I hear about folks putting down landscape fabric all the time and then asking me why their garden never seems to grow properly so I thought I’d clear up some of the myths and misconceptions around landscape fabric.
1) Laying landscape fabric down doesn’t stop weeds. Weed seed blows in or birds drop seed. Landscape fabric doesn’t make any difference this way.
2) Stone or bark chips over top of landscape fabric are almost perfect mediums for seed germination. You’ll have tons of weed seeds starting. This is the same in gardens and paved or graveled pathways. Seriously, I used to use turface (small hard clay particles) to germinate tough to grow perennial seed. Gravel is just like this.
3) Weeds germinated above the landscape fabric will have roots that penetrate into the fabric. This makes them harder to pull out than if they were in wet soil. The trick to easy weeding is to soak your soil before heading out to weed. Try this and it makes pulling the biggest weed much easier.
4) Weed seed below the fabric won’t usually be a problem as it will stay dormant or if it does germinate, will hit the fabric and not be able to penetrate for light.
5) Big, aggressive tree roots push through consumer level landscape fabric. Big trees will eventually find a way through. I’ve had more than a few folks ask how to stop aggressive tree roots and frankly, other than cutting down the darn tree, or constant digging, there isn’t a way.
6) Landscape Fabric stops the normal soil improvement process where decomposing mulch enriches the soil. That barrier stops normal soil improvement. You want rich organic soil? Get rid of the landscape fabric.
Have I Used It
Unfortunately yes. I put it under a mulch for a statue for one area but it’s now torn up.
And I tried yet again a few years ago on a gravel walkway. I’m in the beginning stages of tearing that up as well.
(Yes, I’m a slow learner sometimes but even knowing what I know, hope springs eternal that “this time it will work”.)
It doesn’t save weeding time and doesn’t help your soil. Use straight mulch instead and skip the expense of landscape fabric.