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Weed fabric and gravel. I need your opinions.

20 posts in this topic

Here's some pics of a new cactus garden area that I'm working on. I plan on extending the light colored gravel on the pathways, and I want to use a combination of native rock, brown gravel, and D.G. as a ground cover in the planting areas. My question is about weed fabric: Should I put down weed fabric first or just put the gravel right down on the dirt? I've used weed fabric in other areas and I still seem to get weeds/grass germinating in the gravel a little bit. But I've also put the gravel down with no weed fabric and I don't really think I get that many more weeds. The weeds come from the top I think. I don't know. I'm just splitting hairs and making it more complicated than I need to but if you guys have any thoughts that I might have overlooked I'd love to hear them. Thanks.

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Here's some pics of a new cactus garden area that I'm working on. I plan on extending the light colored gravel on the pathways, and I want to use a combination of native rock, brown gravel, and D.G. as a ground cover in the planting areas. My question is about weed fabric: Should I put down weed fabric first or just put the gravel right down on the dirt? I've used weed fabric in other areas and I still seem to get weeds/grass germinating in the gravel a little bit. But I've also put the gravel down with no weed fabric and I don't really think I get that many more weeds. The weeds come from the top I think. I don't know. I'm just splitting hairs and making it more complicated than I need to but if you guys have any thoughts that I might have overlooked I'd love to hear them. Thanks.

I have a few gravel and rock areas in my garden and they are all laid straight onto the ground, occasionally a weed will pop its head up and I find they are easier to pull out if there is no weed matting. The weed roots seem to use weed matting as an anchor to attach themselves......If I can't pull it out then obviously a little squirt of glyphosate does the trick........Some people say the matting stops gravel from dissapearing into the soil but I haven't found this to be the case in my situation.

Edited by Tropicgardener
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Weed fabric is really a misnomer as it does not control most weeds. Most weed seeds are wind blown or dropped by birds or other critters and germinate relatively high in your soil/groundcover profile. It does prevent some suckering weeds, but not many. What the fabric is really good for is keeping the gravel and the underlying soil from mixing. Gravel, without weed fabric, settles into the soil and provides weeds an even better place to germinate. My advice is to use the best geo textile your budget can afford and lay it out with at least 3" of gravel cover. To control weeds, use both pre-emergent herbicide and post emergent herbicide.

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Matt:

I agree with Jerry. Except I use wood chips which are supposed to, and do, rot.

That said, I've found that deep enough chips keeps the weeds well at bay and those that do appear are easy to pull.

I don't like using pre-emergent weeders, and that stuff.

My two cents' worth . . .

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I have areas where I've used weeb fabric and weeds do grow there, but not as much as if I didn't. I used it to keep the gravel from sinking into the soil. However, you have much harder soil than we do - we have sand mostly.

On a very long path in my garden I didn't use any weed barrier but about 8" of mulch. Weeds still come through but mostly from dropped seeds. Now, after a couple of years, the mulch is gone in a few spots so I have to lay more. The deeper the better - at least 6", but 8" is better.

I've found that if you can get the weeds before they seed you have better control. Last year I was not physically able to do this so this year I have lots of weeds. So this year I am pulling weeds every day! I try and get them before they seed so I won't have as big a problem next year.

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Matty,

I have Weed fabric in my greenhouse. Potted plants sitting on it roots go right thru it! Thats why you will see containered plants raised above the weed fabric on shelves or whatever so the containered plants will air prune any roots that try to leave the container. Also several kinds of weeds send roots thru the weed fabric which actually makes them hard to pull. With your paths with slope I think you would creat a slippery slope for your agreget to slide on!

What weed fabric is good for is a flooring that will allow water to drain thru it. That's all...

Save your money and don't use weed fabric!

My two cents for FREE

Randy

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Weed fabric and gravel will most likely create a slippery surface, especially if installed on an incline.

Gravel alone would be better (better still, use flat slabs of stone to avoid slippage).

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Weed fabric is really a misnomer as it does not control most weeds. Most weed seeds are wind blown or dropped by birds or other critters and germinate relatively high in your soil/groundcover profile. It does prevent some suckering weeds, but not many. What the fabric is really good for is keeping the gravel and the underlying soil from mixing. Gravel, without weed fabric, settles into the soil and provides weeds an even better place to germinate. My advice is to use the best geo textile your budget can afford and lay it out with at least 3" of gravel cover. To control weeds, use both pre-emergent herbicide and post emergent herbicide.

Jerry has made some good points here. I learned in my 30 plus years of landscaping, maintance and nursery owner, I've seen it all. The fabric does work in mainly keeping the rock and soil from mixing together over the years. Which it definitly will. Also, you will certainly get some weeds to germinate in the rock even though there's very little soil for them to germinate in, you would think. There's a cost factor in putting the fabric down and then your time. The big issue I have found is, all the extra time involved when you go to plant your plants and have to cut the fabric to plant. OR, plant everything and then try laying the cloth in between and fitting it in. Either way, lots of time and labor. And over time, the cloth will work it's way to the surface and become very unsightly.

I think if it was me, I was skip the fabric, put a good layer of rock down and control the weeds later by hand pulling and using round-up. With your dry climate, the weed problem HAS to better than ours here. Forget the cloth!

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Matt,

I generally agree with everyone, although I do like using fabric in wood chip mulched beds, especially within planter boxes etc. For rock beds, I do not use fabric. Just make sure you get at least 3" of gravel down. This seems to really cut down on the weeds in my xeric beds. I also think that without the fabric, the xeric beds retain less moisture and with the extreme heat during the day, really makes it hard for most weeds to get established. For us in FL, you really don't want too much water retention as many of succulents will just rot in the summer.

As far as fabric goes always by the thickest stuff you can get.

I try to avoid using herbicide, so I just try to use more mulch.

Are those Echinocactus spp in the third pic? Just planted a golden barrel this morning. Hopefully it won't melt this summer.

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Learn to embrace your weeds... or walk in wider paths like my friend the Hyena.. :huh:

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There is never an answer that covers 100% of all issues and California's climate and soil is about as far removed from my Florida experience as you can get. Planting in areas with fabric is a huge PITA and it does come back to the surface very so often. In our sand, you must underlay with fabric or the gravel mixes in and the sand comes to the surface. The fabric must be laid tightly down and pinned down using lots of ground staples. If you lay the fabric down in an area with little foot traffic or plants, then it is relatively problem free. If you plant in it, it means you have to clear the gravel away, cut an X or a hole in the fabric and then dig the soil out, being careful to put the soil into a bucket or something that does not dribble it onto your gravel. Then placing the plant in the hole you fill it with soil and cut away or tuck the fabric in, hoping it does not pop back up.

In Floriduh, when gravel driveways were popular, they would place a layer of compacted rock down first and then cover it with gravel. No fabric. Every so often, you would have to add more gravel to the driveway to fill in. If the soil is already compacted, maybe an underlayment of fabric is not necessary, or maybe you are willing to add more gravel every few years.

Gravel as a mulch is problematic in that it does not decompose like tree mulch. Depending on what plants you have or are near by, the gravel gets covered with leaves, dead flowers and other composting type material that forms a layer over the gravel. Before long, the gravel is completely covered. Then you have to hand pull, rake or blow this layer off, but you can never get it all. If you top it with more gravel, you might be burying your plants.

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I only use gravel in areas without canopy and only with plants that don't shed. As Jerry also mentioned, I use a leaf blower to clean out any leaf litter that manages to get in the beds. This is one of the advantages of using rocks. Flowers are the worst as they tend to melt onto the gravel and don't blow off. I still get weeds, and weeding the agave bed is about as fun as .......

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I like to use 6mil painters plastic layered below my gravel to stop weeds. :greenthumb:

IMO, weed fabric is a waste of money and effort as has been stated...

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As Jeff and Jerry stated, planting through weed cloth is a big PITA! I did that once and never again. I ended up pulling the weed cloth out. I put down weed cloth in a couple of areas - my slat houses so that I don't have weeds (or at least not too many) and in a bed around the irrigation pump and the AC unit. I put about 3" of gravel over it. For plants around the pump and AC, I used giant concrete bowls for bromeliads so I don't have to cut through the fabric.

Decomposed granite would make a good foundation for the gravel in California I would think.

Edited by palmmermaid
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Thank you for all of the replies, it was a lot more than I expected. I think you guys have me convinced to skip the fabric this time.

I've seen people lay down gravel and then the existing weeds pop up through the gravel. If left unweeded that new gravel driveway or planter becomes a total mess. But that's from the existing weeds that are below the gravel. From what I'm hearing, if I make sure and weed/spray anything that pops up from below then all the weeds after that will be from blowing seed, which weed fabric isn't going to stop anyways. I have lots of experience with this in newly mulched areas; you have to stay on top of your weeding for the first year to let the existing weeds cycle out, and then it's not really a problem after that. I will say that I've had no nut sedge pop up in the areas that I have layed fabric. Nut sedge is probably the worst offender as far as subsurface originating weeds.

Just to add to the discussion points:

Slipping on the slope is only a problem if you don't lay down a thick layer. I do not have problems with slipping in my other areas with gravel and weed fabric, once I finished it off.

Especially since this area will receive NO irrigation, hopefully once the rainy season ends, weeds will not be a problem.

I hate when I see the fabric pop up through the mulch or gravel. I do not want that!

My native soil is basically very fine, hard, decompossed granite, so I don't think soil and gravel mixing is going to be a problem.

OK y'all, I'm gonna skip the fabric. The area directly above this area is completely covered in weed fabric before I layed down mulched planters and gravel walks, so it'll be a good comparision.

Thanks everyone.

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I like to use 6mil painters plastic layered below my gravel to stop weeds. :greenthumb:

IMO, weed fabric is a waste of money and effort as has been stated...

Wow Bill,

I haven't seen you post in a while!

Good to know you're lurking.

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Matt ; one other issue is with the stone material itself. "gravel', that is alluvial stones harvested from a watercourse, with smooth rounded surfaces are a poor choice fory your walkway. Because of the smooth surfaces the stones will slip and slither around underfoot. A better choice woud be crushed stone, sorted to a uniform size. These tend to lock together better because of the rough edges. I use the crushed stone in my greenhouse.

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If you want to use fabric then you have to use commercial grade stuff, really thick and durable like 12ml. Not that cheap stuff you fine everywhere.

I started using builders sand last year and love it for walking on (feels good barefoot also) and if a weed does grow it pulls out really easy. But I don't have any slopping pathways except for one area and I used stone pathway. The stone I used actually is not slippery when it rains, but its expensive. I use Montana blue stone, dry weather its bluish grey, when it rains it turns dark gray.

I think crush gravel would work good for you.

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I like to use 6mil painters plastic layered below my gravel to stop weeds. :greenthumb:

IMO, weed fabric is a waste of money and effort as has been stated...

Wow Bill,

I haven't seen you post in a while!

Good to know you're lurking.

Thanks buddy, I'm still around, just no palms to play with, not much to say... We've got an 8 month old teething baby that requires all of our energy and our business has really picked up this year requiring lots of late nights. I have little free-time these days.

I just finished a teeny garden by my gate on the side of the car lot... I'll post some pics so as not to hijack Matt's thread too badly.

Think hard about that 6 mil (or thicker) plastic Matt, if weeds can't get their roots into the soil they certainly won't grow.

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I put weed fabric under my pea gravel ten years ago but didn't do it for weed prevention. I used the heavy duty fabric to keep the rocks separate from the soil, or I should say sand. I put down a few inches of sand to improve drainage, then weed fabric, then several inches of pea gravel. I don't know if the fabric was necessary, but that's what I did.

I killed all of the vegetation weeks before laying the sand, weed fabric, and gravel so I didn't expect any weeds to come from below. The walkways have had very few weeds over the years. All of them were from seed and were easy to pull as their roots had not grown into the soil through the gravel and weed fabric.

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