As landscape professionals, we often get asked whether people should use landscape fabric (aka, “weed fabric”) on their lawns, gardens, and landscapes. This is the carpet- or sheet-like material that people lay down under their topsoil that’s intended to control and prevent the growth of weeds.
And if you’re looking for the short answer, here it is: don’t do it. It’s probably not a great fit for your landscape.
Why? We thought you’d never ask.
The long answer: Why you shouldn’t use landscape/weed fabric
On top of preventing weeds and other plants from growing through the sheet itself, landscape fabric prevents the soils above and below the sheet from mixing. What happens after a few years is that the soil on top of the sheet (which is usually just a couple of inches thick), processes and composts the organic material that grows above the sheet. This keeps the topsoil healthy and filled with nutrients.
Below the sheet, however, is a different story. Because it can’t access the organic compost that’s being created above the sheet, the soil underneath the landscape fabric begins to degrade. In extreme cases, you can find that the soil underneath the fabric is reduced to a hard and inhospitable clay.
To make matters worse, roots that start above the weed fabric can – and do – grow right through the fabric. This causes the landscape fabric to “girdle” a plant’s roots, limiting or preventing future growth.
Finally, landscape fabrics don’t even prevent most weeds from growing! Many weeds find ways to grow up, through, and around the landscape fabric, resulting in a garden or lawn with just as many weed problems as existed beforehand. As the beloved character Dr. Ian Malcolm famously says in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” (And if there’s anyone we listen to, it’s Jeff Goldblum.)
So what’s a hurried homeowner to do if landscape fabric isn’t a great option? At EarthCraft, we recommend investing a little bit in some ongoing maintenance every year to keep your garden, lawn, and landscape looking its best. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than some cheap landscape fabric, but it’s money well spent. The old cliche, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a cliche for a reason. Expert maintenance is much more effective at keeping weeds away and you won’t run into the same serious problems you’ll encounter if you use weed fabric.
If you’ve got any questions about how to control weeds, increase plant growth, or improve the look of your landscape, give us a call or an email here at EarthCraft. The team would love to help you and your family out!