If you’re an avid gardener or are simply tired of battling against weeds and uninvited plants from growing in your gardens and outdoor spaces, you’re likely familiar with landscape fabric. Landscape fabric is commonly used as a barrier to control weed growth, but it isn’t suitable for every garden or situation. 

Whether you love or hate it, learning about landscape fabric, if it is the right choice for you, and how it can be properly used in a garden or flower bed can help save your plants and set you free from spending every weekend of the warm season wedding. 

Do I Need Landscape Fabric in My Garden?

Landscape fabric was created as a natural option to eliminate the growth of weeds in gardens and other outdoor areas. It creates a physical barrier that stops sunlight from reaching the soil and weeds from germinating while still being porous enough to allow water to drain through it. It has become popular among gardeners and landscapers as it is initially very effective at inhibiting the growth of weeds, though it can become less effective and require significant maintenance over time.

While landscape fabric can be appropriate to use in some environments, it isn’t always recommended due to several often-seen drawbacks and complications. Whether you choose to incorporate landscape fabric into your garden should be carefully considered and depends on a few factors including soil type, desired appearance of the garden, drainage needs, and level of upkeep.

Do I Need Landscape Fabric Under Mulch?

Whether you need landscape fabric under mulch depends on your particular landscaping goals, preferences, and garden conditions. Landscape fabric stabilizes the mulch by providing a steady and even base, preventing it from becoming displaced or washing away during high winds or severe weather. 

Using landscape fabric under mulch can help keep the mulch in place and maintain the neat appearance of your outdoor space, reducing the need to frequently add more mulch. If weed control, a tidy appearance, and soil protection are at the top of your list of priorities, using landscape fabric under mulch may be the right choice. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Landscape Fabric?

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of landscape fabric is important to help you decide if it is right for your purposes.

The Good

Soil Protection: Landscape fabric protects the soil from erosion and runoff, effectively stabilizing the soil as well as preventing unwanted objects from entering the soil, such as rocks, clay, and other debris.  

Regulates Soil Temperature and Moisture Levels: Landscape fabric works as a physical barrier, which slows moisture evaporation and regulates the temperature of the soil. In winter, it can help to insulate the soil and increase temperatures, protecting your perennials during the colder months. 

Natural Alternative: One of the most celebrated features of landscape fabric is that it is an alternative to the harsh chemicals and herbicides that are often used to control weed growth. By preventing sunlight and blocking weed seeds from reaching the soil, landscape fabric can be an effective method of weed control.

Many Options Available: There are many different types of landscape fabric available, and they can be found at most gardening centers and home maintenance stores. Landscape fabric comes in various materials, colors, and thicknesses, making it possible to select the right type for your specific needs. 

The Bad 

Less Effective Over Time: Landscape fabric can be highly effective at controlling weed growth, especially in the first few months. Over time, the fabric can become clogged, preventing air flow and water from reaching the soil, which can negatively affect the health of your plants. In addition, weeds are often still able to grow within the mulch that is placed on top of the fabric. 

Risk of Compacted Soil: While fabric soil is effective at stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion, it can also cause it to become compacted, which inhibits air flow and root growth. It can also prevent the development of earthworms, which effectively aerate the soil.

Decreased Soil Health: Because landscape fabric is an effective physical barrier, it prevents the biodegradation of organic materials that add essential nutrients to the soil. Effectively compromising the soil structure. 

Complex Installation & Maintenance Needs: Landscape fabric can involve a complicated installation process, especially when being introduced around established plants. It can also be expensive, depending on the size of the area in which you wish to install it. Landscape fabric also requires eventual replacement as it becomes damaged, making it significantly less effective over time. 

What Are Some Alternatives to Landscape Fabric?

If you’re now questioning whether landscape fabric is the right choice for you, it may be worthwhile to consider some of the following alternatives: 

  • Broken Down Cardboard Boxes 
  • Ground Cover Plants (such as clover)
  • Shredded Newspaper
  • Organic Mulches (such as wood chips, burlap, grass cuttings, shredded leaves, compost, or pine needles) 

The Bottom Line 

While it can be useful for weed control and soil protection in your garden, we advise weighing the pros and cons of landscape fabric. Proper installation and regular maintenance are key to optimizing landscape fabric benefits while limiting potential disadvantages.

Contact the experts at Mountview Services today to discover whether landscape fabric is the right choice for your outdoor space!