How to Install Landscape Fabric and Plastic
By: Julie Day
Using Landscape Fabric Wisely
Some gardeners swear by landscape fabric while others hate it. There are some definite benefits, as well as clear disadvantages, to using these products. Here are some tips for getting the best results from landscape fabric or plastic:
Replace the fabric/plastic and mulch every few years.
- As your mulch layer decomposes, it will form a nice layer of compost on top of the fabric, which allows weed seeds to sprout on top of the fabric. The mulch and fabric need to be replaced every so often or it stops working.
- Landscape fabrics and plastics degrade over time, leaving bits of shredded synthetic material in the soil. Meanwhile, those rips and tears allow weeds to penetrate and can entangle your plant roots. Breakdown is faster in sunlight, so make sure you have plenty of mulch.
Use drip irrigation or place soaker hoses under the fabric.
- Water follows the path of least resistance, and at least some of it is likely to run off the fabric rather than soaking through. To prevent this from happening, use targeted watering rather than overhead watering.
Use landscape fabric and plastic only when needed.
- The barrier of the fabric or plastic can interrupt the natural ecological balance, including the life cycle of insects, birds feeding, and the natural composting of organic matter. Even if it is “breathable,” landscape fabric will slow the rate of water evaporation and can contribute to mold growth.
- Shrubs and trees with landscape fabric often grow more shallow roots than those without it, which makes them less healthy overall and less drought-tolerant. Over time, plant roots can become tangled in the fabric, making it difficult to maintain the area.
- In general, your garden will always be healthier if nature is uninterrupted. While landscape fabric may be safer than chemical weed killers, it is still a synthetic material that blocks natural processes in the soil.