Weed Barrier May Be Choking Your Trees

Weed Barrier
November 2, 2020

Many landowners who plant windbreaks also install weed barrier fabric. The black bio-degradable barrier eliminates the need for mechanical or chemical weed control between and around the trees. Supplemental water and natural rainfall are also held in the soil longer when the weed barrier is installed.

Although there are benefits to installing the polypropylene fabric, it may be choking larger trees, 10 to 15 years old, according to District Forester, Jorden Smith. The black plastic doesn’t bio-degrade as fast as necessary when trees grow at a fast rate and quickly shade the material from UV rays. The base of the tree may end up being girdled or choked. Smith says, “Producers should inspect older trees and cut the opening around the base of the trees larger as the trees mature.”

He recommends, when possible, coming in when a tree planting is 4 to 5 years old and cutting the opening larger to prevent girdling. When the trees are 4 to 5 years old usually they area well established and can shade out weeds that would have competed for moisture in the early years of the tree planting. Therefore, it is a good time to enlarge the opening in the weed barrier to allow unrestricted growth.

There are many ways to cut the barrier away from the trees. A utility knife works well for enlarging the openings around hardwood trees where access to the trunk is not restricted by limbs. If you are working with conifers it may be more difficult to get close to the trunk to remove the weed barrier. Brush knives and sawed knives can typically be purchased at home improvement or farm stores.

For more information contact the LCNRD at (402) 254-6758.

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