Landscape Fabric: How to And Why Use It in Your Garden

Landscape fabric, also known as weed barrier fabric, weed control fabric or preen landscape fabric, is an all-purpose garden fabric used by many gardeners for weed prevention and erosion control.

It is a great way to prevent unwanted weeds from creeping into your garden and can make your garden maintenance easier by keeping weed and grass under control. Form and fabric plays a role in visual studies and development of various landscape architecture and design concepts.

man installing landscape fabric

High-quality fabrics last for years, almost like permanent mulch. There are several factors to consider before purchasing and applying landscape ground cover fabric in your garden. If the landscaping fabric is applied incorrectly, weeds can still grow and you may also damage the plants.

The weed barrier fabric is not suitable for annual gardens requiring frequent digging. Careful choice and application are of utmost importance when purchasing and applying fabric to your garden.

Choice Of Fabric

Black plastic sheets and non woven landscape covering prevent the plants from receiving enough water and nutrients to grow and prosper. Always use commercial grade landscape fabric for your garden.

These weed control fabrics are usually made of a non-woven, porous polypropylene fabric, which enables air, water, and nutrients to reach the soil, but keeps weed seeds in a dark, cool environment where they can’t sprout.

If you want to use weed fabric, put it down before planting, as it allows you to cut holes of proper sizes and prevents you from damaging plants in the application process. Plan where each plant will go and cut a hole approximately 4 inches in diameter. The edges of the fabric should be a minimum of 4 inches from a plant base. Place the fabric fuzzy side down, as this allows water to flow and helps it sink down through the fabric to effectively reach the soil.

Place the fabric on a smooth surface. If the surface is not flat, smooth it before applying fabric, otherwise weeds can grow through the uneven surface.

Choice Of Land

Always use a clean surface free of sticks, rocks, grass, weeds, and roots. If the surface is not flat and clear, clean and level it before applying fabric, to achieve the maximum benefit. If you skip this step, some weeds that are already present may grow.

Fertilize The Soil Before Placing Fabric

If you place the fabric before fertilizing the soil, you can no longer add compost or other organic matter to the soil. So, before placing the fabric, be sure to fertilize the soil up to required level.

Landscape fabric is of a permanent nature and therefore, not suited for plants that require extra attention. Once the fabric is laid down, it is difficult – or sometimes impossible – to fertilize the soil with compost or other organic materials each year.

Anchor The Fabric

Always anchor the fabric using u-shaped landscape fabric pins to prevent it from looking loose or flapping around because of wind. Anchor the fabric at approximately every foot. Apply anchoring pins according to your requirements.

Edge Treatment

For best results, the level of your garden bed should be a few inches lower than the edges of your garden or pathway. Edging will allow you to fold the fabric an extra inch around the edges of your garden. In a wide garden, you need to use fabric to cover the entire area and overlap the edges with at least one foot of material. Fabric sheets alone do not allow enough overlap and cause stripped areas of weed to pop up, which can be difficult to eliminate.

Apply Mulch After Fabric Installation

Spread approximately 3 inches of mulch throughout the garden area after applying landscape fabric. The mulch hides the fabric, protects it from weather effects, and prevents the soil from overheating. It also keeps weed seedlings from getting light and prevents them from making holes in the fabric with their root systems.

Use shredded bark, bark chips, wood chips, or any mulch you find visually attractive. Take care when applying mulch layer on top of the fabric. It should be at least 3 inches for best results. Once the fabric is laid down, the time you save from weeding can be spent enjoying your garden.

Watering The Plants

Water the fabric mulched bed as usual because moisture seeps through landscape fabric and into the soil. If some plants require extra fertilization, apply fertilizer directly to the soil near the base of the plant, avoiding the stem of plants.

Landscape fabric lasts up to 5 years. In most garden beds, wood mulch on top of landscape requires reapplication annually.

Pros And Cons Of Landscape Fabrics

Pros Of Landscape Fabric

  • It reduces the amount of time spent weeding in the garden. If you want to enjoy gardening without too much effort, landscape fabric is a good choice.
  • Landscape your garden once with proper planning, and then enjoy it without having to worry about changing it in a significant way.
  • Landscape fabric is ideal for those who have a busy schedule but are also fond of gardening.
  • It prevents weed growth everywhere in your yard and makes your garden look beautiful and neat.

Cons Of Landscape Fabric

  • It compacts the soil. To be truly healthy, soil needs to be crumbly and loose.
  • Landscape fabric will reduce the number of weeds in your garden, but it won’t eliminate them completely. Bad weeds grow through it, making it impossible to pull these weeds. Once this happens, you must replace the whole fabric, which is frustrating if your garden is fully established.
  • Landscape fabric or preen landscape fabric contains petroleum and other chemicals. Most gardening experts advise gardeners to avoid chemical products in gardens, especially around edible plants.
  • Gardeners are known for changing their minds. One season they may want a certain plant in a certain place, but this plan may change from year to year. As plants grow, they will need to be divided to keep the original plant healthy. Both tasks become very complicated when landscaping fabric is installed. Shifting the location of plants, in this case, is a time-consuming process. If you do this at this stage, the fabric will also need to be disturbed, which defeats the purpose of the fabric.
  • Re-seeding is almost impossible if fabric is installed in the garden. If you use fabric, it is difficult for plants to re-seed themselves.