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Old brown plastic underlay in a garden bed?!

I am rejuvenating a tired large garden bed (very large) that I had hoped would just transition to a pollinator bed with easy perennials. The soil is just too far gone, and I've removed many plants as it used to be in more shade. Now, as I dig into the soil to add compost and peat I'm finding the most annoying underlayer of brown plastic. The better soil is on top of it and beneath is the junky clay/builders fill, but it is only maybe 6-8" down. I am just amazed. It's like laying a trash bag under the garden. Was this a thing? It ain't easy ripping that stuff out. Can roots grow right through it or are all my roots shallow and scooting along above it? I haven't tried to dig out a larger bush like a hydrangea, but the ones that have survived are miserable. I wonder if this explains why things in this bed aren't doing well. That and the fact that I've completely neglected it during a drought where even the tinyest bit of food and mulch would have been appreciated.

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