Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why I Hate Landscape Fabric

I'm sorry, but I have to vent. As a horticulturist, there is nothing more irritating than arguing with "landscapers" who endorse the use of this:

Landscape Fabric

For every reason they use to recommend its use in garden beds, I have 5 reasons not to use it. It comes in various forms and I dislike every kind.

I've come to realize, most landscapers who use it horticulturally never maintain these sites after the installation.

Have you ever maintained dozens of locations with it on a daily basis? I have.

Here are some samples and proof of its redundancy:

1. Instead of repelling weeds, it does the above. It provides a great place where degrading mulch allow grass and other weeds to grow quite happily above the fabric.

2. You have to add a thick layer of mulch in order to hide the fabric. The combo depth of the mulch and fabric only allow minor amounts of moisture to actually reach plant roots. Wonderful.

3. Unavoidable left over, overlapped, excess fabric repels water and stunts root growth in these areas.  Not to mention, it pops out and people pull on it, thinking it's garbage. Disturbing the whole look. These burning bushes above are 4 years old. They are still about the same size as when they were initially planted.

4. As the plant matures, its roots stick to the underside of the fabric and so when you try to remove a weed growing on top (that has rooted through), you wind up lifting the fabric, damaging tender fibrous roots of perennials and shrubs you're trying to protect.

5. I have seen dozens of perennials die from drought because this fabric does not allow enough rainfall to keep surface roots moist. The mulch on top gets damp, but no water seeps through beneath.

6. When the mulch composts, the fabric acts as a barrier and doesn't let the degraded material come in contact with the soil beneath.

7. When you rake debris off the mulch you expose the fabric. Taking off more mulch than leaves and unwanted debris.

8. This shiny black fabric absorbs heat and bakes the roots beneath.

9. A thin layer (2-3 inches) mulch on top of landscape fabric easily washes away during heavy rain storms.

10. It chokes the crown of perennials, making them stunted. These perennials were planted 4 years ago. Half the size they should be. The hole made in the fabric strangles the crown.

11. To lift and divide perennials or to remove dead ones, you end up damaging the fabric, causing frayed edges - making a complete mess.

Grrrrrr.  I could go on...

Folks - if you insist on using this fabric, use it for weed control under trees and larger shrubs that are not situated in planting beds. Cut large holes into the fabric to account for mature growth. And PLEASE, use the biodegradable kind. The kind that will slowly degrade and not become a tangled mess after 4 to 5 years.

Truly, I think the kind used in the photos above, should only be used in hardscaping installations.

Ah, I feel better now. ;)


  1. I agree completely with all of this. And I learned because I used it. What a mess! I have pulled and pulled but still come upon pieces all over. Newspapers are better. Thanks.

  2. 100% agree. And it leaves strings of plastic behind for years afterwards.

  3. My frustrations couldn't be stifled. I am glad I am not alone. Thanks ladies!

  4. I'm with you totally! The only place it should be used is underground, to do something like line a french drain to prevent or retard soil infiltration. Never anywhere near the soil surface!


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