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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Derrick-Mills

Farm Tools 7: Landscape Fabric

People always ask us, "How do you control weeds if you don't use any chemical sprays?" It is important to us to be good stewards of the soil and to beneficial insects. Still, weeds will hurt our crops and so we have to find other ways. For our perennial plants, we try to get the fabric down in the winter -- that way we have it in place before the weeds start forming and it has the added benefit of warming up the soil so that our intended plants bloom and grow just a little earlier (see the strawberry and blackberry patches below).

Landscape Fabric is an important weed control farm tool

Black landscape fabric with a metal stake on top
Landscape fabric and fabric stake

One weed control tool is buying landscape fabric by the roll. We can't use it when we are direct seeding, but we can use it when we are transplanting seedlings from seed trays (like for tomatoes and peppers), planting slips (like you do for sweet potatoes), or setting up structures to lay the foundation for other planting arrangements (like our berries). After tilling, you put down your drip tape, you lay down the fabric you have cut to fit the area that you want to cover, and secure it with landscape stakes (see the long U-shaped object in the picture). When you are ready to plant, you cut holes through the fabric that are just big enough for your seedlings and you plant them into the soil under the fabric (yes, each one with loving hands).

Controlling weeds is an important part of farming. If you don't control weeds, then your crops are likely to produce less and may die entirely.

This is because weeds:

  • take nutrition from the soil that was meant for your crops

  • crowd out your crops -- sometimes blocking the sunlight from reaching them

  • choke your crops -- this is particularly true for vining weeds like morning glories (I love the flowers too when they stay in their lane, but they love to climb all over the other things you were hoping to grow and literally strangle them)

  • create a haven and highway for other insect pests that will eat your crops

  • make it difficult for you to harvest your plants if they survive -- many weeds are quite prickly (we have a challenge with thistle, for example)

The pictures show how we use it to:

  • lay the foundation for our raised strawberry patch and make spaces where our blackberries thrive (top set)

  • line the bottom of our high tunnel where our hundreds of tomato plants live (middle set)

  • create the bed for our pepper plants and cauliflower plants (below)

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