Landscaping Fabric

Using landscaping fabric is a great way of limiting the weeds around your yard for various projects. This informative mini-module will explain how to use and install it. We will also give you some great tips, and explain a few other uses you may not know about.

Remember that "barrier" and "control", aid and assist in preventing weeds. They are not 100% effective, so choosing the right fabric for the job is just as important as how it is installed.

Landscaping fabric has really become a collective term used to describe all the weed barrier materials and other fabrics used for landscaping, but they are not all the same. 

"Weed barrier", "weed control fabric", or "filter cloth" are some of the more common types. There are also other geotextiles used in retaining wall systems, under roads and driveways that are also referred to as landscaping fabrics. These materials are less commonly used among homeowners, and serve a different purpose.

Some landscape fabrics will limit the amount of oxygen and water from reaching the soil. Depending on the types of project, you may opt for a filter cloth type of fabric commonly used in garden beds. They will allow the soil to soak up more nutrients so plants can still thrive.

The most effective all-around and versatile landscaping fabric is woven polypropylene.

Weeds    

Landscaping fabric helps limit weed seeds that are blown in from above from getting a foothold and germinating. Instead of these seeds landing in soil, they are landing on a clean fabric surface free of soil and debris.

This makes germination a little more difficult. This is why we emphasize on keeping your fabric as clean as possible when installing it.

Over time, mulches, plants, leaves, and debris will settle on the weed fabric and break down, giving weed seeds the debris, and organics that aid in germination.

This means that you will have still have some weeding to do over the long term, or you can replace your fabric every 5 or 10 years. We still highly recommend a fabric or a weed mat (another widely used term), as it greatly limits the amount of weeding needed.

We just wanted to clarify this as many people think that landscape fabric is the solution to all their weed problems. Most of the weeds are actually coming from above, not below the surface. (Another misconception) 

Some of us still prefer open beds with rich dark gardening soil contrasting against colorful plants and lush green lawns. The problem in today's fast paced society is most people don't have the time to hand weed garden beds to achieve this look.

Edging and Decorative Rock is another one of our modules that you may find useful. It contains a more in-depth look at projects that frequently require the use landscaping fabric. There is also a helpful section on how to estimate, prepare and install the materials when working with landscape fabric.

This is a great way of reducing lawn size, and maintenance requirements. Projects like this are making landscape fabric very popular.  

A small stone wall using fabric to keep the garden soil separated from the gravel back fill.

Some uses of landscaping fabric

You already know it is a cloth or material used to control, deter, and suppress weeds, but special contractor grades of fabric are used for other reasons. 

Geotextiles are other types of landscape fabrics with a special designs that can strengthen retaining walls by locking the wall, soil, and bank as one unit. They can be used to increase load bearing capacity by holding the materials together under roads or patios. (Stabilization fabrics) 

Another type of landscaping fabric is designed like a thick underpad to protect liners of ponds and waterfalls.

Some of you may also have seen erosion control fabrics used on highway banks, or silt fences. 

Landscaping fabrics are sometimes made from cloth, woven polypropylene, needle punch, and erosion control fabrics are made of jute, or burlap. Generally, the cloth varieties are for garden applications like we discussed above and are often referred to as “filter cloth”.

Find a good fabric

Some fabrics are much more durable than others, and are graded by their weight in ounces. I have purchased fabric that has claimed to be industrial or commercial grade, and found out it wasn't. Fabric purchased in department stores for home use are often a lower grade, and less weight than what landscape supply yards carry.  

Landscape supply yards are your best bet for finding the best quality commercial grade fabrics when it comes to the larger projects in your yard.  They are more competitve than you might expect too.

A landscape suply yard can sometimes cut exactly what you require off larger rolls at their yard. This is a great alternative when you know exactly what you need.

It is possible to use more than one fabric in your garden beds. You could use heavy polypropylene for larger areas, and filter cloth directly around the plants drip zones.

Some of the better quality needle punched woven polypropylene fabrics have designs that allow for effective oxygen and water exchange so this may not be needed.  

Landscaping fabric can usually be purchased in rolls, three, four, and six feet wide. Larger rolls are available, but not as practical to work with for the do-it-yourselfer.

Estimating fabric amounts 

To estimate the amount of fabric is pretty easy if you know the dimensions of your project area. The rolls have the sq. ft. coverage listed on the package.

You will have to account for an overlap of at least a few inches when you are laying it down.

Make sure you also purchase a good supply of landscape pins. These secure the fabric so it doesn't move or blow around when installing it. (You will truly appreciate these on a windy day).

A few tips about working with fabric

  1. Always try to have two people install this. (It's just so much easier) Don't roll out too much at a time on a windy day. Have your landscape pins ready to go right away to secure the fabric from moving, or being blown around. Rocks also work well to hold it down from the wind.
  2. If you only put down a thin layer of decorative rock or mulch on your fabric you will be disappointed. Down the road you will find yourself kicking materials around to hide the fabric. Don't skimp on materials. Have enough for sufficient coverage. Allow for at least 3 inches of coverage for mulch and decorative rocks over fabric.
  3. It also doesn't matter how deep you are digging, you should always call before you dig at any depth. Underground gas lines, power lines, cable, water, phone, sewer, septic systems, buried drain tile can all cause you grief. (Cable, phone, and irrigations lines are often shallow, especially close to the house).
  4. Have a sharp knife to cut the fabric so it doesn't tear. Blades dull very quickly when cutting in and around dirt. Woven polypropylen fabrics require a very sharp blade, or you will have a mess of strands that aren't cut properly. (Have spare blades handy and change them frequently) 
  5. Start with a clean surface free of sticks, grass, weeds, roots, rocks and anything that can possibly rip the fabric over time from underneath. Silt and sediment can become a haven for blown in weed seeds from above, so limit tracking dirt over your own work to keep the area as clean as you can.
  6. If you use a decorative rock or mulch from a supplier, make sure it is clean before you install it. It is almost always sold washed, but I have found some landscape yards do a better job than others. The cleaner the material is that you are installing on your fabric, the less of a weed problem you will have.
  7. If you are using rolls and need to overlap, be generous and overlap at least three inches. Make sure you account for this in your ordering. (Place a pin through both sections of fabric at the same time to save on landscaping pins).
  8. Mounding garden beds and other projects in the middle can save you some excavating time.
    A mounded bed, shows better from any angle, and drains better too.
  9. If you are planting trees and shrubs in a bed with fabric, you can cut a big “X”, and pin back the pieces of flap to allow access to plant. Also, it is much easier to leave the area around the hole free from your mulch or rock until you have finished with your plants. This will make it easier to clean up, if you make a mess. (It can be swept into the hole easily.)
  10. When working on a grade, overlap the fabric in the downward direction. This has a few advantages. When you dump your rocks in from the high side, they will slide over the fabric without peeling it up at the overlap point. Excessive water will drain away, and not under the fabric.
  11. Make sure the fabric overlaps any edging or curbs when you lay it down. If you have ever filled a pond or pool with water, the liner can be pulled a little and sucked down when you fill it with materials. You might find you don't have enough fabric around the edges as it is pulled away from your edging.  

    Cutting off the excess fabric should be one of the last things you do after the rock or mulch is all filled in. This way you won't have an issue of being short.
  12. Pre-digging holes for larger trees and shrubs is acceptable before you put the fabric down. It helps keep the fabric cleaner by limiting digging after the fabric is laid. Be careful not to step in the holes when you have the fabric down.
  13. Use your inverted marking paint to mark any pre-dug holes you have made for shrubs or trees. You can also cut them right away and pin back the flaps to see where the holes are.
  14. Working with landscaping fabric is a job to tackle when it is dry. If you don't, you risk the mud and dirt sticking to the bottom of your boots or shoes and getting tracked onto the fabric. The fabric should always be kept as clean as possible.

    Remember that every piece of silt, dirt, soil, sediment, will help in the weeds get a foothold in the germination process.

    It really doesn't take much for some weeds to get started. (I have seen weeds attach themselves to the fabric itself and germinate.)
  15. If you have in-ground irrigation, make sure you know where your lines are. (These can easily be cut with a shovel.) If you contact your irrigation company, they may want to make changes to the system and zones. They can install irrigation to feed water to what you are going to plant.

We hope you found this mini module-informative. Please visit our module on Edging and Decorative Rock, for a more in depth look at using and installing landscape fabric. If there is anything you would like to add, please
contact us
.

We would also appreciate if you found this useful to pass this on to others.

Thanks so much,

The Dream-yard Team.

______________________________________

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