The use of landscape fabric has mixed feelings in both the landscape industry and with the home gardener. There are those that 'swear by' it and those that 'swear at' it.
There are many good reasons to use landscape fabric, such as in hardscape areas and under shrubs, trees, or perennial flower beds. Do keep in mind, it is not a fix-all for weed control. While light does not penetrate the barrier when properly covered with mulch, air and water can and should. Using black plastic or plastic tarps is not the same as using quality landscape fabrics designed specifically for use in landscaping like our premium GCI landscape fabrics.
In a hardscape area, such as a gravel walk path or dry creek bed feature, a good quality landscape fabric will significantly reduce weeds and keep the gravel or rock separated from the dirt. This keeps the path neater and cleaner as you won't get a muddy walk path when it rains, plus you won't lose the rocks in the dirt over time.
If using in flower beds or under shrubs, it will still require maintenance weeding, especially if you use a bark mulch instead of rock mulch. As the bark decomposes, weeds can and likely will take root in it. If they penetrate the fabric they can be more difficult to pull out without pulling up the fabric. So check and weed frequently!
Some of the benefits of using landscape fabric are:
- it will prevent weed seeds in the soil beneath it from sprouting when properly mulched over
- it reduces the need for herbicides
- it helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation
- it reduces soil temperature in hot weather
- it can reduce soil erosion on slopes during heavy rainfalls
- it keeps hardscape areas neater and cleaner
Proper preparation of the area is imperative to optimal satisfaction with landscape fabric.
- Remove all vegetation - You must remove weed growth prior to laying the fabric.
- Rake, clear, and level out the area - This allows the fabric to be evenly covered with mulch. It may be necessary to dig down several inches, especially in a hardscape design.
- Lay fabric parallel to the long edge of the space - lay the rough/fuzzy side down to prevent slipping of the fabric. Unless on a steep slope then lay fuzzy side up to hold mulch in place.
- Overlap sections by at least 6- 12 inches. Leave a couple of inches around borders and trim or tuck in later.
- If placing plants in the area, cut holes or X's into the fabric where you will be placing plants. Allow room for plant growth.
- Use landscape staples or pins to hold in place.
- Cover with at least 2-3 inches of mulch. Replenish as necessary.
A few drawbacks of using Landscape fabric in a growing area are worth considering before you make that final decision
The ground beneath landscape fabric can become compact and unhealthy over time. The decay of natural organic matter, like fallen leaves, pine needles, and biodegradable mulch, add nutrients to the soil, but with landscape fabric, it may not reach the soil.
Earthworms also contribute to the health of your soil but they are driven from the area beneath the fabric as nutrients wane. Plus, they have nowhere to come up for air.
While the fabric does prevent weeds from sprouting from beneath, they can still grow on top in the mulch, so if not attended to when small, they can take root in the fabric structure itself and thus are difficult to remove without damaging the fabric.
Another less common drawback is in areas where heavy rainfalls are common, the lighter weight mulches, like bark, can float off, then you are left with a clean-up project after a storm.
Choosing the right landscape fabric for your project will provide a better outcome
Here at Drip Depot, we offer two styles of landscape fabric, woven and spun. Both are available in a couple of different weights to suit your needs and your budget.
Spun fabrics are best under hardscape areas where water and air penetration are not as essential. Choose the weight of the fabric according to the area's intended use. This way you get the best life expectancy out of it. A heavier weight fabric under a walking path with gravel or pavers, while a lighter weight fabric might be sufficient in a xeriscape garden with river rock that will not encounter frequent foot traffic. Whatever your job, we have the fabric you'll need!
The Pro-Spun Landscape Fabric is available in several weights. Very economical and great in all areas.
The lightweight 104 Series Home Choice 1 oz - Great value, very economical, good choice in perennial flower beds. Can be used in any areas needing just short-term or temporary weed control.
180 Series ECO Choice 1.5 oz - Better value, heavier fabric weight adds durability meaning longer life, great under trees and shrubs.
395 Series Performance Choice 3 oz - is heavy-duty for long life and durability, great for use in foot traffic areas or with gravel/rock mulch and under pavers.
Our Gardener's Choice 2 oz Pro Black Spun-Bond Landscape Fabric is a durable polyester fabric with great flow rate for use in landscaped areas with plants, shrubs, or trees.
Woven fabrics might be more beneficial in a planted landscape area as it will allow better water and air penetration while still preventing light and blocking weeds when properly mulched.
Nurserymen's Choice 3 oz Premium Ground Cover Fabric is commonly used in nurseries and greenhouses. The colored stripe every 12" helps maintain equal spacing and alignment when planting in large areas and long rows. Made from 100% high UV and chemical resistant polypropylene.
Landscaper's Choice Premium 5 oz Landscape Fabric is one of the heavier fabrics available. This durable fabric is constructed of UV and chemical resistant polypropylene. The woven substrate is then needle punched with fibers to create a 'fuzzy' texture on the surface that helps keep the fabric from slipping around on the ground or keeps the mulch in place on steep slopes.
- If using in a planted area, it is a good idea to add amendments to the soil before laying out the fabric.
- Use of a pre-emergent before laying the fabric can help deter weed seed germination.
- Stay on top of the weeds that do germinate on top of the fabric.
- Fuzzy side down keeps it in place on level or slightly rolling terrain.
- Fuzzy side up (and plenty of pins) on steep slopes to help hold mulch in place.
- Creating a border around the landscaped area may help contain the mulch where you want it.