Removing old, ingrown plastic mulch fabric

Many years ago (6-12), before I knew that one had to lift the woven weed barrier fabric every year, I put a square of heavy duty woven weed barrier around each fruit tree as I planted it. It actually worked well at first, keeping the grass and weeds out and the trees had a much higher survival rate than before I started doing that.

Well these many years later the weeds and grasses have grown over the weed fabric. I am getting some loads of chipped trees, and wanted to put that around my trees but am not sure what to do with this old fabric. I did an experiment today, pulling the fabric out on a tree which was planted just 6 years ago (a replacement tree). It took about 45 mins to tear out most of the fabric (originally a 4’x4’ square). A fair amount of work and not much fun, but I could do it for the roughly 1/2 of the trees which are this age. The other half are 10-12 year old trees and there just is too much soil built up from mulch over the years to try and remove the fabric there.

So I thought I would gather opinions about what to do about this old fabric. One option I suppose is to ignore it and just put the wood chip mulch over everything. I could pull it for the newer trees and perhaps that is best, but what about the older trees? The fabric is pretty well grown into the soil at this point and doesn’t seem to be hurting anything.

Thoughts? Any clever ideas on how to pull up the fabric after it has grown into the weeds/soil?

No clever ideas but had to laugh when the thought of a rototiller came to mind. Now that would be a mess.

I’d just put chips right over it and relax…or suck it up with that rototiller…!! Maybe you could burn it off the blades.

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I’d try going at it with a cheap bread knife. Or you can set a new layer under the new chips to kill all the weeds and it should be easier to get up the bottom layer in the fall…

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Thanks. Yes fruitnut, A tiller would be a messy job, probably spend more time untangling the tines than tilling…

Thanks Hoosierbanana, that is a good idea. A summer under thick mulch should weaken those grass roots some, although raking away all the new mulch might be almost as much work.

Perhaps you could work a length of rope or pipe beneath it and, with action on that, have the mass on top of the fabric help destroy or free it.

I’m with Hoosier or Fruitnut. At least the plastic is staying put! Could be polluting an ocean right now.

No need to pull it up at the end of the season either, if it’s easier, try it after two seasons. Best not to mess with the apple roots in mid-spring. Deal with the issue in late fall or early spring if you decide it’s worth the effort. The fine roots near the surface are the most productive on the tree in spring and do much of their regeneration then, with apples.

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Thanks to all.

I will opt for just covering it for now. Not only is that the easiest solution, it may make it easier to remove in the fall, which as Alan points out is a better time to me messing around with the roots anyhow (love it when the easy solution is the best too :wink: )

Will revisit this in the fall to see if this fabric comes out any easier then.