It is a constant debate here at Windmill Farm and probably with almost every small farmer whether to use some sort of weed barrier or not. It is a hard decision to accept, either one way-a weed barrier or another-spend hours and hours with constant weeding or spend money to pay for someone to weed.
I have done it both ways, several times, but last year the weeds about killed us. The constant high temperatures made it so difficult to get out for long periods of time to weed. And weeds grow, well, like weeds!!! I HATE it if my gardens do not look managed and beautiful. And our yields are terrible when flowers and vegetables have to complete for nutrients and water with weeds.
|Floret Flower photo|
I write a blog and am also, a reader of other blogs and I have been reading more that small farmers just can't keep putting down this thin plastic called weed barrier fabric. And they are going to a heavier weed cloth, called landscaping fabric. One blog/website I have read for years and is so inspiring is Floret Flowers. She has a special article just about landscaping fabric. She is so good about sharing information and even provides a chart for various types of plants and the spacing needed to grow each one. You normally would see the landscaping fabric at nurseries where they put it down under their potted plants or in their greenhouses where they grow potted plants up off the ground on tables to keep weeds from growing below.
The advantages are after each season, you roll them up and they can be used for many years to come. They don't require pulling up in pieces and having bags of it go to the landfill. Many people who have used the heavier, landscaping fabric actually leave them down season after season until it is time to replace.
|Clips to hold down fabric|
Last year I wanted to try it,but the planting season got ahead of me and I just had to start planting and use the thinner, black plastic weed barrier I had already purchased from the year before. I got about 1/2 the vegetable and flower rows done before it was time to plant everything. So half the garden had the plastic weed barrier and half didn't. And I put it down so quickly and that particular day it was windy, so the plastic only had some dirt on the edges just to get it down. Many rows had dirt showing from row to the next row. Great places for weeds to grow and take over!!!
I guess I could look at the outcome as: 1)- that I had less weeds in 1/2 the gardens than the other 1/2 that didn't have weeds. But at the height of the summer, it was hard to tell one side from the other with these tall weeds.
This year, I asked my local supplier of drip tape and irrigation supplies, Feather River Packing Company here in Gridley if he knew where I could purchase the landscape fabric. He said he would have lots of it for sale, used, soon as he was pulling up about an acre of his nursery field, which is lined completely with this heavy landscaping fabric. Hot Dog!!! Used is good, cheaper, close by my house, no shipping.
Frank and I went and got some last week and are starting to lay it out in the rows now that the weather is better. It is so much easier to handle than the weed barrier type. It also has lines on it so the rows can be positioned straight. And the lines allow me to measurer where to burn the holes needed for the plants.
I am so excited about it especially since I will be planting more flowers this year, many will be bulbs that I would like to leave in the ground for a few years without having to replant. Lucky for our area, we do not receive freezing weather for any extended periods of time so it is possible to leave the bulbs.
As with everything to do with gardening/farming, it is a life long adventure and education. My time is better served in other areas rather than weeding. And being able to manage our farm without the hiring of help really is an asset to whether we can make some money or just be able to break even (or even loose money) at the end of each season.
I will keep you posted on how this new experiment goes. I can't imagine doing it on huge acreage, but with our small farm, I think it will be a good alternative.