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Question on weedmat and compost

Just Started(Sydney)
December 4, 2018
last modified: December 4, 2018

I have weedmats in the garden bed. Laid long time ago and actually buried under a bit of soil now. Whenever I have to put in a Rose I cut a small hole in and then dig a hole in soil underneath to put the plant it.


Now I want to add compost and cow manure on top of the soil every year so that overall health improves. The soil under weed mat is more on the concrete when dry clay type. So do I need to remove the weed mat? Or should I just cut open bigger hole around the plant and mound the compost and cow manure around it? Or I can just scrape away the soil on top of the mat and then pile on the compost hoping that as thing gets eaten up, some of it will make it to the soil underneath? Weed mats are porous after all.

Comments (18)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    For the compost or manure to be of any benefit at all, you must remove the weed mat!! It may be porous but if the soil beneath resembles concrete, you can see for yourself how an extended period of using a weed mat/landscape fabric will cause deterioration of soil tilth and fertility. These products are discouraged from use by just about anyone experienced in horticulture except as a base mat for hardscaping. They do not work well for weed control in the first place and just make garden life difficult going forward.

  • Just Started(Sydney)

    Groan. More work now to remove the weedmat.

    Funny that I always read good things about weedmat. But anyways I will work on it. It is more than 20 yrs old and at places quite a bit deep in soil.

  • BenT (8a Dallas, TX)

    Agree with Gardengal. The soil below the weedmat becomes dense and compacted robbing the roses of air and nutrition. Meanwhile, the compost and manure decomposes on top of it and supports a very healthy layer of weeds. I cynically think it’s called weedmat because it encourages weeds, rather than prevent them.

  • Karen R. (9B SF Bay Area)

    Maybe that's why they call it a weedmat? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 9a)

    I use a lot of compost from our farm animals etc. I use cardboard as weed barriers..I hate pulling weeds so much! The cardboard does have to be replaced here yearly due to our extreme wet summers, it breaks down after a year or so. So you can lay down your compost and work it into the soil, then plant your plants then lay down the cardboard. Every spring I just add more compost and by then the old cardboard had broken down so I layer more on top.

    You can get big sheets of cardboard or used boxes free from some Sams Clubs etc.

    The sheets of cardboard come from between the cases of water, or other bottled drinks. The milk cases sometimes also have cardboard sheets that already have holes in them from the milk bottles..all ready for planting lol. I like to use these for planting veggies etc.


    I use other used boxes for disposable nest boxes for my chickens.

  • rifis (zone 6b-7a NJ)

    You say you have weed mats in the garden bed, though you don't say who put them in.


    We are left simply with "mistakes were made".


    What were the sources of your gardening reading material? Thoughts as to why experiences such as what you yourself describe in this discussion did not appear in your prior readings? Do you believe weed mat manufacturers had a hand in what you read?


    Is the soil above your weed mats largely free of weeds?



  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw

    I personally dislike the weed cloth

    I still get weeds and it is a pain to try to stick plants/solar lights in to the ground.

    The previous owner even used black plastic as weed barrier .I still get a ton of surface weeds it compacts the soil.

    I know it is a pain but I would start removing an area at a time.

  • titian1 10b Sydney

    Just Started, I had weedmat in an area in this house when I bought it too. Awful stuff! I had the same problem as you. The soil under it was just as you describe, and it was so hard to get rid of. I used a Stanley knife.

    I tried cardboard, and also layers of newspaper, in another area, and topped it with cane straw. This clearly works fine for sjn, but we didn't get much rain after. I did water the area, but both the cardboard and newspaper became impenetrable to water, even though I had soaked them first. I seem to remember that roseseek also had this problem. Also, onion weed survived this treatment. I've found the only way to get rid of onion weed (if that's a problem for you), is to paint it with full strength glysophate. I'm told turps works too. I tried digging it out originally, but just succeeded in spreading the darn stuff.

    This year I have put down pine bark fines, or rather, the gardener I recently hired, did. He reckons that's the best mulch. He says it needs topping up every 18 months or couple of years, but it conditions the soil well.

  • oldrosarian

    Any type of material laid over the soil will make worms, good bacteria, leave the area as they can't survive. You need them to break down your fertilizer into a source the rose roots can take up and use.

  • Just Started(Sydney)

    @rifis It was a rental property before we bought it. Kind of inherited it.


    I will start in bits and pieces. Pulling it out around the roses gradually and increasing the area of slowly.


    Weeds are there but I guess not so much. I think it does have a place in rental property where the tenants are least bothered about garden.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Actually, just a good layer of plain old mulch will work just as well as any weed mat or landscape fabric for suppressing weeds. And is much kinder to your soil and your plants as well. IMO, the fabric has NO place in a garden, rental property or not!!

    Just Started(Sydney) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw

    I tried newspaper last year and got it really soaking wet and then in the Spring there it still was

    It didnt break down one bit and and I spent the rest of the Spring pulling out nasty newspaper

    I just add compost and some
    Pine needles or something that will break down but the newspaper the cardboard are a lot of work for not much result


    Just Started(Sydney) thanked Kristine LeGault 8a pnw
  • annpat

    I love using a newspaper mulch! Kristine, a newspaper mulch is not supposed to break down. It's a mulch. It will break down, of course, but you don't strive for that when you apply it. You strive for it to remain intact as long as possible. When mine breaks down, I reapply it, as I do all my mulches.

  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw

    Annpat, I am such a dork. I thought that newspaper would be all disolved. I learned something new today, thanks!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Sorry to disagree but of course newspaper will break down and eventually 'dissolve' (actually, it decomposes, as does any other wood based product). How quickly it may do that will depend on the thickness of the layer of newspaper used, how damp it is kept and temperatures.. In the PNW, I would not expect a newspaper mulch to retain its integrity any longer than 6 months........and that's if you used a very thick layer. Typically it would be broken down even more rapidly.

  • annpat

    Yes, I didn't phrase that well. I just meant that, while a newspaper mulch breaks down, that's not necessarily your goal. Your goal---Maybe I should say my goal---is to maintain a mulch layer. So when my bottom layer of mulch---my newspaper layer---decomposes, I may (or I may not) replace it. I spot mulch my yard continuoulsy---starting in areas of greatest need---using various mulches as they come to hand. If a weed comes through my wood chip paths, I'll claw the wood chips away, throw down some newspaper and recover with the upper, more attractive than newspaper mulch. My newspaper layers here in Maine will typically last a year. I don't maintain a newspaper (or other paper) mulch everywhere, but I often resort to it in problem areas. My primary mulch is usually a thick layer of compost, but if weeds persist, I pull out the big guns---paper or old natural fiber clothing.

  • toxcrusadr

    "Any type of material laid over the soil will make worms, good bacteria, leave the area as they can't survive."


    I hope 'material' in this statement meant 'fabric'. I would agree at least somewhat, in that case. Although if it is porous it does not exclude water and air so there is no reason that any existing life there would leave. BUT having said that, it does prevent the natural incorporation into the soil of any organic matter added as mulch or top dressing - i.e. the tilling action of worms, freeze/thaw cycles, etc. I'd say it prevents improvement of the soil beneath more than making it worse than it was. In any case, weed fabric is still bad, I'm just nitpicking how and why. :-D

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