Ask almost any gardener what they hate the most, and they will quickly answer “weeds!” Like Superman and Kryptonite, weeds are a gardener’s arch-nemesis. While there are numerous sprays and herbicides on the market, they can get costly and are not always kind to the environment. Enter landscape fabric––could it be the end to your weed woes? Laying a weed barrier is a lot of work, so let’s look at the pros and cons of landscaping fabric and investigate if it’s worth all the added effort.
Landscape Fabric and Why It’s Worth the Work
What is landscape fabric? In simple terms, it’s a physical barrier between weeds and the outside world. The weed barrier is made up of tightly woven fibers or solid sheets that block the sun, effectively stopping weeds from growing while allowing water to penetrate the soil. There is an array of materials that can make up this fabric, some being better quality and longer-lasting than others. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common fabric varieties:
- Recycled Plastic
Depending on your needs, these products are all excellent options. It may be best to use more durable versions in rubber or UV-protected plastic for heavier construction and landscape jobs, and for lighter gardening tasks, linen or burlap may do the trick. It’s most common to purchase in 3-ft wide rolls with costs that vary by the quality. In addition, most weed barriers require long metal pins to secure the fabric into the soil.
When it comes to hard-to-kill weeds, the pros outweigh the cons of laying a strong landscaping fabric. If you are like most Quad City homeowners, then you are already battling with what we consider one of the worst weeds to eliminate––thistle. A sturdy landscape fabric goes a long way to eliminate even the toughest weeds.
There are certainly pros and cons when it comes to landscaping fabric, but if you’re willing to put in the added effort, it will pay off in the long run when you have a pristine, weed-free landscape. Wouldn’t you rather sip drinks in the garden shade than sweat over another day of weed pulling?
The Pros and Cons of Weed Barrier
Pros of Landscaping Fabric
We touched on a few pros of landscaping fabric already, but let’s outline a quick overview to help in your decision-making.
- Weed barrier is a thick fabric that blocks the sun and stops weeds from germinating, spreading, and growing.
- Woven material or punctured holes allow water to reach the soil, thereby watering all your garden plants.
- These products are environmentally friendly when compared to some harsher weed killer sprays.
- Barriers are cost-effective—no more purchasing costly weed control every year!
- They save you time. Once the work of laying the weed barrier is complete, you can sit back and relax. Most landscaping fabrics last many years.
- Fabrics are ideal for established/finished gardens where future plantings are minimal.
Cons of Landscaping Fabric
Now for the downside. Aside from being a lot of initial grunt work, there are a few other details to consider before you begin rolling out the weed barrier.
- If you plan to do future gardening, then laying a landscape fabric may be counterproductive. Every time you cut a new hole into the fabric to plant something new, you are opening up the soil for weeds to invade.
- Organic gardening requires the addition of compost, and once a landscaping fabric is down, you won’t be able to reach the soil to add amendments.
- Landscaping fabric should be covered with stone to hide its unappealing appearance.
- Nothing is forever. Eventually, the landscape fabric will degrade, allowing weeds to appear.
- Many weeds will grow on top of the fabric where dust, grass clippings, and decomposed mulch collect allowing seeds to drift in and take root.
Alternatives to Landscape Fabric
Are the landscaping fabric cons starting to outweigh the pros? If so, there are a few other options that may suit your needs. The primary mechanism of landscaping fabric is to suffocate the weeds from lack of sunlight. Thick layers of mulch or garden stone could also block some of this sunlight, acting as a natural weed barrier. The cons to this? Mulch requires yearly application, and garden stone is heavy and hard to maneuver when you want to plant something new.
One final alternative, and one that works well over time, is to plant a fast-spreading groundcover that will out-compete the weeds. Many ivy varieties are quick to spread, choking out the weeds for space.
Still trying to decide? Visit our landscape professionals for more advice.