For those who dread weeding, landscape fabric covered by a few inches of mulch may seem like the perfect solution for shrub and perennial beds. The idea behind using landscape fabric is that it will permanently eliminate the need to weed the garden by forming a barrier that blocks weed seeds from germinating while still being porous enough to allow water and air to pass through.
However, it’s important to note that landscape fabric is not a permanent solution. Most fabrics are made of plastic fiber, and their durability varies. Cheaper fabrics may degrade in the soil, while others might get pulled up when removing weeds. This can be particularly problematic for gardeners who plant annuals in their landscape beds, as the fabric may end up resembling Swiss cheese due to frequent planting.
In Putting an End to My Landscape Fabric Nightmare, it’s noted that landscape fabric, while often used in ornamental landscapes as a method to block weed growth, can become a huge chore to remove after a couple of decades, especially if the cloth was used to stabilize steep banks for planting.
The concept of landscape fabric is that it acts as a barrier on top of the soil, preventing weeds from emerging. It physically stops the growth of weeds from the soil below and blocks sunlight from reaching weed seeds. Yet, the effectiveness of landscape fabric might diminish over time as soil particles and organic matter accumulate on top of the fabric, potentially allowing weed growth.
Before using landscape fabric, it’s advisable to dig and remove any existing weeds in the garden bed. The fabric should then be laid out, secured with pins, and cut to fit the area. Regular maintenance is required to ensure its effectiveness, as How to use landscape fabric to prevent weeds suggests.
While landscape fabric might seem advantageous on paper, it’s essential to consider its limitations. For instance, the claim that solid black plastic, another weed barrier option, is harmful to plants due to lack of air and water exchange has not been conclusively proven harmful, as discussed in Weed Control Options for the Home Vegetable Gardener.
In conclusion, while landscape fabric can provide a barrier against weeds, it may not be as effective or permanent as initially thought. Adequate mulching depth alone can offer significant weed control, as mulch is generally effective against annual weeds and comes with additional benefits like improving soil quality and limiting erosion.