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As a founding employee of Gardener's Supply, I wore many different hats over the years. Currently, I have my own company called Johnnie Brook Creative. The gardens around my home in Richmond, VT, include a large vegetable garden, seasonal greenhouse, cutting garden, perennial gardens, rock garden, shade garden, berry plantings, lots of container plants and a meadow garden. There's no place I'd rather be than in the garden.
Early June in my "sweepable" cutting garden.
When possible, overlap the fabric to avoid any unnecessary cuts. Tuck the edges under, giving yourself a 5″ or 6″ hem, and anchor securely on ends and sides to prevent fraying.
It was almost 10 years ago that I began to realize I'd created more gardens than I could handle. Feeling like something had to go, it was the cutting garden that seemed the most expendable. Because it was filled annuals, in addition to the usual maintenance tasks I also needed to start hundreds of seedlings, prep the beds each spring, replant the whole garden and then clean it all out again at the end of the season.
So I decided to turn the area back to lawn, which would be easier for me because I rarely do the mowing). But, as the season went on, the area never got reseeded. I found that I missed the bouquets and having all that floral abundance around — especially in late summer and fall. Most of all I missed my zinnias.
So the next spring I turned what had become a big weed patch back into a cutting garden — with one big innovation. I would never spend another minute weeding the paths.
I started by making the paths wider than they had been. Planting edge to edge in the beds meant that late in the season, the old paths always became too narrow. Now there's more room to get around comfortably, and the plants appreciate the improved air circulation.
Next, I covered the pathways with a professional-grade weed-proof fabric. Pro Weed Mat is made of woven polypropylene. It's the exact same material used in many commercial nurseries. The 3-foot width was perfect for my wider paths. The edges and ends are anchored to the soil with Earth Staples, at about 3-foot intervals.
After five years of use, the original fabric was still in great shape — even though it had been in place, uncovered and exposed to the elements all year around. Occasionally I've had to reposition the Earth Staples, when winter winds have pulled at the edges. And you need to carefully fold under and secure any cut edges to keep them from fraying. That's it.
What I love best, other than the fact I never have to pull a single weed from the paths, is that I can clean up the garden with a push broom. Soil and any garden debris that winds up in the pathways just gets swept to one end of the row and onto the grass. Wow, huh?
Oh, one other thing. Slugs and snails seem to love hanging out on the matting. Great for me. Not so good for them.
Last updated: 10/24/15
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