There are good reasons burlap (also known as hessian or jute) is so popular in the garden. It’s inexpensive, biodegradable, solves a variety of plant problems, and the natural texture of the jute fibers is undeniably gorgeous. Come see the practical uses plus lots of outdoor craft and décor ideas.
You can also find more uses for burlap here.
12 Uses for Burlap in the Garden
All About Burlap | Hessian | Jute
Burlap | Amazon
- Burlap is a woven fabric made from natural materials. The most common source is jute (a tropical plant also used for making rope and twine), although you can also find burlap made from other plant fibers as well as synthetic versions.
- Quality: Burlap quality can vary greatly from a coarse, broad weave (suitable for protecting plants outdoors) to finer weaves used for sewing and décor projects.
- Scent: Generally, the cheaper burlaps have a—um— distinct (natural) scent. Many sewing shops feature burlaps that have been deodorized.
- Earth-friendly: Natural burlap (made from jute) is biodegradable and will gradually break down if buried in the garden. Denser weaves are water repellent.
Which type should I use in the garden?
- When choosing burlap for the garden, select all-natural fibers that have not been dyed, bleached, or treated with chemical finishes.
- Save the better-quality burlap (with a finer weave and no scent) for crafting and décor projects.
- You can see a sample roll of burlap here on Amazon.
1Winter Plant Protection
- Using burlap for protecting plants in the winter gets debated a fair bit perhaps because the burlap is not always used the right way.
- The idea is to prevent cold winds from whipping and drying out plants such as roses, shrubs, and vines—not to bind them up tight like mummies.
- To achieve this, form burlap screens and barriers with supports to block harsh winds. For smaller plants, wrap burlap around tomato cages and place them over plants. Larger plants need posts or wood cages to hold the burlap without touching the plants.
- Snow is a good insulator for hardy plants, so you may wish to only shield the plants from direct winds but allow the snow to do its thing.
2Invasive Caterpillar Trap
Before taking any action, check with your local conservation authority (or whichever group is monitoring invasive species) to see what is recommended.
If you have trees infested with the caterpillars—invasive ones, not harmless ones—this idea can help trap them without harming other invertebrates.
In our area, spongy moths, formerly called gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar dispar), are a huge problem. After hatching, the caterpillars end up at ground level and make their way up trees to eat the foliage and reproduce.
To stop this, the old way was to place duct tape around tree trunks (with the sticky side out) to trap them, but other beneficial creatures like bees, small snakes, wasps, and butterflies also get stuck.
Instead, the advice now is to use a wide band of burlap secured with string. Place the top edge at chest height. Fold down a few inches of the top edge inward toward the tree. The caterpillars will get trapped in the burlap and can be hand-picked and destroyed.
3Winter Deer and Rabbit Protection
If you have critters nibbling your fruit trees and bushes in the winter, you may want to try burlap barricades.
Here’s what I do for my blueberry bushes:
- Build a 4-sided frame using 2×2” lumber.
- Make it large enough so that the burlap sides do not touch the plant.
- It should be about 24” tall to keep the rabbits out. For deer, you’ll need a cage with a roof to completely block access.
- Staple burlap all around the sides.
Last winter our rabbits did not even try to get around burlap. They just moved on to easier food sources.
That said, a very hungry animal with no other options will get to whatever food sources they can find.
4Summer Sun Shades
- Hang a length of burlap over a veggie bed when the summer sun is just too hot for crops like salad greens. Just by creating some shade, you may prevent some crops from bolting.
- Place a length of burlap on top of tender low-lying crops like lettuces to protect them from a nighttime frost.
- Remove it as soon as things warm up in the morning.
- Sheets of burlap work nicely to protect newly-sown seeds. Place them over the garden bed and secure them with tent pegs or stones.
- The burlap allows rain and air to get in but keeps nibbling creatures from taking the seeds and seedlings.
- Once your seedlings are established, remove the burlap.
- If you’ve prepared a new garden bed but you’re not ready to plant it, you can use pieces of burlap cloth over top (weighed down with rocks) to prevent weed growth.
- I don’t recommend this ongoing but it does help slow things down in the short term.
Flower Pots and Planters
- Use burlap instead of preformed coir liners in your pots and planters and save some money. I hold mine in place with binder clips.
- Disguise ugly pots and containers by wrapping them in burlap. I do this with plastic pots when I don’t want to transplant annuals that are growing nicely as they are.
10Block Drainage Holes
- Scraps of burlap work fine to cover the drain holes in planters, allowing excess water out, keeping the soil in.
11Burlap Bag / Coffee Bean Sack Planters
Old coffee bean sacks can be used as planters. I’ve used the long (deep) ones for growing potatoes on my porch.
Burlap works nicely for storing potatoes and onions (in dark places). The fabric is breathable and does not mold.
13Lugging Yard Waste
- Old pieces of burlap work nicely for dragging mounds of yard waste. I use big pieces of burlap or tarp when raking leaves. Place them on top and it’s easy to move huge amounts with very little effort.
Use large pieces of burlap or burlap sacks to protect plant roots during transplanting.
- Line a large container with the burlap.
- Place the plant inside.
- To replant, lower the burlap bag into the planting hole and gently remove it, leaving the plant in its place.
Burlap Crafts and Décor for the Garden
Basically, anywhere you use fabric, you can use burlap.
Search for ‘burlap ideas’ on Pinterest for more ideas!
- Cushions and slipcovers
- Patio table runners
- Outdoor curtains
- Wall hangings
- Buntings and banners (you can buy pre-cut buntings here)
- Wreaths and ribbons
- Burlap snowflakes and leaves
- Signs and lettering on signs
- Flower pot covers
- Hanging pocket planters
If you’re planning some burlap projects, consider buying it by the roll. Check the length, width, and quality before you buy. I got mine that way and saved a lot of money.
There are more tips for saving money (and preventing future problems) in the garden here.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛