Is Landscape Fabric Bad for Plants?

You may have heard people talking about a product called landscape fabric or even seen it in your local home and garden section. But what is it? And is it something you should be using? Read on below to find out!

Is landscape fabric bad for plants?

What is landscape fabric?

Landscape fabric, sometimes referred to as weed fabric, is a permeable woven or solid sheet filled with perforations. Its purpose is to prevent the growth of weeds, prevent erosion, retain soil moisture, and limit the use of herbicides.

Unfortunately, landscape fabric’s reputed benefits are outweighed by a host of negative effects, including unsightly appearance, difficulty with removal, and plain old ineffectiveness.

Why is landscape fabric bad for plants?

Landscape fabric tends to interfere with natural processes that revitalize and renew the health of your soil and plants. It also causes adverse plant health effects by encouraging disease, growth, insect infestation, and rot. Finally, trees and shrubs can be slowly strangled over the months and years by fabric placed too close to the root flare.

Landscape fabric will discourage plant-friendly earthworms from penetrating the earth beneath the fabric. Since earthworms naturally aerate the soil they move through, blocking their passage can result in compact and unhealthy soil.

Landscape fabric also prevents organic, natural mulch, like leaves, from replenishing the soil. Without a fabric barrier, mulch would naturally decompose and, in the process, return much-needed nutrients to the earth. When landscape fabric is in place, however, mulch simply gets trapped above the soil and can’t biodegrade into the ground.

Attempting to remove landscape fabric can also pose significant problems for homeowners and landscapers. The longer the fabric sits on the ground, and the more roots grow through the sheet, the harder it gets to uninstall the fabric.

This is especially problematic if the roots of desirable plants, shrubs, and flowers, have grown through the fabric. You’ll be tearing them out as well when you tear out the landscape fabric.

Does landscape fabric even work?

All of this is made worse by the fact that, at the end of the day, landscape fabric doesn’t work that well at controlling weeds.

People usually buy this product for the express purpose of preventing future weed growth. For a variety of reasons, they’re usually disappointed. For example, the fabric only prevents the growth of weeds underneath it. But new weed seeds will tend to blow over top of your installed landscape fabric. And those seeds will sprout.

What is landscape fabric good for?

Here at EarthCraft, our view is that landscape fabric is only good for one thing. We like to use it when laying river stone or decomposed granite over soil as a barrier between the rock and the earth. While we get moderate weed control from the fabric, its true purpose is to prevent the stone from sinking into the soil below. 

Final Thoughts

As you can probably gather from this article, we’re not huge fans of landscape fabric at EarthCraft. Our advice, for what it’s worth, is to give this product a pass and use other solutions.