Does Landscape Fabric Work
A very common question that client’s ask when discussing plant options during a design consultation is; Does landscape fabric work? Will it eliminate the need to pull or treat unwanted grass and weeds in my garden bed? The truth is that landscape fabric, also referred to as weed barrier is one of the most controversial products used in landscaping and further explanation is required to determine if installing landscape fabric is a good choice for you.
What is Landscaping Fabric?
Landscaping fabric is made of either organic or synthetic materials and can be found in your local hardware store or nursery. The fabric should appear to be a woven textile. Rather than coming in a solid sheet of material, the woven structure allows for water to penetrate the fabric and reach the soil.
Where is Landscaping Fabric Installed?
Landscaping fabric is installed either directly on top of grass or on top of the soil for your plant or vegetable garden. The purpose of landscaping fabric is to prevent, or deter weeds from growing in your landscaping area. Most people would tell you that landscaping fabric should always be installed in a new garden bed, especially when the bed will be surrounded by grass. It’s important to read further to understand the limitations of landscaping fabric and keep your expectations realistic.
Benefits of Landscape Fabric
Before outlining the limitations of landscaping fabric, we want to mention the benefits. First and foremost, landscaping fabric does discourage some weed growth. Landscaping fabric can also be considered environmentally friendly as it’s often made from organic materials and might possibly save you from using chemical weed killers. One of the best uses we have found for landscaping fabric is for covering large areas when converting to a hard surface. For example, if you have a side yard area where grass isn’t growing well, rather than enduring the painstaking labor of removing all the sod, you can simply install landscaping fabric on top of the entire area and the sod will die naturally. In addition, landscape fabric helps prevent weed/grass growth beneath the base material of paved patio installations and void gravel areas created when installing french drains.
Will it Prevent Unwanted Weeds?
The biggest misconception about landscaping fabric is that it will prevent all grass and weeds from growing in a landscaping area. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. In order to provide that level of prevention, a commercial-grade landscaping fabric would need to completely cover an area with no gaps or holes in the fabric and it would also need to be permanently installed around the edges several inches underground.
Limitations of Landscape Fabric
The first problem starts as soon as landscaping fabric is installed. In order to install the fabric, large staples are used to secure it to the underlying soil. Once you puncture the fabric with a staple, you have just chipped away at its effectiveness, allowing for a very small hole in which grass and weeds can grow. In addition, you can only use so many staples to keep the fabric down, so the natural gaps in between the staples also allow for possible penetration. Most landscaping fabric comes in rolls approximately 3-4 ft wide. So if you need to cover an area wider than that, you need to overlap the strips and again use the staples to install them. While even a conscientious and experienced landscaper should know how to install the fabric properly, the overlapping areas still provide a narrow way for grass and weeds to penetrate.
Landscaping fabric’s biggest limitation is when it’s used in a garden bed. Once the landscaping fabric has been installed and secured, you need to install your plants. In order to get the plant in the ground, you will need to cut a large hole in the fabric for the plant. As soon as you do this, you have just provided a very large point of entry for grass and weeds into your bed. Imagine how ineffective landscaping fabric will be once you have installed 20+ plants in your garden bed. Unfortunately, this is a significant limitation; therefore, we rarely install landscaping fabric inside of a garden bed.
To summarize, landscaping fabric can be used to help reduce the growth of unwanted grass and weeds in a landscaping area, but will not eliminate weeds or the need for on-going maintenance in garden beds. Hopefully, this article has helped answer the question; Does landscape fabric work? And will help you to choose whether or not to use it on your next gardening project.
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