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I Hate Landscape Fabric

 I think that this is a product that shouldn’t be sold. It appeals to people because it seems to solve the weed problem permanently, and for a year or two it works well as long as you don’t mind looking at the acres of bare mulch – hardly an improvement over weeds –  that it takes to hide the fabric. But think about it: this fabric prevents anything other than water from getting into the soil, which means no organic matter will be amending the soil from the top down. This organic matter is what keeps the soil a living, thriving community and this is what keeps plants healthy and strong. Landscape fabric creates starving soil.

AND IT DOESN’T EVEN KEEP WEEDS AWAY FOR LONG!  No. As the mulch decomposes on top of the fabric the weed seeds are happy to sprout on top of the mulch and send their roots through the fabric and into the soil. In fact, the fabric keeps things kind of moist down there and this keeps the weeds happy as they grow on top of your weed prevention.  When you pull those weeds out, the fabric rips and often comes partially out. This is even uglier than the acres of bare mulch. 

Furthermore, the plants that you’ve surrounded with this barrier won’t be too happy when you decide you have to take the fabric out.  They’ve been sending fine roots up into the fabric as they try to get closer to the surface of the soil, which is where the action is after all. When the fabric is pulled up, invariably the roots are pulled up too, damaging the plant. 

Beware of life’s quick fixes. 

5 comments to I Hate Landscape Fabric

  • I agree with you 100%, C.L., but there is ONE urban application for landscape cloth that makes it worthwhile. I use it to line the bottom of the rooftop containers I plant so soil won’t run out the drainage holes. It’s easier to work with than screening and simple to staple inside the wooden boxes or lie flat inside sheet metal or concrete containers. Styrofoam peanuts go on top of the landscape (rooftops require lightweight drainage material) then another layer of landscape cloth between the peanuts and potting mix, to keep the peanuts from working their way up through the mix. Since they’re lighter than the soil, they float up over time.

  • Thanks, Ellen – you’re right that pieces of this stuff can be handy for containers. It’s also good for paths in garden centers or, perhaps, for under a layer of gravel if you don’t want the rocks to disappear into the soil. But all in all, if it disappeared from the planet I wouldn’t be upset. We’d find something else for the containers etc. I think…

  • Eva

    I’m with you on the “hate”. I keep pulling up pieces of it from the previous owners. Ugh.

  • So glad to see that there ARE others who share my viewpoint on this. As a professional horticulturist, I am very often confronted by clients who are convinced that this stuff is necessary–after all, the company whose work I am now renovating used it, so it must be good, right? I patiently explain to the client (almost verbatim what you said in your blog, by the way) and their reactions range from unconvinced to light bulb aha moments.

    I agree that it’s useful under mulched paths or gravel-covered areas, but that’s about it. I’d say it’s probably actually a good thing under rubber mulch, which is another product I’d like to see vanish off the face of the earth.

    Ridding the world of the stuff, one client at a time….

  • Yes, Linda – one client at a time!