Anyone who shops Queen Bean Coffee knows we love our burlap, and today, we are sharing some of our favorite ways to use burlap in the garden. A quick note before we start, we only recommend using natural burlap in the garden. Natural is burlap is made from jute, hemp, or flax. Synthetic burlap, which is also widely available, is made from plastic or propylene yarn and lacks the breathability of natural burlap. If you aren’t sure if your burlap is natural or synthetic, give it a burn test by burning a small piece of the fabric. If the fabric burns like a natural fiber, dried plant, or like paper (i.e., straight down with no smell), it is natural. If the fabric burns like plastic (i.e., it begins to curl, twist, and release a chemical smell), it is synthetic.
Frost, pest, and sun protection
Naturally high tensile in strength, durable, and breathable, burlap sacks can easily be transformed into wonderfully protective wraps and tarps for almost anything that grows in your garden. Exceptionally sturdy and loosely woven, burlap allows in everything a plant or flower needs to survive while protecting the plant from elements that could harm it, particularly intense sun and frost. In the summer, strategically placed burlap sunshades can be used to protect young and vulnerable plants from scorching in the intense sun. In the winter, these same shades can be repurposed into a frost-resistant covering for your plants, bushes, shrubs, flower beds, and vegetable patches. When covered properly, a burlap wrap creates a stable, moisture-controlled environment for your greenery by allowing enough sun and water to reach the plant while preventing cool air from reaching the moisture on the plant and creating frost (burlap essentially wicks water away from its surface). As an added bonus, burlap coverings deter peckish rabbits, deer, mice, and other pests from nibbling on your much-loved edibles.
Constructing a sunshade: To construct a burlap sunshade, you’ll need a sheet of burlap (old burlap coffee sacks can easily be cut along the seam to make one very large shade or two medium-sized shades), sturdy wooden sticks or poles, and a means of securing the burlap to the sticks / poles, such as flexible wire or a staple gun. If you are using burlap to protect root vegetables, place a single layer of burlap directly over your plants and secure the burlap with u-shaped pegs.
Protecting your garden from frost: There are many ways to use burlap as a garden shield against frost. If you are protecting more than one plant / bush, you may want to create a burlap tent around the area in need of protection. To do so, encircle the area in need of protection with sticks / poles firmly placed in the ground and then connect the sticks using pieces of burlap. For best results, leave an inch or two between your plant and the burlap. To cover individual plants / bushes, arrange your sticks in a teepee-like formation around your bush, ensuring that the sticks do not touch the bush, and then wrap a single layer of burlap around the teepee structure before securing the sticks and burlap with some rope or wire. If you are covering a hardier bush, such as a rose bush, you can delicately wrap the burlap directly around the bush.
Another great way to repurpose burlap in your garden is as a planter. Those of you who visit garden shops or peruse garden magazines have probably seen cute burlap planters — and we can confirm that these planters are as functional as they are attractive! Naturally strong and breathable, burlap prevents roots from extending beyond the root ball and offers excellent drainage, making it a wonderful home for flowers, fruits, and vegetables. If you aren’t in need of a planter but are in need of drainage hole soil-seep stoppers, stuff the drainage hole with a small piece of burlap. The burlap stop prevents soil from seeping out of the planter when watered while allowing excess water to easily drain out.
Create a decorative planter: When using burlap as a decorative planter for flowers, it is best to place a protective layer on the base of the planter, such as a coconut liner, to protect the burlap from accelerated decomposition. Properly cared for, burlap planters can last 10+ years1. To create a decorative planter, place your liner (if using one), soil, and plants into a burlap sack or the center of your piece of burlap, pull up the sides of the plant until the soil is fully contained within, and loosely tie a rope around the top.
Grow potatoes: Delicious potatoes are surprisingly easy to grow and thrive when tossed into a tall burlap sack with some soil. To learn more about growing potatoes in burlap, including some times-tested tips, click here.
Grow tomatoes: As with potatoes, tomatoes are also well-suited to growing in burlap… even upside down! Again all you need is a small piece of burlap (one burlap sack should make four tomato plants), soil, a young tomato plant, and string. To learn more, click here.
Temporary mulch and more!
Creating a weed barrier: While plants and bushes may benefit from, or even thrive, with a burlap buffer, weeds most certainly do not. Burlap bars weed seeds from making contact with the soil, creating is a fabulous natural weed blocker. To create a burlap weed shield, lay a single layer of burlap directly onto freshly dug beds and then cut slits in the burlap wherever you intend to plant a plant or flower. To ensure the burlap stays put, it is best to either pin the burlap into the earth with u-shaped pegs and / or cover the burlap with a layer of decorative mulch.
Containing the root ball of young trees: As mentioned earlier, wrapping burlap around the root ball of a plant, bush, or tree is a wonderful way to contain and protect the rootball. To wrap a root ball, cut a burlap square roughly four-times the area of the root ball’s base, place the plant in the center of the burlap square, fold the square around the ball, and then tie the ends of the burlap with rope or secure the burlap onto the ball with wire netting. While this practice is most often used when preparing plants for sale, it also comes in very handy when storing or transporting plants.
Store your root vegetables: Burlap sacks make are a nice, dry, dark, moisture-free place to store root vegetables post-harvest. Depending on the vegetable, either place the vegetables directly into the sack and fold over the top to keep it sealed, or add sand to the sack and burry your vegetables in the sand. Both methods should protect and prolong the life of your winter veggies.
To read more on using coffee in your garden or burlap in your home, please visit the following entries.