The purpose of landscape fabric is to control weeds, and it’s bound to do its job effectively for the first year or two—but be prepared to pull weeds that may sprout on top of the fabric later.
You may wish to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the top of the mulch, such as Preen (view on Amazon), at the start of every new growing season to help reduce blown-in seeds from sprouting. A pre-emergent herbicide won’t harm established plants.
Most gardeners agree that the best place for landscaping fabric is around shrubs and trees where it can be installed and topped with quality mulch to last for years, hopefully. Because it’s intended to be left in place, it’s not recommended for vegetable gardens or annual flower beds.
Whether you’re new to gardening or have been at it so long your thumb is a deep shade of green, you may have seen rolls of landscape fabric at DIY stores and gardening centers—and become intrigued. Take our crash course in this material designed to inhibit weeds and keep soil from drying out. We’ll clue you in on the pros versus cons, explain how to pick the best product, and share tips on using it most effectively.
Which is Better Landscape Fabric or Plastic?
For those who lead active lives, spending a few hours on the weekend pulling or digging weeds out of a garden or flowerbed can quickly become tedious. Several weed-control methods are available, and the use of landscape fabric is right at the top of the list because it doesn’t involve using potentially toxic chemicals to kill or prevent unwanted weed growth.
Note that virtually all landscape fabric can be covered with mulch of any type—wood chips, gravel, recycled rubber nuggets, etc.
Some gardeners refuse to use it because:
Landscape pins, which sell separately for about $.10 per pin, are necessary to secure the fabric and add another $.50 per sq. ft. to your total material cost.
Mark the areas where you want to grow your plants with marking flags. As an alternative, set out the plants on the landscaping fabric to get a visual.
Landscaping fabric, also referred to as geotextile, is a type of mulch that can effectively contribute to weed control. The fabric, which is ideally installed prior to planting tree and shrub beds or perennial beds that don’t require periodic replanting, still allows air and water to penetrate while blocking light and impairing weed germination and growth. Even though landscape fabric doesn’t contribute nutrients to the soil, is more expensive than organic mulches and requires more installation time, it can help combat weeds for at least five years.
Cut an X-shape in the landscaping fabric in one of the selected locations. Use scissors or a utility knife and aim to keep the cuts as small as possible. Avoid cutting out and removing fabric. Fold the four flaps of the X-shape under to get easy access to the soil underneath.
Unfold the four flaps of the X-shape in the landscaping fabric. Cut off the tips of the flaps so they don’t touch the stem of the plant.
Dig a hole in the soil that can comfortably fit the plant. Place the excavated soil in a wheelbarrow to avoid weed seeds from getting on the fabric. Install the plant and place the excavated soil back in the hole around the plant. Tamp the soil with your hands and water the plant.