Our customers asked us to provide tips we've learned over the years about laying fabric by machine. We thought this might be helpful to others so here they are:
- When loading your machine, be sure fabric comes off from under the roll and not from the top. Thus, when the machine starts to move, fabric comes off the bottom of the roll.
- Amount of soil that goes on fabric edges is determined by:
- How well the site is prepared,
- The tractor's speed,
- The plowshare's size, and
- The plow's depth.
The plow's depth can be regulated by extending or retracting the 3-point hitch stabilizer bar. A rule of thumb is to end up with about a 6-inch width of soil on the fabric's edge. Generally, the right amount of soil going on the fabric's edge can be satisfactorily regulated by tractor speed and plow depth.
- If planter berms are excessively high, run the tractor tire on berms before installing fabric.
- Use a can of light-colored pressurized paint to mark seedling location under the fabric instead of cutting slits from the machine seat. Paint offers these advantages:
- Fabric laying is speeded up as tractor can move at a faster pace,
- There is less chance of cutting seedlings off,
- People following the machine to cut the fabric and pull the seedlings through can cut a 6-inch "X" in the correct location so the seedlings aren't bent over by fabric edges, and
- Xs cut for seedlings can be kept small to help prevent excessive weed growth around seedlings.
- Cut Xs instead of slits at each seedling. There is less chance of bark abrasion on seedlings where Xs are used.
- Pull seedling through fabric immediately after fabric is in place. Seedlings can burn on hot days if left under fabric. Walk center of fabric to push it into planter furrow as you pull seedlings through.
- It's a good idea to run the rear tractor tire over soil at fabric's edge once mulch is in place. This helps make a tight seal between soil and fabric's edge.
- Be sure the fabric is in contact with soil around and near seedlings. If air space exists here, there's a chance for heat damage on a seedling's lower stem.
- Fabric staples are best to help anchor fabric to the soil. Using shovelfuls of earth result in weed growth on top of the fabric. We recommend a staple no more than 6 inches on either side of each seedling. On plantings with trees 6 feet or more apart, we also suggest at least one staple spaced evenly between each tree in the center of the row to help prevent wind from getting under the fabric. On sites where soil is loose, such as sandy sites, longer staples anchor better than shorter staples.
- Whenever possible, avoid laying fabric into the wind. This helps prevent fabric from billowing and consequently not laying evenly or tightly against the soil.