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Fall Mulching – Get Rid Of The Dreaded Black Landscape Fabric and Get Sexy Like Harry the Pug

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landscape fabric

Dear Casual Gardener,

In the back of my yard I have that black landscape fabric with mulch over it (the width of my yard, about 10′ deep) but the mulch has broken down and has weeds growing out of it. Nothing is growing through the fabric itself, just in the broken down layer of mulch on top of it.

Is there any way to break that up or add more mulch so that things won’t grow so easily? OR am I better off just pulling up the old fabric and laying down new mulch down? (Trying to keep this a simple/cheap project!)



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Dear Mike,

I hate landscape fabric. It prevents nutrients from getting down in the ground and does very little for the soil – often leaving it barren. It does not prevent weeds much as they end up growing anyway as you have seen.

It will be a project, but it can be quite inexpensive to fix your bed up and help prevent weeds and save moisture.

Here’s what you do:

1.) Remove the old landscape fabric.
2.) Pull all the weeds by hand.
3.) If you have $20, go to a local store and buy $20 worth of rotted manure in bags (or get a truckload from your local horse farmer for free) and put it on top of the old soil. Dig in gently – it is not necessary for you to “plow under” the soil as it does more damage to the microbial action which would improve the soil, so be gentle.
4.) Lay a thick layer of black and white newspaper down. It helps to wet it if it is a windy day. Get it from your neighbors recycling bins for FREE! This lasts over a year and goes a long way in blocking the existing weed seeds from regrowing.
5.) Go over to the city mulch pile and pick up the free mulch they provide – it should be just fine and free from most diseases if it’s been sitting in the pile a while as the heat generated by the rotting wood kills seeds and disease. Add 4″ of FREE mulch to the area, being careful not to smother any plants that are currently existing – leave an area of about an inch around the base of existing plants.
6.) Do this all now before the cold snap happens, because sometimes adding an extra layer of mulch after the freeze hits will warm up the ground area and the rest of the plant will freeze from air exposure. Now is the weekend!

You are done. Celebrate with a $2 beer. Above you see a photo of Harry the Pug looking rather attractive in front of one of my hosta beds. The mulch is city mulch and has done great in that spot.

Total Cost: $20 for some rotted manure to amend the soil and $2.00 for a beer. Total expense = $22. Time spent working out your muscles and getting sexy like Harry the Pug = Priceless!

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

Whatcha Pulling Out Of Your Fall Garden?

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  1. I just bought a long-bed pickup truck filled with leaf compost for $66 from my local feed store. That's a grand deal for someone with a strong back and access to a pickup. I only use this in the ornamental parts of my lawn, BTW, since I don't know where it came from. The potager is strictly organic.


  2. Dependent upon the city you live in, many Illinois communities have “free mulch” in the form of brush and tree limbs which have been chipped. Aurora, Warrenville, Chicago and townships as well. My suggestion is to call your local city and ask. If they don't know, call the streets and sanitation division – mulch piles are sometimes run through these groups.

  3. I'm with you on the uselessness of landscape fabric. It never seems to do the job folks want it to do, which is prevent weeds. Plus it's ugly (not sexy!). Somehow the landscape contractor convinced me a few years ago to put it under the gravel paths he was installing. Total waste of money.

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