One danger of sitting dormant all winter long, then springing into action in April or May as you try to get garden going, is that you will strain your back. In fact, back pain is one of the most common pests to plague gardeners. One reason for the growth of back pain in the spring is that gardeners' backs are not used to the strain, and when they go to pull weeds, they pull their back muscles instead. If you want to avoid the risk of back pain, you should reduce the need to weed in the first place. This is where using landscaping fabric comes into play.
What Is Landscaping Fabric?
Landscaping fabric, also called weed mat, is a thin piece of synthetic fabric which is designed not to degrade when exposed to water, insects, fungi, or other agents that can promote decomposition. Weed mat should be porous enough to allow water to soak through and carry nutrients to the roots of your plants, but the weave should be tight enough to prevent seeds from taking root or to prevent any seeds buried beneath the mat to send up shoots. Thus, it will contribute to the growth of beneficial plants while deterring the growth of unwanted plants.
How to Install Weed Mat
The best time to install weed mat is before you transplant shrubs or other plants. Use the following steps to install your landscaping fabric:
1. Level your flowerbeds so that the weed mat can lay flat.
2. Set a roll of weed mat at the edge of your flower bed and use landscaping staples to stake down the end of the fabric.
3. Roll out the landscaping fabric until you reach the end of your bed. Cut the fabric with landscaping shears or a utility knife.
4. If you have an irregularly shaped bed, you can use the same shears or knife to cut the edge of the fabric to match the shape of the bed.
5. Roll out more fabric as needed. Make sure the edges of the fabric overlap at least two inches and stake down the seam.
How to Plant in Weed Mat
Once your fabric is in place, you are ready to begin planting. Cut an "x" into the fabric wherever you want to plant. You can then peel back the fabric to expose the earth beneath. Use a gardening trowel to dig a hole. Place the dirt from the hole in a bucket instead of on top of the fabric. Remove the root bulb from its packaging, break up the bottom of the bulb, place it in the hole, and backfill as needed. Fold the fabric back into place around the plant and stake it down. Repeat this process for your remaining plantings.
Weed mat is not very attractive, so you will want to cover it with mulch or landscaping gravel. Mulch will help to retain moisture and thus decrease the need for watering, but gravel can make an attractive choice if you are so inclined. Once your weed mat is in place, you should not have to worry about weeds cluttering your flower bed or the back strain involved in pulling stubborn weeds.