The Pros and Cons of using Weed Control Fabric (Landscape Fabric)

Welcome to HortTube where we talk all things gardening my name is Jim Putnam and today I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of using weed control fabric. This is a roll of weed control fabric here. We put this down between the soil and our mulch and we cut little holes in it and plant our plants in it and it’s supposed to prevent weeds I’m going to give you the pros and cons of using it. I am not going to be making videos that say you shouldn’t do this or you should do that. I’m just going to kind of give you the pros and the cons and let you decide. I think just in my personal experience of a long time being a self-employed landscaper that I’ve just come to think that the cons definitely outweigh the pros with this material, but again you know it’s for you to decide.

I’ll start off with the pros certainly when you first put landscape fabric down and plant your plants and mulch over it there is going to be a period of time where you’re going to have less weeds that’s very true it does prevent weeds that are in that existing soil from coming up through that new mulch and through you know around your new plants the problem is the birds you know drop seeds your mulch breaks down on top of the fabric and eventually you have an environment where weeds are going to come up anyway which leads me to my second Pro which is if when the weeds first germinate if you get them pretty quickly they’re very easy to pull on top of this landscape fabric the wheat the roots get down to this fabric and then they have to start spreading outward and that gives you a period of time where they’re just kind of easy to really get out of the ground very quickly without this underneath it they get down in the soil pretty quick and they’re much more difficult to pull out you also pull up a lot of soil when you do it and that soil probably has weed seeds in it as well it’ll start to germinate but the problem though is if you don’t get the weeds quickly they actually get down to this and as this material breaks down a little bit they can actually start rooting into this fabric and when you go to pull them out it will rip your fabric up I’ve had that happen just you have to get the weeds quickly for it to be an advantage the other thing that’s definitely in the Pro column on these weed barriers or landscape fabrics is a lot of people call them is if you’re going to use gravel as mulch or gravel sidewalk they work absolutely fantastic underneath the gravel and it’s not so much for weed control because the same thing will happen on the gravel soil will blow in leads will blow in eventually going to get weeds germinating in your gravel as well but I like to call it if you have if you have gravel regret I’ve had many landscape jobs over the years where the customer has needed gravel removed maybe they bought a house and the previous owner of the house had used gravel and they want to get rid of it if this landscape fabric is under it’s very easy to remove you can scrape down you know to within about a half inch you know gravel sitting on top of it and then you can start to pull the fabric up and actually pile the gravel up and make it very easy to shovel out and you don’t end up with the gravel mixed in your soil one of the other areas people may think as an advantage to this fabric as you’ll see that it will control moisture it’ll hold moisture more evenly in the soil and that is true but I’m actually going to put that in the negative column and I’ll tell you that when I get to the negatives so one thing that’s definitely going to go in the negative column is the expense you know you’ve bought your plants you’ve bought your mulch maybe you’ve rented a truck or borrowed a truck or paid delivery fees or whatever and this is just going to be an additional expense that’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem one of my two main reasons for not using the weed control fabric is it ends soil improvement and I’ll show you that right here what I mean by the weed control fabric ending soil improvement is this if you’ll notice here I’ve got some leaves that have dropped on top of my pine straw I’ve been mulching this space for 15 years probably and underneath it is a really nice layer of topsoil and it goes down about maybe an inch and a half or two inches here you can get a little closer look before you reach the clay that’s beneath it this used to be nothing but clay but you can see the color change there to the clay that inch and a half of topsoil that I have here now is all a result of mulch breaking down over the years in this bed if I had weed control fabric has a barrier between that clay and this pine straw or hardwood mulch all these years none of that soil improvement would have actually taken place my other big issue with this is frequently when I’ve pulled it up on landscape jobs the soil smells terrible underneath it and what’s going on there is it’s holding water in place like as advertised it is regulating the moisture but it’s not allowing enough air through it for material that’s underneath it to break down properly so as you have dead or dying roots or maybe there was some organic material underneath it before you put it down rather than break down properly and decay properly like things should it actually just rots and the smell is terrible underneath this stuff especially if it’s in a wet area if you’ve ever pulled it up you’ll know what I mean and so clearly that’s not a good situation for your plants to not have the oxygen that they need and be sitting in overly wet and rotten organic material since the main positive with the weed control fabric is it controls weeds but only temporarily another solution to this is when you put down before you mulch and you’ve planted you can lay down cardboard pieces of cardboard from boxes you get we all get plenty of those now or you can lay down newspaper you can actually put down several layers of newspaper and it has the same benefit of preventing weeds for some period of time but then it breaks down and allows for soil improvement in the future so those are the pros and cons of using landscape fabric or weed control fabric thank you for watching my video and if it was helpful please hit the like button and subscribe to my channel for future videos also comment below with any experiences you have and using landscape fabric thanks for watching