
Ideally something that is built to last longer than cheaper alternatives.
I have a raised garden bed made out of stained pressboard. If I line it with landscape fabric on all sides, will that keep chemicals
from leaching into the soil?
I will appreciate your advise.
It might help a bit, you could also plant a cover crop of bioaccumulators on the edges, like peas, alfafa, and sunflowers. These plants absorb chemicals/toxins in the soil and help bioremediation.
Can landscape fabric help squash bugs to winter over?