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 lattice. On the left is a chain-link fence. 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 fabrics, my options are:
- Organic mulches -- Eventually decompose, a process hastened by soil contact. As they decompose, they become fertile ground for weeds.
- Crushed stone -- An inorganic mulch, it 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 stone, 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 here.
The virtue of landscape fabrics is that, like black plastic, they serve as clean, durable weed barriers. But unlike black plastic, landscape fabrics 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....