All Things Gardening forum: Weed block and mulch

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Name: Mike Keough
San Francisco, CA. (Zone 10a)
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putitupmike
Jun 8, 2014 5:46 PM CST
I live in San Francisco. Neighbors do not care for their backyards so there is a lot of wind borne critters, aphids, and seeds. It is impossible to keep weeds from starting and due to limited time I decided to install weed block and cover it with mulch. Directions for weed block are to get the fabric pretty darned close to the base of the plant. Mulch says soak for 24 hours. Done em both as best I can, so the block is kinda tight and the first bag of mulch now weighs a ton. I noticed that the water in the mulch is pooling and is not soaking through the fabric. My question is how the heck do I water? Some of my plants are real drinkers, like the Artichoke. Is the bulk of the water just going to sit on top of the fabric... forever?
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Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jun 8, 2014 6:22 PM CST
I have never used weed block fabric, and never will, I hate the stuff. But, many people use it, so people have different opinions of it than I do. My neighbor just gave me several hostas she had for over seven years, they were the size of one year old plants, and they had never multiplied. When I dug up the plants the weed fabric had prevented the roots from growing more than a quarter of an inch deep,
I can't imagine trying to put that stuff down with plants already established, that has to be a nightmare. If it was not put down before the plants where planted then I just don't see it being feasible to use at all.
It is suppose to block the weeds and let the water pass though, but you see how well that is working, how about when the dirt and mulch wash on top of it and the weeds start growing? It is a mess, even with mulch on top, the weed seeds will still germinate in the mulch. Trying to fertilize the plants will be a problem, don't know how earth worms will do, I didn't see a one while working in my neighbors yard that has the weed fabric in the beds.
Sorry, I am of no help, but you followed the instructions, and that is about all you can do.
Found this article that answered a few of my questions and reinforced my opinion of weed fabric, but said it much better than I can.
http://www.northcoastgardening.com/2010/10/why-i-hate-landsc...
[Last edited by Seedfork - Jun 8, 2014 7:19 PM (+)]
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 9, 2014 7:10 AM CST
Hi Mike -- sorry to say this, but I totally agree with Seedfork about the landscape fabric! Every time I've tried to use it all I ended up with was a mess, with weeds on top of the weed block. The water should go through the stuff... but it apparently isn't going through very quickly for you. Since you already have it down, for watering and fertilizing you might want to try some of the things that screw onto a big soda bottle and can be poked down into the ground to get water near the roots of a plant. That way you'd only need to make a relatively small hole to push it through to the dirt. (I'll go look for a link to what I'm talking about, since my description probably is about as clear as mud if you don't already know what they are)

At any rate, hope the weed block works better for you than the experience Seedfork and I have had -- I know landscapers use it all the time, and it certainly SEEMS like a good idea...

Rolling my eyes.

Here's the link --

http://www.gardeners.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Gardeners...
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[Last edited by Weedwhacker - Jun 9, 2014 7:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jun 9, 2014 7:49 AM CST
I agree! I've seen also, it's not appropriate in a bed. It doesn't do any of the things it claims it can/will, and eventually causes more harm than good. It will hinder desirable plants in various ways, and weeds can/will grow on top of it just fine.

Your plants are lovely, but looking at that stuff on the ground is really detracting from their beauty.

I would strongly encourage you to take that stuff up before it gets any more difficult to do. Putting cardboard under mulch is a much more effective method, which will smother existing weeds, then decompose (adding some nutrients to the soil,) doesn't hinder growth of desirable plants, quite the opposite. To maintain, add more mulch as the old decomposes.

Once you gain control of the weeds by killing the existing ones - which looks like a feat already accomplished from your pics, then pulling any new sprouts before they are difficult to do (and well before they are mature enough to drop more seeds in your beds,) control is not difficult to maintain. I gardened downwind of this for years, but it wasn't hard to maintain control by patrolling every-other-week or so for a few minutes, pulling anything sprouting. This pic a couple years before it got REALLY out of control from being abandoned.

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Name: Mike Keough
San Francisco, CA. (Zone 10a)
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putitupmike
Jun 9, 2014 11:08 AM CST
It comes up today. Lesson learned, and honestly I totally forgot about the Health of the soil. Earthworms roam the entire yard and I would not want to hurt them. I thank you for the posts. Should have occurred to me to ask this forum BEFORE I put it down.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jun 9, 2014 12:35 PM CST
I feel your pain, I've ripped up my share of that stuff. Mike, I think you'll be so happy with the results!

When you take a break, I hope you might find as much relevant info in this brief lecture as I did. The agricultural stuff applies very little since when I do edibles, they are injected between the shrubs and other perennials, but the other parts about soil are so well said and explained. I've seen this in action in so many new beds started over the years in both OH clay and sandy AL ground, doing it for decades.

http://permaculturenews.org/2013/09/20/soil-not-dirt-dr-elai...

If you add it (organic material to the surface,) they (the worms and other soil dwellers) will come.

Whatever you have, whenever you have it, a variety provides more nutrients for soil and plants. To have a great garden, you have to work on having great soil. Not hard work, just periodically adding stuff to beds, spread around so it's not a clump of anything in 1 place, like leaves, pine needles, compost, cut grass that has no seeds in it, 'mulchy looking' kitchen scraps (icky stuff can be kind of buried between plants, under the existing mulch,) small trimmings from plants, weeds pulled before they make seeds (lay them roots-up in the sun)... and of course, more actual mulch - if you find you need to buy it. I sometimes do, to get started in a new area, but then try to make use of whatever comes around.



๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Jun 10, 2014 9:06 AM CST
I have also had the bad experience with landscape cloth in beds. But, it does work well as a barrier for paths - I laid it down over bare dirt then covered with about 4-6" of shredded bark. The weeds eventually do grow in the top portion of the bark, but they are easy to pull because the roots kind of spread out when they hit the landscape cloth. So, kind of using it in reverse. Better than throwing it away.
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Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Jun 10, 2014 11:33 AM CST
Same here deb, only use it for paths. I did use it once with success in the veggie garden for broccoli/cabbage. But didn't like it enough to use that way again.
Name: Mike Keough
San Francisco, CA. (Zone 10a)
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putitupmike
Jun 10, 2014 12:23 PM CST
Weed block gone, mulch installed. Watered the heck out of it yesterday spraying at the base of each plant. This morning when I walked that part of the garden I found that a lot of the water just traveled to the walkway. We are in drought conditions and have to cut our use of water by 20% this year. I thought using mulch would save water, but not it is just running away from the plants. The mulch is kinda tight to the base of the plants as photo will show. How do I water efficiently? Do I expose more plant base so that water can soak in. I guess I need to set up my hose to just drip and plan on moving the hose end every ten minutes or so.
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Jun 10, 2014 12:46 PM CST
When soil is very dry, it can be difficult to get water to soak in deeply. The dripping idea is good. As you've seen, if you apply water more quickly than it can soak in, it will run sideways.

You can cut the bottoms off of plastic jugs, like a 2-liter bottle, put a hole in the cap, and insert in a hole next to each plant, or centralized spots between plants. Fill them up and it will take time to drip out through the tiny holes, starting already several inches underground much less likely for water to escape sideways.

Putting something extremely juicy, like watermelon rind, at the base of a thirsty plant will release its' moisture over the course of a day or few, depending on how long it takes the heat to 'melt' it. Usually just a day here, but I know SF is cooler. Bury just enough so you don't start a condo complex of fruit flies. The ground needs to 'get' moist before mulch can help keep it moist. If there is no humus - particles that are organic and moisture retentive, moisture can't stay in the soil long.

I would encourage you to keep adding whatever organic matter your 'property' has, especially kitchen scraps. Instead of the work (and wait) of composting first, they can be slightly buried right in the garden. That will also help hold moisture, and help you begin to develop a population of soil-dwelling microbes that really do all of the hard work in gardening. A spot that hasn't had previous mulch doesn't already have a population of decomposing organisms, and mulch is all brown, so it can take a while to decompose without adding some greenery to it.

Browns + greens = humus, compost, fertility, the part of dirt that's not sand, silt, rock, or clay.
Browns = dry leaves, shredded wood, bark, paper, pine needles, generally not moisture retentive.
Greens = kitchen produce scraps, anything trimmed off of plants while green, nitrogen, generally moisture retentive.

It sounds like it's going to take a long time, but it really depends on the amount of organic matter you can add to the surface (including slightly buried,) and what's already going on there regarding microscopic life in the soil, if anything at this point. You can greatly accelerate the process.
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ‘’โ˜€๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒทโš˜๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿก๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿโฆโง ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒฒ
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Jun 10, 2014 12:48 PM (+)]
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Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jun 10, 2014 2:01 PM CST
Often, making a small bowl like indention around the plants is necessary under your conditions. This holds the water near the plants, as the soil improves and begins to be less water repellent so to speak, the small indentations around the plants will not longer be necessary, they tend to fade away on their own after a few good rains anyhow.
[Last edited by Seedfork - Jun 10, 2014 4:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 10, 2014 4:45 PM CST
Here's another thought for "gradual watering" -- somewhat depending on how many plants you need to water... I often use ice cubes to water houseplants, they melt gradually instead of just running through the soil and draining out. (LOL -- I tend to let my houseplants dry out pretty much between waterings, doubt I've ever killed anything by over-watering!!) You might consider freezing some larger chunks of ice, like in butter tubs or whatever, to set next to the plants.
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 10, 2014 5:08 PM CST
Mike, the long term solution to slow, efficient watering is micro-irrigation. Lowe's and HD both sell it, and probably have classes to teach you how to do it. It's easy, cheap and fun.

Here in Sarasota, we have had once a week watering restriction in place since before we moved here, 12 years ago. But there is no restriction on using micro-irrigation except that no watering at all is allowed between 8am and 6pm. It keeps the water close to the ground, so very little is wasted to evaporation by spraying up into the air, and also is low volume application allowing it to soak in well.

Your mulch will definitely help with water retention and weed control in the long run, so hang in there with that. I agree with everyone else on the landscape fabric. We have it under gravel pathways and driveways here, but that's it.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jun 10, 2014 5:58 PM CST
Funny that the mulch didn't soak up all the water! But I guess you saturated that and still had runoff!
I used to water each bed a little, then go back and start over, to avoid puddling or runoff.

That got old fast, especially dragging and re-dragging one long hose.

The slowest way to water is "drippers" or dripline or drip tape, and I think that is what they meant by micro-irrigation. Those drippers tend to be 1/2 GPH or 1 GPH, and usually you deploy them in a row with one dripper every 12" (or 9" or 18"). Generally people run those for hours.

You can water pretty slowly using a micro-sprayer, say down to 7 GPH. You could rig one sprayer to cover a 6-12 foot diameter circle, and run it for 30 minutes, or whatever was needed.

There are smaller sprayers called "Spot Sitters" that go as low as 3 GPH, but they are intended for small spots or big pots, like a 6-8" pot for the lowest flow rate, or up to 15 GPH for a 36" diameter
http://primerusproducts.com/product-information/spot-spitter

Or you can set up sprayers or spinners that throw a lot of water fast - but only run them for 10 minutes at a time. Repeat as needed after allowing soak-in time.

Irrigation sounds expensive, but only if you get into timers and filters. Tubing, fittings and even pressure regulators can be had pretty cheap.

I mention Dripworks because it's an easy site to find things on, has lots of pictures, and it's what I'm familiar with.

1/2" mainline tubing - 100 feet for $16 http://www.dripworks.com/product/Q_MAIN12

spigot adapter "1/2" Easy Loc Female Hose Start - ELFH"
http://www.dripworks.com/category/half-inch-easy-loc-fitting...

Long, straight beds are easiest to water evenly and efficiently with:
1/4" "soaker dripline" 100 feet for $15 e.g. http://www.dripworks.com/product/Q_DSD12


If your beds are irregular or small and scattered, sprayers may be easier to space out than dripline:
1/4" micro tubing http://www.dripworks.com/product/Q_14
1/4" barb fittings to connect 1/4" tubing to 1/2" mainline: http://www.dripworks.com/category/one-fourth-inch-micro-fitt...

misc sprayers, spinners, drippers, "shrubblers" and other whizzy gadgets are at Home Depot, Lowes, etc:
http://www.dripworks.com/category/drip-irrigation-sprayers

You can't buy direct from Antelco, but their catalogs list EVERYthing:
http://www.antelco.com/usa/sprays/sprays_home.html

My city water supply is 45 PSI, and many irrigation parts work better at lower pressure. I decided I needed a pressure regulator when I tried to use 10/32" screw-fittings with vinyl microtubing. Vinyl is pretty wimpy, and it stretches, and the 10/32" threads don't have as much "grab" as the barbed fittings. It took a few minutes under pressure, but 45 PSI blew that threaded fitting right out of the 1/4" microtubing.

So I got a 30 PSI regulator for $8 , and found that all my sprayers worked a lot better. The higher pressure was blasting out a mist that tended to blow away in a breeze, and didn't carry very far in still air. The lower pressure put out bigger droplets that traveled farther.
http://www.dripworks.com/category/pressure-regulators

(Google "drip irrigation supplies")

I went crazy with my mainline, branching it hither and yon into way more zones than I need.
I like gadgets!
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/1246/More-Spigots-Equ...

P.S. If you have no timer, leave at least ONE sprayer in the system. The "PSSSSS" noise may keep you from forgetting it's on ... but it also tells your neighbors that you irrigate.

P.P.S. If water is very slow to leave your mulch and enter your soil, next year try scratching a little of the mulch into the top 1" of soil. Then lay down the rest of the mulch. If the transition zone is gradual, capillary attraction works better, and the soil can "suck from" the mulch better.

Or maybe use SUCH coarse mulch that it holds little water.
[Last edited by RickCorey - Jun 11, 2014 11:29 AM (+)]
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Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
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NJBob
Jun 10, 2014 8:12 PM CST
One thing I noticed in your picture is you have the mulch right up to the plant , you should keep it a few inches away it can cause crown rot in many plants.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 11, 2014 9:55 AM CST
Rick, I didn't actually mean drippers when I talked about micro-irrigation. My system uses micro-sprinklers with adjustable heads that sit very low to the ground but can spray up to an 8ft. diameter. Or you can get 1/4 circle and 1/2 circle sprayers for corners and against walls or fences. The key is that they are adjustable and movable - sprinklers are on the ends of micro-tubing - making the whole system extremely flexible.

You're right, though. Drippers are the most efficient. I just find it hard to make them cover evenly. IF the soil is well draining - we have sand here - you'll get a 1ft. circle of wet soil and the rest is dry. I can only use them for pots.

We're watering a whole veggie garden at the local elementary school with micro sprinklers that the teacher and I installed ourselves. Eight raised beds, one timer on one hose ($30 for the timer plus batteries) no water wasted on the mulched paths in between. Of course water conservation is one thing we always teach the kids when they come out to the garden.
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Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Jun 11, 2014 12:11 PM CST
Hi Elaine

>> micro-sprinklers with adjustable heads that sit very low to the ground but can spray up to an 8ft. diameter.
>> Drippers are the most efficient. I just find it hard to make them cover evenly.

I agree with you. Small sprayers can be positioned to cover a wide area with just a few fittings. I tried some 1/4" dripline, but didn't really trust it to be spreading out belowground. I would think it would be even worse in sand: the water would flow straight down instead of spreading out.

Before I amended my clay, water ran off as if I were watering asphalt.

I'm lucky to have cool summers and not much wind, so sprayers aren't as inefficient for me as they would be in a hot, dry, windy climate.

Oh! Thanks for the photos! Are those Antelco "Spectrum" sprayers?

Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Jun 11, 2014 4:06 PM CST
I like the 'leaky' hoses, as I call them. Here is a link which shows the basics for a soaker hose set-up. Only run the hoses where the water is needed and keep it just under the surface of the mulch. Rather than hook up to the water spigot with all the expensive components, I attach the leader hose (non-leaky) to the rain barrel which is elevated so the water uses gravity and the amount of water is only what's in the barrel or whenever I turn off the tap. If there is no rain, I pre-fill the barrel using the garden hose. No more dragging hoses all over the yard.

http://www.vanislewater.com/mr-soaker-hose-basics
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 11, 2014 4:07 PM CST
Nope, they're "DIG" brand from Home Depot, under $3 for a package of 3. Somebody edited my post above, because I posted closeups of the micro-sprinklers and the tubing as well as the back of the sprayer package that explains how you put them together. Guess maybe Admin thought I was plugging a brand of product. In actual fact, I like the other brand that Lowe's carries better for everything except those adjustable sprayers on a spike.
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But I'm sure Mike can figure it out if he's interested.

Same thing happens for me with soaker hoses as with drippers - the water goes straight down through the sandy soil, and doesn't spread out enough to water big plants with wide root systems.


Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jun 11, 2014 4:10 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jun 11, 2014 4:23 PM CST
Greene,

I never before saw a soaker hose designed for low-pressure-rain-barrel use. That's great. I've tried dripline but the only soaker hose I bought (from Wal-Mart?) didn't seem to emit much water, and "smelled funny".

Elaine,

I've gotten a few parts from Home Depot, and mine carries "DIG brand" just like what you show. I think I got a better price from Dripworks for the big stakes and 1/2" mainline, but HD has some bargains too.

When I buy locally, I usually drive to Snohomish and shop at a nursery-and-greenhouse supply store "Steuber's". I can buy "onesies" there, and sometimes the prices are better than elsewhere. And they had a real bargain on 3/4" mainline once, which bought my loyalty.

I like the idea of the micro-spinners, but none of my beds are big enough to make them practical.

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