• Home Home

Gardener warned against using common weed-blocker for pathways: 'You will come to regret it bitterly'

"Weeds pop right through it."

"Weeds pop right through it."

Photo Credit: iStock

Ask any gardener their biggest problem, and it's likely they'll say weeds are the bane of their existence. No matter how much you try to control them, they keep sprouting. 

Many gardeners use black plastic sheets, a controversial yet effective weed blocker. However, when one Redditor in the r/gardening community asked if they should use plastic sheeting in their yard, many people warned against it. 

In their post, the OP said they had six-mil thick black plastic sheeting that they were considering covering with wood mulch in their garden pathways. They'd previously tried cardboard boxes for weed control, but they warped and deteriorated from rain, giving weeds free rein again. 

"I'd like to come up with a more sustainable solution; the plastic is very thick and seems to hold up well, but if it will cause issues in the garden beds, I'd like to avoid it. Any tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated!" the OP added. 

While plastic sheets are a common, affordable method of controlling weeds, they're not the best option. According to the gardening blog ECOgardener, thin plastic tends to deteriorate quickly, especially in harsh climates. 

Plus, having an impermeable plastic sheet over the soil prevents your plants from getting vital water, air, and nutrients. Even if you cut holes for the plants to grow through, oxygen can't reach the plant roots and soil microorganisms, as horticulturist Lee Reich wrote for the Associated Press

Not to mention, tiny bits of plastic can get trapped in the soil, adding to the millions of tons of plastic waste polluting our land and oceans. Even plastic sheeting made of recycled polyethylene — like what the OP bought — can have toxic chemicals that leach into the soil, according to a 2023 Greenpeace report.

Commenters in the gardening subreddit had a few sustainable solutions for the OP, with one writing: "Black plastic will deteriorate and hold water. Better to just lay a super thick (3") layer of wood chips, or look into a grass, slate stepping stones (with ground cover between), or crushed stone path depending on your usage and site conditions."

"If you lay down that plastic you will come to regret it bitterly. Weeds pop right through it. Chips and movement shreds it, leaving plastic bits everywhere. Use a couple of layers of cardboard, overlapping, covered with 3-5" of wood chips," another suggested.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article labeled the plastic sheeting's thickness as six-millimeter sheeting, rather than six-mil sheeting, which equates to six-thousandths of an inch. We regret the error.

Join our free newsletter for easy tips to save more, waste less, and help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider