safe material to create weed free paths in a vegetable garden

Asked April 6, 2020, 11:49 PM EDT

Hello, At the 2019 Insights into Gardening, one of the presenters talked about research on using weed fabric in a vegetable garden. It kept the weeds away but rodents scurried under the fabric. Would an animal bedding work as a weed barrier? If so, what product would be best? Sawdust, cedar shavings (probably not), straw, corn cob, aspen shavings? Or something else? Thanks for your time!

Benton County Oregon

1 Response

Hi there. Weed fabric is effective weed control in a vegetable garden setting, I have seen it mostly in between garden beds although it can be used in a veggie row and holes cut and veggies planted through the fabric. Anything that blocks the sun will inhibit weed growth so whatever you select to use must be deep enough to block sunlight. I have seen many materials used on pathways in veggie gardens, wood chips, bark mulch, leaves, filbert shells, and gravel come to mind. The ones you mention could also work but I would hesitate to use corn cobs as they would not be easy to walk on and use of a garden cart or wheelbarrow would be more difficult to use. How your garden is set up also comes into the equation. I have two rows of 4x10 foot raised beds with wooden frames. I have grass in between them. I sometimes get grass sneaking in under the wood into the beds. The grass in between the beds is easier to mow than pulling weeds constantly. It comes down to personal preferences and the depth of your pocketbook. You can often get free leaves all the way up to gravel which is the most expensive and the most labor intensive to install. Organic materials will break down and need replacement or additions so you should take this into account when selecting one for use. You also need to identify the rodents that you have issues with. Unfortunately, there are multiple culprits that it could be, ground squirrels, mice, voles, and rats come to mind. Once you know what they are it will be easier to figure out how to make your garden less attractive to them.