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Why Landscape Weed Barrier Fabric is Ugly & Wasteful

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Landscape fabric won’t end your weeds.

Landscape Fabric and Weeds

Weeds readily pop through & germinate in a path that was installed with a layer of landscape fabric between the gravel and the soil

Weed barrier (aka landscape fabric or weed cloth) sounds like the perfect solution for reducing garden maintenance. Unfortunately, it isn’t. And, it can even cause more headaches and ugliness than you might imagine.

Cutting holes in your landscape fabric to plant?

Stop. Don’t do it!

If you drape weed barrier all over your garden planting beds and then cut holes into that barrier to plant, you’re inviting multiple problems. The reality is, your new plantings likely won’t thrive. But odds are the weeds still will do just fine despite the landscape fabric you invested in.

So, what happens when your garden meets weed cloth?

Perennials and ground covers will try to spread as they mature. Either the weed barrier will strangle them or they’ll pop new holes in the barrier or they’ll spread under the barrier, heaving it skyward for all to see.

Trees and shrubs may send up suckers that pop holes in the barrier or, as their trunks widen, the weed barrier may strangle them.

Plus, every hole you make in the barrier is an opportunity for those sneaky weeds to gather sunlight and thrive.

And, when water meets landscape fabric?

And all of this assumes that the barrier doesn’t keep water from getting to your plant roots. Yep, any material — even permeable materials — can deter water from seeping downward. So, weed barrier may stop or limit rainfall and irrigation water from making it to your plants’ roots. And, in some situations, it might even lead to runoff and erosion issues as well.

Want to learn more about working with garden fabrics?

In our online learning programs, we’ve teach a lot of lessons around gardening solutions that have proven to work better than garden fabric. You can take a deeper dive into learning more about the problems we’ve encountered with this product. (Like how it kills Earth.) And, we’ll even share some situations where this garden cloth and some others may actually be appropriate.

What about using landscape cloth with gravel?

If you’re looking for information about working with gravels and pebbles, that’s a whole other discussion. Learn more in our article about garden gravels here..

175 comments on “Why Landscape Weed Barrier Fabric is Ugly & Wasteful

  1. Garden Mentors on

    Naomi, It’s unlikely plastic is going to help. Soil, including rocks and pebbles move over time. Organic material comes down from above, adding to the situation as well. Plus, plastic under pebbles sure sounds like an ankle twisting situation too. Good luck.

  2. Lewis Hurst on

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom on the subject.

    I have a patch that’s on a hill. It used to be covered in trees which prevented the weeds. I removed the old trees to plant new ones.

    Unfortunately now the weeds are going crazy. I plan to use weed mat to abate the weeds until the trees are mature enough to shade the soil and take all the nutrients. Hopefully it won’t become ungainly as your article suggests.

    Thanks again for the thoughts

  3. Decking Tauranga on

    I was looking for this information on why the landscape fabric weed barrier wasteful. You have really eased my work, loved your writing skill as well. I like how you have researched and presented these exact points so clearly. Please keep sharing more!

  4. Cory on

    I am looking to re-do our 10ftx10ft fire pit in our back yard. It appears that the original installer did a layer of weed mesh, a decent layer of sand, and then brick pavers. While this was probably a good practice for a few years, I have found that it has been full of ants nests and weeds grow rampantly through the sand since the weed fabric is somehow compromised.

    How would you recommend I re-do this fire pit so that we can make it more usable? The initial plan was to dig everything out around 4-6 inches, treat the clay/soil, and then do pebble/rock combination with sand.

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Cory, Sounds like that’s quite a mess you’ve inherited. Site unseen, it’s tough to make a specific recommendation. Sounds like your plan to remove everything and start over will likely get you back on track. Good luck.

  6. abi on

    I want to gravel part of my garden where grass simply won’t grow its about 4mx5m is cardboard suitable to put underneath the gravel? I can’t seem to find the full article.

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Abi, Site unseen it’s difficult for us to make specific recommendations for individual gardens like yours. And, since we don’t know your garden or your ultimate goal with putting down gravel, knowing if this combination is suitable to your needs is pretty much impossible. But, if you’re hoping that the cardboard will keep the gravel from sinking over time, that’s unlikely. You may find this article on selecting garden gravel helpful:

  8. Fences And Gates on

    I really appreciate you for publishing this blog here about why landscape fabric weed barrier wasteful; it’s really a helpful and very useful for us. This is really appreciated that you have presented this data over here, I love all the information shared. Great article!

  9. Rebecca on

    Parking strip, steep slope, have had excavated, pulling out beautiful but brambly and very difficult to trim rabbit brush, which collected dried leaves beneath it, encouraging vast numbers of difficult to get at weeds underneath them.
    Want peaceful looking gravel, the sharp edged kind which will compact.
    Someone recommended landscape cloth. Bought a big roll.
    Don’t think I want anything but gravel. Very dry semi desert here. All the plants I need above in enormous rock garden which is irrigated.
    Now. Excavation is about a few inches to a foot deep, in various proportions, along this sixty foot steepish hill. (Water can run over it like crazy when there is a heavy rain.)
    Landscape cloth, don’t? Or do?

  10. Rebecca on

    And, another question: would pouring a bit of sand through the sharp edged gravel increase its cohesion/staying power?
    And adding large rocks?
    Just gravel could be bit dull, also…
    What would you do?
    Up above in the rock garden are various: large boulders, small river rock pours, lavender, catmint, Indian Blanket flower, Russian sage, small daisies, ice plants…most rocks/boulders beige or pale white.

  11. Garden Mentors on

    Rebecca, It sounds like you might do well to hire a local landscape designer or consultant to help evaluate your specific situation and work up an overall design or plan of action for your project. Site unseen, we aren’t able to give you specific suggestions. Best of luck!

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