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How to Install Landscape Fabrics

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What Are the Uses for Landscape Fabrics?
Use landscape fabric for weed control.

Install landscape fabric in an area like this one -- before the weeds get out of hand!

David Beaulieu

Why use landscape fabrics? Consider this situation:

Running down the middle of the space shown above is an un-planted area of my side yard. On the right is a row of plants, climbing a lattice. On the left is chain-link fencing. The area in the middle is becoming weedy.

At some point, I will be planting a flower bed in this area. Meanwhile, I don't want weeds to run rampant, and I don't want to bother pulling them. Besides landscape or "weed" fabrics, my options (and their drawbacks) are:

  • Organic mulches -- These eventually decompose, a process hastened by soil contact. As they decompose, they become fertile ground for weeds.

  • Crushed stone -- An inorganic mulch, crushed stone won't decompose. But stone easily works its way into the soil. It's also hard to keep clean and draws considerable heat to the soil.

  • Black plastic -- Like a crushed-stone mulch, it won't decompose; unlike stone, it's easy to clean. But not only does it draw heat (like stone), but it also prevents air, water and nutrients from penetrating into the soil. These drawbacks will become important once I install plants in this space.

The virtue of weed fabrics is that, like black plastic, they serve as clean, durable weed barriers. But unlike black plastic, they permit a certain amount of air, water and nutrients to penetrate to the soil. Also, a layer of organic mulch applied over landscape fabrics will decompose more slowly than it would if allowed to come into direct contact with the soil.

I acknowledge that there are those who have nothing but bad things to say about landscape fabrics. Their critics point out that, while porous, landscape fabrics prevent some air, water and nutrients from penetrating the soil that would otherwise do so. Plant roots may also become entangled in landscape fabrics, making transplanting difficult.

On Page 2 we'll prepare the ground for installing landscape fabrics....

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