Should I use landscaping fabric?

freckles81May 18, 2010

We have a couple garden beds in front of our house. We planted a couple azalea bushes and rhododendrons along with some smaller plants like petunias etc... However I hate weeding and will never keep up with it. Should I use landscaping fabric under mulch to keep the weeds at bay? I have also seen commercials for a product called preen...does that work?

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I would not. From experience, the landscape fabric in a bed where you are growing plants, will become more of a problem than an asset. It doesn't help build your soil either, which is one of the most important things you want to do if you are trying to grow healthy plants. If you have a lot of space between plants and want to cut down on weeding, cardboard under your mulch will do the trick. Mine usually lasts me one growing season at least. The worms love it too and it will help build your soil. I lay mine down and wet it with the hose and put a layer of mulch over it and that's it for the growing season.

I do use landscape fabric in pathways around raised vegetable beds and under mulch as a pathway. It does cut down on weeding and hasn't become a problem there.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 3:55PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I agree with PM2. With fabric, sooner or later your mulch and fallen leaves, etc., will break down on top of the fabric, and weeds will sprout anyway. If you want to plant later or move existing plants, it's a pain in the neck.

And most importantly, you want to feed your soil. Can't do that with the fabric.

I also use cardboard or several layers of newspaper under my mulch. I really does help with the weeds. I even use the paper/cardboard under mulched pathways.

Preen is a pre-emergent, which means it kills off weed seeds before they sprout. I've never used it. Supposedly you can get the same results organically using corn gluten. Again, I've never used that, so not sure how effective either product is.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:30PM
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Nope. BTDT; it's not effective AT ALL.
Try several layers of (wet) newspapers or the cardboard as previously mentioned.
Preen will "sorta" work- it cuts down a lot, but does not eliminate.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 8:17AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Freckles, the picture below illustrates what above members have said. This is a front garden of the house next door. Landscaping cloth was put down 3 yrs. ago by the owner who was selling the house. He plunked the hostas in after cutting an X in the cloth then covered the whole area with large mulch chips of some kind. Every green leaf you see other than the hosta, grew on TOP of the cloth. Whether microscopically small or larger grit, seeds, dirt, and pollen are in our air most of the time. Via a storm, gentle breeze or bird poop, these things land on TOP of the cloth and combined with the decaying mulch, the seeds sprout and produce an instant garden - weed style. The new owner hires a lawn mowing service,is not a gardener, so that fabric is there to stay until it shreds itself from flapping in the wind. This is what it looks like after only 3 years.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 12:54PM
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Before I knew any better, my neighbor convinced me to use this stuff. I put it down in my main perennial bed. Like everyone else said, weeds grow on top, anyway. If I didn't keep up on it, it would have looked just like the other poster's neighbor.

I think I've gotten almost all of it up now. Some of my perennials had grown into it enough that I just cut up next to them as much as I could.

Go with the techniques others mentioned instead - save yourself some time & money. Wish I had. I've always been an organic gardener in every other regard - what was I thinking?

The one thing that might help is edging that goes down into the soil a few inches. Even though I edge it, the grass likes to try to grow into the flower bed. I plan to put edging in this year.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:38PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Jane, that was a perfect example of what happens. Thanks for posting that photo!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 4:37AM
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It looks as if I will be spending my summer pulling up landscaping fabric, I put down years ago. My pathway in my garden, over the past couple of years, has developed surface roots from a VERY old pine tree.The narl of roots is enough to trip on. Upon beginning my project I see that the roots have grown on top of the fabric----the tree is a couple of hundred years old......What a mess I have out there. This is the second time I have made such a mistake. Believe me newspaper and cardboard is the only way to go! At least you can rake the seedlings off of that without getting all tangled up!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 10:59AM
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is Landscaping fabric the same as the plastic stuff you put down to keep soil warm?

I saw some stuff on that covers to keep soil warm and eventually breaks down to be a part of soil. Has anyone else seen this stuff? Used this stuff? The nights have been too cool for my comfort and I feel like my plants would appreciate a bit more warmth, particularly my eggplant.

Any ideas?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 1:39PM
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TenGreenFingers - You might get better response if you start a new thread. Go to the bottom of the main page for the New England Forum.

Landscaping fabric is not the stuff one puts on veggie garden soil to keep it warm and also isn't the same as Johnny's paper biodegradable mulch. If you use solar plastic mulch you will want to use irrigation under it since the solid kind won't let water through. I have seen woven plastic mulch which will let water seep through, but I don't know how well it works to help heat soil or suppress weeds. You might want to use irrigation under the paper mulch like with the plastic since it will dry out between rains and so may not let much water through unless the rain is lengthy enough to let the paper soften. We used plastic mulch one year, but didn't find it made enough difference to repeat the process.

Another option is to put row cover over the bed to help raise the air and soil temperature. For crops that don't need pollination it can be left on all the time. For crops that require pollination, leaving it open during the day will allow pollination, but if put over the crop last afternoon (preferably while it's still in the sun) and left on overnight this can help hold heat overnight and keep the soil from cooling off.

(FYI - Landscape fabric breaks down in light and needs to be covered with mulch or a walkway or something else that blocks sunlight getting to it, so that would kind of defeat your purpose. It is made of some sort of bonded fibers, rather than being woven or a solid sheet.)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 9:58PM
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