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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. Joe Shipley on

    There are way too many comments for me to go through. Here’s my question.

    Do you recommend weed barrier where you don’t want anything to grow?

    I’m getting ready to do a stone driveway and I was planning to put down a vegetation barrier under the stone.

  2. Ginger Barrett on

    I just finished removing river rock and landscape fabric from the first bed running along the front of my house I recently bought. I’m left with what looks to be compacted clay. I want to plant native plants and flowers for pollinators, and now realize this “soil” won’t work. What should I do to amend the soil to make it ready for planting?

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Ginger,

    Site unseen, it’s difficult to make specific suggestions. That being said, you could test your soil to verify what your soil is really composed of and what nutrients and life it has available. Too, you might be able to heavily mulch it or build a hugelkultur environment to encourage the soil life below ground to break things up from below. Encouraging the natural world to reinvigorate the soil, even though it may take several months, is often a great long-term solution. Encouraging deeply rooted plants to grow and break up compacted soil can help too — dandelion, horseradish, dock and others do a great job. And, of course, hiring a consultant local to you to visit on site and evaluate your particular situation can be very helpful too!

  4. Getyofacts on

    I use landscape fabric, as a base for creating the pathways not in the beds itself, i put down the fabric, staple it into the ground and to the sides of the beds then cover it in cedar mulch for pathways only not anywhere I wish to plant through.

    To the people freaking out about treated lumber beds, stop freaking out. Treated lumber has been used for veggie gardens for decades with no issues, there are no studies that prove it is a problem, there is a different kind of treatment used now not arsenic, and even when it was arsenic the plants would not take up the arsenic unless they were starved for potassium. So stop freaking out about the fact you already used treated lumber, itll be fine. My great grandmother lived to 94 years old eating out of a treated lumber garden.

  5. Cynthia Ramon on

    Could you suggest some ground covers that would help mitigate weeds. We have a 3 foot gully between our raised dry wall stone/wood fence and raised veggie bed (organic for 25 years) and our neighbors garage. It is moist as I live in Oregon filled with river rocks, soil most likely landscaping fabric and dirt. It’s shady and we keep weed whacking it but we need to resolve how to once we dig out the weeds embedded in river rock to mitigate the abundant weed that grow in this problem space. I’m an organic gardener and once years ago used plastic weed barrier. Weeds do happen but can’t you mitigate them by using cover plants as well as mulch that keeps them down to a dull roar?

  6. Garden Mentors on

    Cynthia,

    You could certainly try to smother out weeds with ground cover. Nature doesn’t like bare ground and will work to fill it in if you don’t. Unfortunately, site unseen, we aren’t able to offer individual planting recommendations. Best bet would be to bring in a consultant local to your area to help you assess the situation and opportunities. Best of luck!

  7. kristen on

    Hello,
    I live in Central Texas, where all the rain comes at once. We’re on a steep slope where they planted bermuda grass, which doesn’t grow well in shade on the sides of our house, resulting in erosion. We plan to install swales on either side that are still walkable, with rocks / pavers, but every landscape professional I talk with says if we don’t install heavy duty weed fabric, the mud will mix with the rocks and not be able to prevent soil erosion. Do you agree? I don’t like the idea of weed fabric, even heavy duty.

  8. Garden Mentors on

    Kristen, Site unseen it’s difficult for us to address your specific situation. It sounds like getting more plants in to take up some water or do more water diversion so you don’t have mud running into your paver area needs to be addressed. If the water and mud is being diverted or taken up from the ground, it would seem you wouldn’t have a concern about mud running into your construction area. But, again, site unseen, it isn’t possible to provide suggestions. But maybe asking more questions will help. Good luck!

  9. lorraine on

    In regards to those folk who are looking for a weed free garden dont use any weed mat or black plastic as those create even more problems,the best solution i am using is to make sure nothing can creep under your garden borders first,use either a concrete footing then put your pavers etc down,concrete has to be atleast 200mm deep,another quick solution is to run a poly root blocker around all edges,this poly root block is very cheap but once again it has to go down in the ground 200mm you dont lay it flat like plastic you simply put it on its edge and bury it around every border,very good product it they even make a very longer one that will actually stop tree roots growing in you flower bed,next tip is put down a layer of river pebbles 20mm to 40mm in size and use that as your mulch these river pebbles are mostly flat some are round but they are very good at blocking weeds and they dont rot like wood mulch,newspapers,weedmats,black plastic is a waste of time,fill your garden with plants as thats is a weed blocker too,but as with any garden nothing is completly work free,any garden does need some work at some stage,another tip dont use chemicals as they kill earthworms,a garden with worms is healthy,

  10. Rob on

    Got a problem myself, I want to fix weed membrane down on an area in my garden, however when the houses were built they backfilled the gardens with all manner of rubble before putting topsoil down and I can’t get the membrane pegs in further than an inch.

    Can anyone suggest a fix please?

  11. Rob on

    Do you think it will cause the fruit trees and rose bushes to get a fungus? I put this stuff down then put mulch on top of it, then planted some fruit trees and rose bushes and I would say 90% have a fungus I can’t get rid of. My soil is almost like clay as well and I think this added to the problem as well.

  12. naomi oliver on

    I have a pebble path which I laid over weedmatting. Over the years the soil has built up over the weedmatting burying the pebbles. Because its a pretty impervious layer there was nowhere for the soil to go. I have pulled up the whole thing and now I’m going to build up the height but because I dont want the same thing to happen I’m wondering if I put down a plastic type trellis to stop the pebbles falling through but to let the soil and other odds and ends fall through whether this would work. The path also has some pavers between the pebbles. I dont care about the weeds as these are easy to pull up. Can you give me any advice as its a big job and I dont want to get it wrong. many thanks

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