Landscaping fabric is a simple concept. It can be easily installed and last for long periods of time. The goal of the fabric is to block the soil from the sun, so the weeds can't grow even if their seeds exist.
With the right landscaping fabric, your plants won't need to compete for the soil. We've taken a look at some of the best fabrics on the market. These are our top recommendations.
Top 4: Best Landscape Fabric
This is one of the best weed barriers on the market. It is made with heavy-duty, durable materials that block weeds and allow for customized weed control. The environmentally friendly materials are super easy to use.
Overall, this is a product that works well for both experienced gardeners and people who are just starting out. It performs reliably, but it's also easy enough to set up that you don't need a lot of in-depth background.
The fabric is available in multiple different sizes. You can buy lengths of 50, 100, and 250 feet, along with widths of 3 and 4 feet. That makes this best for long and narrow gardens, like the ones that are often planted in front of houses.
The barrier helps you to control the weeds, so you don't need to spend as much time weeding. The installation is also very easy. Though the construction is heavy-duty, it's also light enough to be carried and cut with ease.
The mat lets water and air through, so you can still water your garden as you usually do. This allows your soil to retain its moisture. The goal is to prevent weeds from sprouting without causing damage to the soil.
The design is built to last for years. You won't need to use herbicides on your garden or replace the materials for a long time. The manufacturer also offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so if you're dissatisfied at all, you can get a full refund.
The fabric has two layers. It is designed to resist shredding, even when exposed to wind and extreme temperatures. That makes it a great choice for people in cold or hot climates.
You can use the fabric on both in-ground and raised garden beds. As long as the plants are permanent, the fabric can be used.
This is one of the larger fabrics on the market, so it's a great choice for people with big gardens. It is 6 feet in width and 300 feet in length. It's also one of the pricier options, but that's because the design is made for professional-level gardeners.
The woven textile fabrics help to hold the soil in place. In addition, this fabric can be used underneath stones, pavings, and other landscaping features to anchor them.
The product helps to save both money and time. It will last for multiple years and provide unparalleled weed control. You'll end up spending less on the fabric than you would on herbicides, and you'll also suffer a lot less frustration.
The fabric prolongs the life of your surface soil. It also stabilizes the foundation of your garden and separates the growth layer from the mulch above.
This is a great choice for people who have gardens built on slopes. The fabric can hold the soil in place to prevent it from eroding during rainstorms and wind events.
If you're looking for an affordable alternative to the heavy-duty fabrics, this option from Scotts is a great choice. It covers 4 by 220 feet, so it's big enough to suit a moderate garden.
The goal of the design is to prevent weeds from growing, so you don't need to use herbicides. It is durable enough to last for long periods of time, and it also reduces erosion of the soil.
You can use this fabric as a layer beneath a walkway or patio. It will stabilize the project so that the surface components don't sink into the soil.
The fabric isn't industrial grade, but it also isn't so lightweight that it will tear easily. Instead, it's a medium thickness that offers perfect protection to casual gardeners.
This barrier from Hoople can serve a variety of purposes. It prevents weeds from growing, creates a level surface for pavers, and makes it easier to edge the exterior of garden beds.
The fabric is extremely thick. Each roll has a fabric size of 3 by 180 feet. Because of the heavy-duty construction, it's a little pricier than thinner fabrics that might be larger. But if you want something serious for your garden, this is the place to turn.
In fact, the fabric is anywhere from 2 to 3 times as thick as the average brands you'll find in a hardware store. Even if you live somewhere with extreme weather, this product will last for multiple years.
You can easily install the roll of fabric in your yard, garden, or flower bed. Since the fabric comes rolled up, all you need to do is unroll it in your area of choice. Then cut your outlines and begin the planting process.
This is an eco-friendly barrier that's free of chemicals, so it's a good option to use with any plants you intend to eat.
The right landscape fabric for you depends on your needs. Overall, it's best to look for something heavy and thick. Make sure that air and water can pass through, and check to see whether the kit includes the installation pins.
Our top recommendation is the Ecogardener fabric. This fabric is lightweight enough to be cut and installed by yourself, but it's heavy enough to protect your soil. It is also available in a variety of sizes that suit long, narrow gardens.
Our other top recommendation is the Mutual WF200. This option is best for people with large gardens who need to keep their soil in place. It can protect the soil from eroding while anchoring your landscaping elements. But it is a little more heavy-duty and pricey than a casual gardener will need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Landscape fabric can be a little pricey. Some gardeners create a DIY barrier instead. They might use a sheet of plastic, a layering of newspaper, or torn up cardboard boxes.
Unfortunately, these solutions can have a negative impact on the soil. The solid barriers block nutrients, water, and the flow of air. This can decrease soil quality and prevent your plants from getting the food they need.
Weed barriers work much better because they are designed to block sunlight without blocking other substances. They allow nutrients, air, and water to move through and soak into the soil. These are barriers that are specifically built to give your plants nutrients while keeping the weeds away.
The majority of landscape fabrics look like normal textiles. However, you might also see designs that are solid with perforations.
It's also important to note that high-quality landscape fabric won't break down and rot like newspaper and cardboard will. Newspaper and cardboard last about a week, especially if they get wet. A high-end weed barrier might last for more than 12 years.
With that said, landscape fabric won't always fix all of your problems. It functions best if it serves certain specific purposes. Some of the ways to use it effectively include:
- You can use it to prevent weeds from growing until your plants are firmly rooted, so they aren't choked out of the soil.
- You can prevent raccoons, gophers, dogs, cats, and other wild animals from digging through your planting beds.
- The fabric can create a solid foundation under rocks and other landscaping ornaments that might sink into the soil otherwise.
- If the landscape is permanent, you won't need to weed or do other maintenance as often.
- You can use the fabric to create grow bags for shrubs and trees, since they can still receive nutrients through the cloth.
The fabric works best when your garden is permanent or semi-permanent. It's not a good idea to use with vegetable gardens and annual flower gardens, since you often harvest and replace and remove these plants.
A better place to use the fabric is in gardens that have lots of shrubs and trees. Don't use the fabric if you're planning for the plants to drop seeds. The barrier will prevent the seeds from entering the soil.
There are a variety of advantages to landscape fabric. The item has been engineered to help you prevent weeds from encroaching on your permanent plants. Many manufacturers have improved upon previous designs.
Since the fabric allows nutrients and water to pass through, and it lasts for a long time, it is significantly better than DIY solutions like cardboard.
Another advantage is that the fabric is easy to install. It's simple to set down in your target area, and then you don't need to do anything. You'll only have to replace the fabric when it gets worn out, which could take years.
Because this fabric is built for one specific purpose, you'll find it in the perfect sizes. Garden stores carry a variety of sizes that are meant to suit specific gardening needs. You can ask an employee about the dimensions you need, and it's easy to resize the fabric.
The fabric is successful at preventing weeds from developing. It prevents seeds from being buried in the soil. With existing seeds, the access to sunlight is cut off so they cannot keep taking root.
If you use fabric to control your weeds, you don't have to invest in weed killer. Many herbicides are built to leave your plants alone, but you might not want to introduce potentially harmful chemicals to your garden or yard.
The barrier also helps to moisten the soil. Since the sun doesn't reach the soil, evaporation is limited. The temperature remains cool. You won't need to water your garden as often, and you can conserve your water if you live in a dry area.
Another advantage that many people don't realize is that the barrier can actually prevent erosion. Soil naturally erodes due to wind and water channels. But the fabric helps keep the soil in place.
That advantage is especially notable if you have your garden on a hill. Flat surfaces aren't as prone to erosion, but hills and slopes are a different story. A good piece of fabric could mean the difference between your garden flourishing and being washed away.
A lot of the fabrics on the market have been tested and proven to last for at least ten years. You install them once, and then you're set for a decade. There are very few weed control options that last as long.
If you live in an area with extreme weather, the fabric can help regulate the temperature of the soil. It won't completely compensate for intense weather events, but it can help. Heat will be trapped in the winter, and in the summer, the lack of direct sunshine will keep the ground cool.
Before we get into the disadvantages, we need to emphasize the advantages again. One piece of good fabric can provide permanent weed control for more than ten years. Even if you enjoy weeding, that's a lot of time and hassle saved.
That said, some gardeners find that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Whether the fabric works for you is just a matter of your needs, plans, and preferences.
Some of the potential drawbacks of the product include:
- Earthworm populations are reduced, because they cannot reach the surface. Depending on how many worms you have, this may reduce your soil quality.
- Without worms, the soil will become more compacted over time, so it might be hard to plant in.
- The nutrient cycle is interrupted, since organic materials from above cannot enter the soil. Your plants will remove the nutrients from the soil without replacing it.
- You might still have to deal with weeds. That's especially true for those who use organic mulch. It's easy for weeds to root in this substance.
- Since the placement of the fabric is permanent, it can only be used for permanent plants. It's not a good fit for gardens that are often changed or harvested.
- If the fabric doesn't have a mulch covering, it might become sun damaged. It also won't look great.
- Certain fabrics might have chemicals that can mix with the soil. This isn't a huge deal with ornamentals, but if you plan to eat any of your plants, make sure that the fabric is safe to use.
- If the fabric is misplaced over bulbs, they won't be able to access sunlight, so they won't sprout. Many bulbs are pushed around by roots, so they might not be where you originally planted them.
There are solutions to most of these problems. But some gardeners find that the disadvantages are more of a hassle than they're worth. If that's the case for you, then you might want to stick to herbicides and regular weeding instead.
There are several factors that contribute to the quality of a fabric. The two biggest ones are the weight and thickness. If a fabric is heavy and thick, it's more likely to be durable. That means it will last through many years of weather and turmoil.
By contrast, if a fabric is extremely lightweight and thin, it's not likely to last as long. These fabrics might become torn in windstorms and start breaking down.
If you're looking for a fabric to put underneath rocks and other landscaping features, you need something thick. This fabric acts as an anchor to keep the features from sinking into the soil. It's like a boat. If the boat is flimsy, your rocks are going to sink.
Lightweight fabrics do tend to be more inexpensive. They are also useful when you only need to cover your garden on a temporary basis. But if you want a permanent cover, look for something thick.
The majority of fabrics are somewhere between 3 and 6 feet in width. They have a length of anywhere from 10 to 400 feet. Make sure that you measure your garden and determine how much fabric you need. Get a little extra just in case. Extra fabric tends to be stored easily.
The overall process is relatively straightforward. You'll need a variety of garden tools, but most should already be at your disposal. Make sure that you get at least one fabric pin for every square foot being used.
These are the components you need:
- Your fabric
- Your pins
- A mallet or hammer
- Sharp scissors
- Good mulch
- A sharp knife
- An optional lighter
Once you have all of these items together, you want to prep your soil. Get rid of any existing weeds. Remove debris like sticks, twigs, leaves, nuts, and small rocks. Put some new fertilizer in the soil. If you need to change the pH, now is the time to do so.
You might not be sure whether the soil needs to be changed. You can get it tested. Look into agricultural centers near you to see whether any have testing services. It's also possible to test the soil on your own by using a home kit.
After you've taken care of the soil, create a smooth and level surface by using a garden rake. If there are any hills, get rid of them. If you plan for your garden to have a pathway, you'll want to lower the soil so that the pathway can be layered on top of the fabric.
Put the fabric over the desired area, leaving the side with texture facing down. Make sure that there are at least two inches of fabric at the edges. This will be buried in the soil or placed at the edges of the garden bed.
If you have overlapping pieces of fabric, make sure that the overlap is at least six inches.
Take out your sharp knife. Cut holes in the fabric in the places where you want your plants to be planted. It's important that the holes are big enough to make planting easy, and that the plants have space to grow.
If the fabric won't stay in place above the soil, you can use your fabric pins to anchor down the edges. That will help keep the holes from shifting. You can seal fraying fabric edges by using your lighter. This might improve the material's durability, but it isn't necessary if you don't want to.
Now that you've mapped out your garden and put down the preliminary boundaries, you can do the actual planting. Put your flowers, trees, shrubs, seeds, or other materials in the respective holes. Don't disturb the fabric as you plant. If you find that you don't have enough room, you can enlarge your holes.
Once the plants are put in place, you can anchor down the fabric using your pins. Put a pin in every square foot of space. If there are overlapping pieces, pin down the fabric with a new pin on every foot.
This is what keeps the material in place. It will prevent the holes from shifting and allow your garden to flourish even in inclement weather.
Now you're nearly done. All that's left is to cover the exposed fabric with your mulch. Mulch allows the soil to retain moisture, lets water through, weights down the fabric, and keeps it from becoming sun damaged.
Landscape fabric requires relatively little maintenance. However, there are some things you should do to improve your garden.
First, you should pull the weeds that sprout in the mulch. You might still deal with weeds in the mulch, but their roots won't choke your plants. It's important to pull them, though, because they can damage the fabric if their roots become too dense.
Most people use organic mulch in their gardens. If you chose to use wood chips or another organic material, it will break down over time. You'll need to add more mulch periodically to keep the fabric covered.
Make sure that you remove the broken-down mulch. It will work best if added to a compost pile. The replacement mulch should be chunky and fresh. If you keep letting the mulch break down without removing it, a layer of soil will form on top of the fabric.