Landscaping cloth

vdixitJuly 18, 2005


I recently moved to a new house and was planning on putting some annuals I received as gifts or were leftover from before into the ground. But the previous owner had landscaping done and each time a remove a couple inches of dirt I get the landscaping cloth she put down. So how do I plant anything here? Should I put more soil everywhere(very large area) or can I cut out the cloth and then dig a hole to plant.

Thank you for any help.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

What a pain. For a temperary fix, you can simply cut holes into the fabric and plant in the real soil. Later on down the line, you may want to completely remove the soil and mulch that has been placed on top.

Landscape fabric was a huge mistake for the industry. Not only does it NOT do what it's intended to do (prevent weeds), but it is not beneficial for the soil system/root system. I rarely see any professional landscaping company use it any more. It occasionally pops up on the outdated specification sheets submitted by landscape architects, laughably. One practice removed from the fabric was black plastic. Can you imagine ANYone thinking that was the right thing to do? Yikes!

I'm in the same fix as you. We moved into this house last year and have spent most of our efforts in the back yard (which was a wonderful blank slate!). The front yard has the typical right-along-the-foundation plantings which we will rip out this fall when we redo the front yard. Those front beds are covered with 10 year old landscape fabric, too.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 2:33PM
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Ok I will then cut holes into the cloth. i didnt realise it will stay on for 10 years after its put in! I was thinking it might some biodegradable fabric that will go away in 2-3yrs. And you are right about the weeds. They are still around.
Thanks for the advice.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 3:45PM
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Since you are putting in annuals, I guess cutting holes will be OK, but if it were my garden I'd probably try to peel up as much as I could in the area I was planting in before putting in anything. I hate the stuff!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 8:05AM
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PMC_Nebraska(z5 NE)

The landscape fabric never ever dies. We built our house 22 years ago and the landscapers used it. I am still pulling it out when I re-do beds. That and the red lava rocks they used are a real pain in my backside!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 9:36AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Nasty stuff that landscape fabric! And it's a huge job to get rid of it. If you grab an end and pull it up, you will take a plant or 2 with it. You have to cut it out a little bit at a time.
My sympathies....
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 10:00AM
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the sooner you remove it, the less trouble you will have with plants getting caught in it, or it starting to shred - it doesn't really decompose, since like PMC, I have found shreds of it everywhere in beds- it breaks down to about the size of my palm.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 1:36PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

I have never seen landscape fabric shred but for that which I slashed with my scissors. I couldn't even dig through it with a shovel.
But I have never removed any that was down for more than 8 years...:)
If it would break down to bits the size of a hand, there would be no need to remove it.
The issue is it doesn't break down at all.....even in 22 years.
Chinacat....are you sure that's landscape fabric you are finding in your garden?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 1:51PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Some of those landscape fabrics do indeed last for decades, especially if they were well-covered with mulch and/or soil to prevent deterioration from sunlight. And they *are* fabrics as opposed to the plastic sheet type which sooner or later goes to bits and crumbles. Shovel-proof, trowel-proof and darn near scissor-proof. As lindac says, you pull up carefully, and cut sections off as you go. Believe me, it's better to get it out before the plants grow -- among other plants, the phlox keeps trying to spread on top of it, and then aren't happy because they can't get enough root downwards. I am still fighting some my DH put down more than 20 years ago; since we are no longer newlyweds, I can now say "Darlin' please don't do me any more favors like that!"

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 7:01AM
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The easiest way I have found to plant thru it is to cut an "X" with a razor knife and simply fold back the cut corners.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 10:39AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Some 16 years ago, my daughter and her DH bought a house with some wonderful huge hosta in the landscaping....with rock mulch.
After about 4 years those hosta were getting seriously out of hand and needed dividing.....and theat's when she discovered the landscape fabric under the rocke.....and all of the hosta roots growing under the rock and on top of the fabric.....
She did get them divided and most of that blasted fabric out....but what a job!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 11:06AM
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Eliza_ann_ca(zone 6 ont ca)

One of the worst gardening "helpers"ever invented!
Get rid of it as fast as you can.It has no redeeming qualities at all!
I unfortunately know this from personal experience.

Eliza Ann

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 1:24PM
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My lot is quite big and has trees, rose bushes etc. Its going to be extremely difficult for me remove it without possible damage to these trees. I am new at this gardening thing and am afraid of killing the beautiful roses :(.
I am going to do it part by part, as and when needed. Once I decide what to plant and what trees to get rid of I will go in and remove the cloth. But untill then its going to have to stay.
Once I remove the cloth from a certain area should I put any organic matter in the soil below? It seems I have clay like soil here. I am not sure though. What should I do to improve the soil?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 1:59PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Just slit the cloth from where the hole is for the tree to be planted and as far out as you can deal with at the moment.....slit another place around the tree, and pull it away....then cut it off. Huge Job!!....I know I helped my daughter.....and she worked on it for weeks, a bit at a time.
Once you get some gone, add organic stuff on top of the ground....mulcch of pine park, cocoa bean hulls, compost, grass clipings, chopped up leaves....whatever you have. The worms will do the rest!
Be glad when it gets done!
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 4:10PM
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Well, I guess I'm laughing a bit and perplexed. I just had a patio around my mom's small pool re-laid, and am redoing some of the beds around the yard. I was fanatic about making sure they got this landscape cloth completely under the blocks around the pool ~ I'm still ok with that as the main reason for tackling the job was the out of control weeds coming up between the blocks. They were so bad I couldn't get them out. But as I redo the other flower beds, I was planning on using the cloth there too. I live overseas and am not here enough to keep the weeks pulled. What do you all think about at least using it under the big Holly bushes and mulching, where I won't be doing any other planting?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 5:45AM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Still against using landscape fabric. I'm also still trying to get it out of the bed DH covered. There are absolutely no benefits to using it.

If you want a long-term mulch, use the modified lasagna method. Pull, chop, or mow the biggest weeds until you have a flattish area. Cover with thin cardboard (like a cereal box) and/or ¼" sopping wet newspaper. Cover the cardboard with 2 or 3 inches coarse organic mulch such as wood chips or bark. This will last about a year. To continue, simply add another layer of cardboard and another 2" coarse mulch. The organic materials will gradually decompose and enrich the soil while feeding your plants. A good mulch will permit water to percolate down, decompose to improve the soil, *and* prevent weeds from sprouting up.

The point of mulch is to prevent light from reaching the soil -- light activates the weedseeds into sprouting. That's why you lay a solid mass of paper over the soil. Bark and wood chips are slow to decompose, thus lasting for about a year. Shredded dry leaves will usually decompose in 6 to 9 months.

The occasional wind-blown seed *will* take root on top of the mulch --and this will happen regardless of the type of mulch-- but baby weeds are easy to pull up.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 10:45AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Weeds don't come from below the ground, they come as seede blown in....and landscap cloth doesn't prevent that. If you want to kill the weeds that are now growing there use 8 to 10 layers of newspaper or cardboard under your mulch. it will kill the weeds and rot down in a year. Then all you have to deal with is the seeds that are blown in....and that would happen even with that cloth under the mulch.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Absolutely agree with everything above!! I hate this stuff and it's everywhere at my 'new" to me house. It's 4" beneath a bunch of mulch and compost. Very nice but I think it starves the plantings. Whenever I find it in the way I have to pull it up or cut it with a utility knife. Shovels won't go thru it!! Nasty stuff and I think it kept ableeding heart from thriving. Once I pulled that garbage off it, it began to grow!! The previous owner was fanatic about this stuff. UGH.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 8:31PM
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I hate the stuff too. And I have a lot of it in a bed I am setting up. BUT I am about to use it in a French drain. The French drain is a trench with gravel and a drain pipe in it (basically). I have read to enclose the gravel in landscape cloth so it won't get impacted with dirt. I wonder if there is something I can use that will be easier to remove, if anyone ever wants to do so?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 11:21PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

The problem with the landscape cloth in that application is that eventually the cloth will become inpregnated with fine silt, and act very much like plastic....and allow water to pool.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 3:17PM
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The cottage I bought last summer has the black cloth. It covers the whole back yard. Weeds absolutely grow - on top of the fabric.

What I like about is this: It's under all the walking paths that are laid with tiny stones. Not crazy about these small stones cuz u can't walk barefoot on them but I know from past experience that without the fabric underneath, they would sooner than later get pushed into the earth. I hate that.

As far as my plantings go, I'm always digging thru the cloth with a shovel to transplant or divide so I don't really see it as a problem. I wouldn't put it down. But I see no reason to rip it up since it's not in the way of anything and has enough holes punch in it to make water pooling NOT a problem. And the weeds are shallow on top and easy to pull.

Why all the hate on this stuff? Just curious not looking for an argument.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 5:29PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

For me, it's what it does to the soil underneath. It lacks the life of soil without the fabric cover.

I'm also not sure of the long term effects of having a manufactured item over soil. Some ills take a long time to show up in the food chains.

If you mulched straight over the top of the soil, deeply, you'd still find the weeds are easy to pull and the perennial weeds don't find it quite so easy to get their roots under the treasures...

I know what you mean about the small stones. All I do is add more on top. I don't mind having them in my soil, either. They help make a useful habitat for plants that admire sharp drainage.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 8:48PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

You've only lived with that nasty stuff for a year.....eventually the pores in the cloth will fill in and eventually some weeds will get their roots into the cloth....and eventually you will want to dig a hole to plant something large and find the soil gummy and lifeless, devoid of worms and any organic matter.....then you too will hate it.
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 1:33AM
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My grandparents used to have a large area of thier yard covered with black cloth with holes for tomatoes and squash. I dont think they had to do much weeding. I just put some down in a very shady spot where i keep my wheeled equimpment. That spot turns to mud when it rains. I was considering putting putting some fabric down and 1.5" of very pretty rock mulch in square under a pretty flowering bush I just planted. Is it that bad of an idea?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 11:36PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Very bad idea....mainly because of the trouble to put it down, the expense and the permanence of the set up.
Put about 6 inches of wood mulch down, If you use something like shredded wood or even wood chips form a landscaping company and tamp it down, you will have little or no weeds....and every year or so add another inch of mulch.
Most weeds that grow come from seeds which have blown in. Eventually, in a surprisingly short time, there will be enough bits of this and that in the stones to support a seed and you will have to weed the stones. The same thing will happen with the wood mulch, but a little rake action will get rid of the weeds....and you can put another layer of chips down.
Take up the cloth and add lots of wood will allow for drainage and the wood will sop up the water. Just be sure to put down enough wood mulch.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 11:54AM
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We are covering the lawn and cosidering small rock. We don't want grass growing through so is landcape fabric not suitable for this. The alternative would be to spray the grass and try to kill it first.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 1:03PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I am pulling up some now that was put down sometime before 2001 when we bought the house. There is a layer of stream gravel, rounded gravel above. I don't see any evidence of anything growing up through the fabric but a lot of grasses have put roots down through the fabric from above. It would have been easy from myself and previous owners to pull it up or chemically treat it before the roots penetrated the fabric. Indeed in the front of the house where the xeriscaping gets more attention the grass is only a problem after a wet winter which we get infrequently.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 6:47PM
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That seems an inefficient, ultimately possibly expensive, way to protect.

I have found one use for it which has worked out fine. When transplanting individual houseplants I put down a layer of pebbles, then cover them with a layer of the cloth shaped to the diameter of the pot at that level.

Then I begin the fill, potting soil, etc., placing the plant at the desired level. It's worked fine so far.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:20PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yikes. How on earth can you water properly with landscape cloth in the bottom on the containers? I'd think that the fabric would greatly impede the rapid exit of excess water from thorough watering.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 11:38PM
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Works fine. Not on the bottom, but, as I said, on the gravel.

Lets water through, keeps excess soil out. Tested it before first using it, and have had no problems with it.

So happy with it I'm considering making a set of Hallowe'en threads out of it and going as a mirliton, both culinary & musical....

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 9:26AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Hoedon, you might want to reconsider your use of gravel in containers, direct your attention to a potting medium that drains according to the needs of the plant -

Here is a link that might be useful: Lose the gravel in pot bottom habit

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 11:06AM
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Thanks for the input. I know there are a couple of ways of looking at all these things.

Judicious use of media works fine for me; that's the proof. Though one should be aware that different plants and soils require separate attention.

Water drains fine through gravel; you just have to use the right consistency. (Soil, if turned to mud, plugs drainage.) There's a reason that for centuries ppl have found this method effective.

Bearing in mind that, again, we must be open to individual needs.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 9:57PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Landscaping cloth and gravel are against the cannons of the cult. The use of landscaping cloth and gravel is apostasy.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 3:01PM
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