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Plastic As a Ground Cover

By Jack S. Waverly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Mulch is used as a common garden ground cover to eliminate weeds and maintain moisture in the soil. Plastic is used as ground cover because it's an effective mulch. Plastic as a ground cover provides greater heat-generating abilities while eliminating weed growth underneath. Plastic also lasts longer because it doesn't break down as fast as other types of mulch.


Plastic ground cover maintains higher temperatures and moisture to the ground. Eliminate weeds by denying them sunlight. The higher temperatures and moisture concentration allows plants to speed up root growth for faster establishment over the area. Soil temperatures can rise up to 6 degrees Farenheight down to a 6-inch depth in the soil, states Advance Greenhouses.


Pick a dark color for plastic ground cover. Use colors, such as black, red or olive, to produce different results in plant growth, Advance Greenhouses says. Look for plastic made with a composition of embossed high-density polyethylene as this provides flexibility for stretching the ground cover over the area.


Advance Greenhouses recommends using black plastic to boost plant productivity. Use red plastic to reflect sunlight and increase photosynthesis in plants. Use clear plastic ground cover to warm the soil. Use olive plastic mulch to combine the advantages of black and clear plastic.


Use black plastic for vegetables, vines and small fruit crops such as berries and cut flowers. Use red for larger vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and melons, Advane Greenhouses says. Use olive for transplants and small fruit crops.


The "Home Gardener's Problem Solver" recommends to watch for water evaporation where plants protrude through holes in the plastic. Periodic watering may be required in dry seasons. Break up and moisten the soil before applying the plastic. Stretch the plastic smooth over the soil surface, tucking the edges tight into the soil.