Can Tarps Be Used to Stop Weeds in a Garden?

Gardening is not only the best way to have fresh produce for most of the year, but it’s also a good form of exercise. As you get to work pushing around a wheelbarrow, using a shovel to turn over dirt, walking the rows between plants, and pulling weeds, you’re working your muscles. The larger the garden, the more exercise you get.

You’re working full-time and want to have a garden, but you don’t have time to invest in a lot of weeding. Can tarps be used to stop weeds in your backyard garden?

You’ve Heard of Landscape Fabric, Right?

Landscape fabric is a pliable black fabric that blocks the sun but allows water to pass. By blocking the sun, weeds don’t grow as easily. The problem is that landscape fabric is thin, and larger weeds usually find a way to rip through the fabric and grow anyway.

You want something that blocks the sun from weeds, but it has to be durable. Have you considered a tarp for your garden?

A tarp can block the sun and keep weeds from growing. You have to be careful, though. Most tarps don’t allow air to flow, so they can also keep your plants from thriving if you cover them with tarps. Use them to cover the walking paths instead and weed around your plants. This is easier than you might think.

Check out our line of Slip and Slide vinyl tarps at Chicago Canvas & Supply. They come in sizes as small as 5 by 20′. You can also order them in custom sizes. These tarps are durable and stand up to abrasion. Lay them out to cover the entire garden space, but leave a small gap between each tarp for planting. Use bricks, rocks, or tent stakes to hold them down if it’s windy in your area.

When you plant your seeds or seedlings, you want to plant in the space between each tarp. For example, you have a 20 by 20′ garden space and have four 5 by 20′ tarps. You’d plant seeds on one side of the first tarp. From there, plant on the other side of the tarp, the other side of the second tarp, the other side of the third tarp, and the other side of the fourth tarp. You have your weed barrier tarp down, water still reaches the plants, and you don’t have to cut holes for planting.

Vinyl is waterproof, so you want to watch for puddling under produce that’s growing. If you let a cucumber or zucchini sit for days in a puddle, it may cause the vegetables to start rotting. Prevent this by going out after a storm and using your hand to move the water to the plants.

For weed-blocking garden tarps, it’s hard to beat vinyl tarps. They’re designed for use in the sun and have no problems standing up to the heaviest rainstorm.

Iron Horse is a Great Alternative to Vinyl

Vinyl is waterproof, but there are other types of tarps in custom sizes. Order the dimensions you need to cover your entire garden. Here are some of the best garden tarps.

Iron Horse is a breathable tarp that’s completely waterproof. Because it’s breathable, the soil under the tarp is exposed to the oxygen in the air. That benefits your plants. It’s called Iron Horse for a reason. It stands up to heavy use and isn’t going to let weeds break through the fabric. Use it in the same way you would use a vinyl tarp. Leave a small space between the tarp rows for planting. Again, watch for puddles that may ruin your growing crops.

There are cheaper tarps if you’re on a tight budget, but be careful with this. You’ve probably seen blue poly tarps in area discount stores. Before you purchase a lightweight poly tarp for your garden, remember that it’s not designed to last forever. When it’s in contact with damp soil all day, it will break down faster. Instead of buying a new tarp each year, a vinyl tarp or Iron Horse tarp can last an entire decade with proper care. You may pay more upfront, but you’re replacing it less often, which saves a lot of money over time. That’s why it’s best to choose vinyl or Iron Horse.

Other Ways Tarps Are Helpful for Gardening

Have you ever heard of a lasagna garden? Instead of digging out a garden bed and using a rototiller to turn the soil, a lasagna garden is built from the ground up in layers. You start with a layer of wet cardboard. On top of that, layer grass clippings, manure, compost, garden soil, wet newspapers, etc. Keep building it in layers until it’s about a foot high.

Ideally, do this in early fall so that you have time for the materials to break down before spring planting. Once you have your layers in place, cover the entire thing with a black, waterproof tarp. You want black to attract the sun and warm the compostable materials as much as possible. That helps break them down. The black also keeps sunlight from helping the weeds to grow. An Iron Horse polyester tarp is heavy, strong, and waterproof. But, it allows air to pass, which aids with composting.

Weeds are just one of the nuisances that come with gardening. How many insects do you fight each year? Do you lose cabbages to cabbage moths? Do squash beetles destroy your zucchini crops? Are animals stealing your ripened cherry tomatoes and berries? Vinyl mesh tarps can keep insect pests away. Line stakes down the center of your garden and form a vinyl mesh tarp tent over your plants.

The benefits to mesh tarp are that water and some sun pass through the holes, but the mesh is too tiny for insects to get through to lay eggs. Use rocks, bricks, or tent stakes to secure the edges to the ground to keep insects from reaching your plants. Fold the tarp back when you need to harvest.

Tips for End of the Season Clean-Up

At the end of the growing season, tarps need to be cleaned and stored to help extend their life. Spray all garden soil, seeds, and plant matter from both sides of the tarp and hang it on a laundry line until it’s completely dry.

Once it’s dry, fold it up and tuck it into a plastic storage container. That keeps mice from chewing it up for nesting materials. How do you fold a garden tarp? Fold the tarp in half. Fold it in half again. Keep folding it until you have a strip that’s about a foot wide. Start at the edge of that strip and fold inward in small squares until you’re left with a compact square that fits in your storage container.

If you started a lasagna garden, you can pull the dead plants out and lay them on top to compost. Add more cardboard, grass, manure, and wet newspapers before replacing the tarp for the winter.

Gardening Still Takes Work

Even with the best tarp to block weeds, you still need to invest time weeding around your plants. You don’t want to have any weeds that grow, taking vital nutrients and water from your vegetables and fruits. A tarp does cut down the amount of work you’ll spend weeding.

Give our experts a call or reach out to us online. Chicago Canvas has decades of experience using tarps for every project you could imagine. From your vegetable gardens to weed control in a flower bed, we’ll discuss the best garden tarps and help you order the custom size you need.