Don’t let weeds ruin your fun


If you are getting ready to build a new flowerbed, you might not want to waste your money on landscape cloth.

Just ask one of my readers, Sarah Twining. She says she worked her fingers to the bone trying to clear the weeds from a new flowerbed and covered the bare area with landscape cloth, only to have weeds push their way back to the surface.

“Weeding use to be a relaxing part of gardening. Now a weed can bring me close to tears. I’m so discouraged I’m thinking chemicals, for the garden, not me.”

She is not alone. Starting a new garden can be very tough.

“My dad helped and we pulled every weed and its root. I covered the weeded area with five to six layers of newspapers and then a doubled layer of landscape fabric. I overlapped all newspaper and fabric seams. As each adjacent area was finished, we poured stones on top of the fabric,” she says.

A few weeks later, the weeds were back. “ I knew I would have a few left, but I didn’t expect to be pulling weeds and grass from the landscape fabric, some with roots so deep into the soil that the fabric is left with a big hole!”

Torrie Hatfield is the manager at Hatfield Landscape in Sylvania. She says they rarely use landscape cloth. “I would say we only use it on a small percentage of the landscapes we create and maintain. If you plan on doing a lot of digging in your garden, it can be more of a nuisance than help,” she says.

They have been creating and maintaining landscapes in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan since 1981. She says here are only a few situations where her crews use landscape cloth. “We will only use cloth as a barrier behind a rock wall or in a garden that will be topped with rocks and the owners don’t intend to replant anything in it. And when we use it, we will use the longest lasting ”

Landscape cloth works well when you cover the garden surface thoroughly. You will need to cut an x in the surface and pull away the cloth to put any plants into the soil. Then cover the area with a heavy mulch. But here’s the problem: It can lift around the edges or have holes cut too large for the plants that will allow weed seeds to grow underneath. And if you are a gardener like me that really likes to plant something new, cutting through the cloth and trying to reposition it under the thick mulch can be more work than it is worth.

Mrs. Hatfield says the best way to start a new garden is to use a systemic herbicide like Roundup to kill the weeds at the root. “This will give you a clean slate. And if you don’t plan on changing your garden, go ahead and overlap the landscape cloth and cut as small of a hole for the plant as possible.”

She says landscape cloth is better than using plastic because it will last longer. “Plastic will tear and become brittle over the years. Cloth comes in different grades based on the number of years they will last.”

She continues, “You can build a relatively weed-free bed just by preparing it properly and using some basic weed preventatives like Preen that stop the germination of weeds once the bed is clear. Then keep it covered with two to three inches of mulch all year.”

We all feel your pain, Sarah. Just grab a nice cold beverage the next time you see more weeds popping up. Your plants will eventually overpower them with a little help from the right kind of herbicides and lots of mulch.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at