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How To Use Plastic Sheeting In The Garden: Pros & Cons

The use of plastic sheeting in the garden proves to be a useful tool for some garden crops. What advantages and disadvantages does plastic mulch sheeting provide? How many different types of polyethylene sheeting is used and how do you use them?

plastic sheeting in the garden

General Advantages of Plastic Sheeting

There’s a lot to like about using a polyethylene sheeting in the garden. For one, plastic sheeting can move your planting date at an earlier, more convenient period. Your soil moisture can retain more effectively while minimizing root damage and soil compaction. Laying plastic can mean the big difference in producing sickly green or ripe, red tomatoes, moldy or luscious strawberries, or in a good harvest of melons or none at all.

Clear Vinyl Sheets

The immediate advantage of using clear polythene sheeting is its ability to eliminate seriously annoying weeds such as onion weed, ivy, dock, rhizome grasses and other tough ones which prevent plant growth. Black plastic doesn’t allow the passing of light and it smothers the ground, exterminating the weed growth or weeds in the process. Learn more about Soil Solarization.

Clear plastic lets the sunlight pass through for optimal soil absorption. It warms up the soil for maximum mulching potential. Transparent sheets also clear out soil-borne pathogens using natural heat from the sun called solarization.

Solarization is a non-chemical method used when you need to control soil pests. The hot weather heats the soil temperature medium underneath a coating of plastic, ridding the soil from insects, disease-causing organisms and unwelcome pathogens.

When combined with the use of clear plastic sheeting, plants grow much faster and produce higher yields in the form of better blooms and healthier fruits and vegetables.

Black Plastic Sheeting

Black poly sheeting comes in many forms, but the best ones used for gardening purposes are about 4 feet wide and anywhere from 1 to 1.5 mils thick. The thickness should be more if you’re planning to use it for a number of seasons.

Plastic sheets, especially those exposed to the elements eventually wear down over time. The sheeting should also be UV resistant.

Black poly sheeting warms up vegetables and fruits exceptionally well. Those warmth-loving produce such as pumpkins, melons, strawberries, tomatoes and the like, plastic sheeting becomes quite hard to resist.

It acts as a great insulator keeping the soil warm during the day and staves off the cold during nights. Black plastic becomes an indispensable tool in keeping your plants healthy come springtime. When summer passes and the colder months come, the sheets keep your plants warm and can be used again the next spring season.

The darker sheets allow gardener’s an earlier planting time and does a wonderful job in keeping the weeds out. Like clear plastic, it also helps plants produce brighter, colorful blooms, luscious fruits and green, leafy vegetables. It reduces water consumption by promoting better soil water retention, reducing your watering needs.

Disadvantages of Plastic Sheeting

The effectiveness of garden plastic sheeting goes down when used in the cooler, coastal regions. The warmth wouldn’t be enough to get rid of the weeds. Black plastic mulch could potentially overwork and trap in the heat, scorching plants. Furthermore, crops that grow in the cool seasons such as root vegetables, peas, spinach and lettuce does much better without the use of plastic sheeting.

Long roots won’t be able to draw as much water as they need when they have plastic sheets on top. Overhead sprinklers and natural water from rain won’t effectively reach the plants bed. The contained water could also work to your disadvantage, as it will not evaporate as quickly in the open air and could make the soil soggy and create potential disease issues.

Removing The Plastic Sheeting

Over time plastic sheeting will eventually deteriorate, remove or replace with new plastic if needed.