The simplest and most successful way to control weed is to lay down landscape fabric. It stops weed seeds from germinating in the soil or landing on the surface and taking root. Landscape fabric is also “breathable,” allowing water, air, and certain nutrients to travel down to the soil, feeding desirable plants.
Landscape fabric can be used alone, but it’s normally ideal to cover it with attractive mulch, rock, or another type of ground cover. The cloth isolates the cover material from the soil, keeping stone and gravel clean and delaying the organic mulch’s decomposition. A similar function is performed by black plastic, another weed barrier, but plastic is prone to breaking and forms an impenetrable barrier that inhibits water and air from reaching desired plants.
Landscape fabric installation isn’t much more difficult than laying out a bed sheet, but it’s critical to prepare the ground properly to maintain a smooth surface and avoid fabric damage. It’s also crucial to overlap and secure the fabric’s edges to keep weeds and cover material from getting through the seams.
Although landscape fabric is a weed barrier, it is not the same as all weed barriers. Cheap, flimsy plastic barriers are significantly less durable than high-quality fabric and are prone to tearing. It’s never a good idea to utilize cheap materials because you’ll have to replace them sooner or later. Quality landscape fabric, on the other hand, is long-lasting and resistant to sun damage and tears. Some goods come with a 20-year warranty.
Another advantage of high-quality cloth is that it may be reused. If you want to change the look of a fabric and mulched area, just remove the mulch, unpin the fabric, shake off the soil and other debris, and roll up the fabric for future use. Reused cloth works just as well as fresh material, despite the fact that it is a little soiled.
The majority of high-quality landscape fabric is constructed of spun synthetic fibers that screen sunlight while allowing some water and air to pass through. Sharp rocks, tools, and roots can harm the material, which is tough. As a result, raking and smoothing the ground before laying the fabric is a smart idea. Many fabrics are UV-protected, however they will last longer if not exposed to direct sunshine. This is provided by a layer of mulch or other ground material.
The ability of landscape fabric to inhibit weed growth is its key advantage. Herbicides are used less frequently as a result of this. Landscape fabrics perform best in permanent garden beds, such as those for shrubs, rather than those for vegetables or annuals, which will be dug up frequently.
It also helps maintain the soil’s temperature, keeping it moist and cold in the summer and warmer in the winter, according to Kemper. Hardscaping installations can also benefit from landscape fabric. “The correct kind of landscape fabric is a terrific soil stabilizer to help prevent the erosion of that fill sand or fill dirt or whatever you’re putting in between your pavers as you’re putting them together from washing away and eroding away that stability,” Kemper explains. Landscape fabric is also used for erosion management on slopes, as it can prevent washouts from severe rains. According to Kemper, Jobe’s fabrics are often utilized for this purpose in California.
One of the most significant disadvantages of landscape fabric is that it stops nutrients from reaching the soil, causing it to become unhealthy.
Jobe’s materials, however, allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the plants while preventing weed seeds from developing, according to Kemper.
In hardscape applications, heavy-duty landscaping cloth might be useful. “In our WeedBlock and our PowerGrid, we have patented micro funnel technology and a pattern that is in the fabric,” Kemper explains. “It is actually worked into the fabric itself that helps with that water flow pulling the water down and into the soil, and the airflow and that temperature control. Those are patents that we hold only on those fabrics.”
Another difficulty is that weed seeds can grow in the mulch laid on top of the cloth, therefore undermining the fabric’s purpose. Additionally, for people who want to alter their garden beds on a frequent basis, puncturing the material to add new plants can make it less effective over time. According to Kemper, buying the wrong fabric for the task might cause a lot of headaches for landscapers.
“If you’ll really look at the project you’re doing and work to match your fabric to your project, you’ll be a whole lot happier,” she says. “Both in the amount of money you spend and the results that you get.
Tools and equipment
- Utility knife
- Garden hoe
- Steel rake
- Landscape fabric
- Landscape fabric staples
- Mulch or any ground cover (optional)
- Plants (optional)
Calculate the area
To begin, take measurements of the garden bed where you intend to place landscape fabric. You’ll know precisely how much fabric and landscaping staples to buy this way.
Take all vegetation out
Using a garden hoe, shovel, or other instrument, dig out all weeds, grass, and other plants. Dig deep enough to reach the roots; if you don’t, some plants can spread even when landscape cloth is used to cover them. Use a swinging motion with a hoe to bring the blade down toward the ground and slightly back toward your body, striking the ground at a 45-degree angle. Ideally, you’ll dig deep enough into the soil to reach the roots and pull out the entire weed, roots and all.
Alternatively, you can use a non-selective, or broad-spectrum, herbicide to destroy the plants. Apply the herbicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions and wait for the plants to completely die. Herbicide is frequently advised for weeds that spread via rhizomes or stolons and are difficult to eliminate simply by digging.
Level and clear the soil
With a steel garden rake, also known as a bow rake, rake the area completely. Remove any uprooted weeds and rake out any twigs, stones, or other sharp things that may harm the landscape fabric. As you rake, discard the loose pebbles and debris until the dirt surface is nice and flat.
Lay down the landscape fabric
The landscape fabric should be rolled out parallel to the area’s long dimension. With a sharp utility knife, cut the material from the roll as needed. This helps to replace the blade frequently so it is always sharp. If desired, you can leave the pieces long and trim them afterward; having too much fabric is preferable to having too little.
Overlap the pieces by at least 6 inches if you require more than one row of cloth. Fabric producers may claim that 3 inches is sufficient, but 6 inches is preferable. If the fabric has two sides (for example, a shiny and a dull side), make sure to attach it with the correct side facing up, as specified. If required, use stones or other heavy objects to temporarily weigh down the fabric.
Staple the fabric in place
Make sure the cloth is in the right place before securing it with landscape fabric staples with a hammer or small hand maul. Staple around the edges and seams, and as needed across the internal portions, every 10 feet or so. If necessary, trim the fabric along the edges.
Optional: plant through the landscape fabric
If you’re adding plants to the area, use scissors or a utility knife to cut an X-shaped incision in the landscape fabric for each plant. Cut from the outside in toward the center, making incisions just large enough to excavate a hole for the plant’s root ball. The fewer and smaller the holes in the fabric that you make, the better.
To dig the hole, pull the flaps apart and pour the soil into a wheelbarrow or container rather than over the fabric. Install the plant, backfill with soil around the root ball, and lightly press the soil to remove any air pockets. To cover the soil, place the four fabric flaps snugly against the base of the plant.
While landscape fabric is permeable, it will likely reduce the quantity of rainwater that reaches the soil underneath it from rainfall or spray watering. Keep an eye on your plants while they’re planted in fabric to make sure they’re getting adequate water.
If desired, cover the landscaping fabric with mulch or other ground cover. If you’re using natural mulch, such as wood chips or pine needles, keep the cover to no more than 2 inches thick. Depending on the stone and the intended use of the space, less than 2 inches of stone may be required for full coverage. With a rake, spread and smooth the ground cover, taking care not to harm the fabric.
Keep your garden bed in good shape
Your weeding days aren’t finished just because you’ve installed landscape fabric. Using decomposed organic mulch or blown-in dirt as soil, weed seeds can grow on top of the fabric. Apply a pre-emergent weed control chemical, like Preen, to your mulch at the start of each growing season to prevent new weeds from emerging.
Organic mulch will degrade over time and will need to be removed and refilled. Allowing weeds to grow in degraded organic matter is a bad idea. If you use inorganic mulch, such as river rocks or rubber, the only maintenance you’ll have to do is remove it and spray it with water if you see a lot of dirt and debris.
Landscape fabric tips
Landscape fabric-covered areas require some maintenance to stay weed-free over time. Soil and dust that blows onto the fabric can accumulate and eventually assist weed seed germination. Any organic mulch that is placed on the fabric will eventually decompose into the soil, providing fruitful footing for weeds and grasses. When the area becomes clogged with soil and debris, it’s time to remove the ground cover and clean or replace it.
To remove accumulated dirt, rake off the stone ground covers and hose them off. Mulches made of organic materials must be replaced. As a result, spreading a heavy layer of organic mulch over landscape fabric makes no sense because all mulch degrades and turns into soil; a deeper covering simply means more soil that can harbor weeds and a higher replacement expense. And, because you’re using landscape fabric to keep weeds at bay from below, there’s no need for a thick layer of mulch on top, as you would if you weren’t using fabric.
Landscape fabric installation
Don’t worry if the weather makes placing your landscape fabric a little more challenging. In most circumstances, you’ll just need to add a few more steps to the fundamental procedure we just went over.
Installing landscape fabric on a slope
You’ll need to carve steps or shelves into the slope and fill them with huge rocks before you lay your fabric. The boulders will offer a solid foundation for the landscape fabric to rest on. Make sure separate pieces of fabric overlap in the downward direction when laying the fabric over the stones. Mulch that goes downhill won’t be able to get between the seams and loosen the fabric this way. Excess water will also be kept out of the fabric as it drains downhill from the top of the slope.
Installing landscape fabric in a vegetable garden
You should be aware that landscape cloth is not the most effective weed barrier for vegetable gardens. You’re likely to damage the fabric when you dig out the plants at the conclusion of the growth season.
Newspaper or cardboard are preferable choices for vegetable gardens since 1) they will ultimately decompose and add nutrients to the soil, and 2) they are inexpensive or free, so you won’t have to worry about refilling them every year.
For raised vegetable gardens, however, landscape fabric can be used beneath the soil. You’ll need one unbroken sheet for each bed when placing landscaping fabric beneath dirt. Landscape staples are used to secure the sheet, and the soil for your vegetables is shoveled over it.
Installing landscape fabric with edging
Installing landscape fabric and a new landscaping edge at the same time is simple. Allow several additional inches at the garden bed’s edge while laying the fabric. You’ll need to dig a trench for your landscaping edging when you install it. Before sinking the edging material into the trench, wrap the additional landscape fabric over the bottom of it. The landscape fabric will be secured by the edging. Simply tuck the excess fabric securely between the soil and the edging material if you’re placing landscape fabric in a bed that already has edging.
Installing landscape fabric around trees
You’ll need to overlap many pieces of cloth around the base of the tree’s trunk for a fully developed huge tree. Secure the individual sheets with landscape staples, just as you would a standard garden bed.
Use a 4-foot-by-4-foot or 6-foot-by-6-foot square of landscape fabric to make a tree seedling. Cut a hole in the center of the square to accommodate the seedling. Dig a 3- to 6-inch deep trench around the perimeter of the seedling after placing the piece of fabric around it. To keep the landscape fabric in place, tuck it into the trench and cover it with earth.
Is it necessary to lay down landscape fabric before planting?
It’s entirely up to you. Planting via an incision in the fabric after it has been laid is easier for many DIYers than figuring out where and how large to create holes for existing plants.
Are there any other options for landscape fabric?
Yes. Many gardeners use cardboard and newspaper as biodegradable weed barriers instead of landscaping fabric.