The Wrong Kind of Weed Barrier

Weeds can be quite a pain. You can get everything looking nice in your landscape, then a few days later, that pesky weed appears. So you have an idea, we will put a weed barrier down to stop those weeds. Occasionally I will come across some bad ideas of weed barriers. Here are the top ideas that I have seen that were quite bad.

I have seen a blue tarp as a weed barrier. The kind of tarp you would use to cover something from the rain. A tarp is definitely not a good weed barrier. Yes it may stop the weeds, but it also stops the plants from getting water. They may even be durable, but it does not work.

I have also seen plastic grocery bags used as a weed barrier. The only thing that a plastic grocery bag can be in a landscape is trash. The this is just like the tarp, but plastic bags will start to break down in the soil and just become a mess of trash when it is time to redo the landscape.

Actual weed matting works okay at best. However, if you do want to use it, look for weed matting that is designed to be weed matting. The key things to look for would be allowing air and water to be able to move through the barrier. Weed matting will only buy a few years with minimal weeding. After a while, dirt will start to accumulate on top of the matting and weeds will start to grow right not top of it.

Pulling weeds as you see them, or using a pre-emergent herbicide will be your best options. When going the herbicide route, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label at all times. It would be nice if weed matting was a long term option, but it is at best a short term solution.

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Organic Matter in the Soil

Organic matter in the soil is highly beneficial for your plants. But where does organic matter come from? What does it do for your landscape?

Where does it come from?

Organic matter comes from anything that was once living. It could be from leaves and sticks, to bugs and insects, all the way to animals that have become deceased. The once living tissue will break down. Once it is has started to break down, it is called humus. It is partly recognizable, but it does not look like it once did. The breaking down process continues, and once it is no longer recognizable, it becomes peat. Peat is pure organic matter, and it is full of nutrients that are good for the plants. Ever hear of peat moss? It is just broken down organic matter.

What does it do?

Organic matter is fertilizer. That is the simple version. But organic matter also makes it so that nutrients that are already in the soil become more readily available for the plants. As your landscape or lawn ages, it is good to have new organic matter added because of the new food source. Wood chips/bark is an excellent way to add more to your landscape. The wood, once living, breaks down and becomes valuable organic matter.

Too much organic matter in the soil?

There can be a point where too much organic matter in the soil is not good. There is the potential for root rot or burn. Also, organic matter will change the pH of the soil. If the pH of the soil gets too far off, then there is a chance that the plant will not be able to tolerate the change. In any soil, you do want to make sure that there is some inorganic matter mixed in. Ideally it would be a sand and silt mixture with the organic matter.

Organic matter in the soil is very much so needed. Without it, our plants would struggle.


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This dandelion has been treated chemically and is showing characteristics of epinasty.

The first thing that you may be asking is what is epinasty? The definition of epinasty by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a nastic movement in which a plant part is bent outward and often downward. Even simpler, it is the twisting and contorting of plant tissue.

Why do we love epinasty?

All property owners love to see epinasty. You may or may not admit it, or may not now what is was called, but just about everyone does. When you see a weed in your lawn, and it gets treated chemically, the death of the weed brings you joy. Even more joy is had when you can see the weed twisting and contorting to its death. It sounds sick, but it is true.

But, does this sick joy that we get come from removing a pest and achieving the desired results? It only makes sense. We are getting rid of the weed and helping to keep the lawn healthy. It is visual success.

What causes epinasty to happen?

When certain weed killers are applied, the chemical causes problems for the weed on a chemical level. The plant goes through rapid and uncontrolled growth. This is what causes the parts of the plant to twist and contort.

It has been discussed that some newer lawn treatments for weeds do not cause epinasty in the weed. Instead, it kills the plants by means other than uncontrolled growth. This is discussed because people love to see the death of the weed in a sort of sick way. The new treatments do not provide this show, even though they are just as effective, if not better at controlling the weed. So, it is best to remember, epinasty is fun, but just because the twisting and contorting is not happening does not mean that it is unsuccessful with some lawn treatments.

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Unneeded Landscape Edging

Unneeded Landscape Edging

The black edging next to the concrete is not doing anything that the concrete could do. This makes it unneeded.

Landscape edging can do wonderful things for your landscape. Its main purpose is to separate two different materials. However, there are times when landscape edging does not get used properly. This is unneeded landscape edging.

Landscape edging is typically used to separate two soft materials. Soft materials would be items that can move around with the forces of nature, or through use, or through gravity. Some examples of soft materials that are moveable are grass, mulch, stones, sand, etc.

It is unnecessary to use edging where a soft material meets a hard surface. Some examples of hard surfaces are concrete, asphalt, houses, etc. When using a landscape edging next to a hard material, it is just a waste. The hard material like concrete will do the holding back.

Sometimes materials like bark will spill over onto the concrete for example. This is not a edging problem, this is a grading problem or a too much material problem. This can be fixed by changing the grade or removing some of the excess bark. Adding edging that is raised up will stop the overflow, but it looks goofy and is putting only a band aide on the problem.

Simply put, adding edging along a hard surface is a waste. It typically stands out like a sore thumb, and it does not do anything that the hard surface cannot do.

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Leaving the Tag on the Plant

Isn’t buying something new fun? It is in great condition, it is new to us, and it still has the tags on it. Something that is often overlooked when it comes to a new landscape is the tags on the plants. But the plant is new, why not keep the tag on the plant?

Back when I was in school, this question was asked about leaving the tag on the plant. The professor had a great response, “Do you leave your tags on your clothes?” I thought that was a great analogy. The first thing that we do when we wear a new shirt is take the tag off. The same should be done for the plant. Once it is planted in the ground for good, the tag should come off.

Not only does the tag not look good on the plant, it can be harmful to the plant if left on for too long. As the plant grows, the diameter of the branch grows, but the tag stays the same. That will eventually cut into the bark and cut off the flow of nutrients causing damage to the plant. The same idea as leaving stakes on a tree for too long.

I have also heard “but I want to remember what type of plant it is”. I can understand that. However, the tags that have been on plants for quite some time are usually faded and unreadable. So it would be better to write down somewhere what type of plant it is and keep that in a safe place because the tag will not be readable after so long.

It is best to take the tags off of your plants right away. This not only makes the plant look better, it is better for the health of the plant. And do not fear if you find a tag that has been on the plant for a while. If you find an old tag, take it off to stop it from doing an more potential harm to the plant and allow the plant to start healing if it is needed.

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