Landscaping fabric without mulch?

nodivisionsApril 12, 2014


We have a side hill that's really overgrown with weeds. It's about 10 feet tall by 100 feet long and maybe 30 degrees steep. About twice a year I go and pull out or cut down all the trees that have sprouted, usually a dozen or two, between 1 and 4 feet tall. But this is really a hassle because the entire hill is overgrown with poison ivy; even when I go and cut/pull trees at the very end of winter, long before the poison starts growing, I still get the rash on my skin.

I've had a couple landscaping companies tell me it would be thousands of dollars to clear the hill and get something like ground cover planted... but even then they say the weeds will probably still come back.

At this point my primary goal is just to stop having to cut out trees all the time. Aside from the fact that we don't have thousands of dollars to spend on this, we're also not terribly concerned about having "weeds" (i.e. native vegetation) there; we just don't want to spend so much time and effort maintaining the weeds.

So what's the cheapest, easiest way to stop or at least greatly slow the weed growth? I'm thinking of just covering the whole hill in landscaping fabric. Lowe's sells this gray woven landscape fabric (Tyvar brand, I think?), the kind that lets air and water through, with a 15-year warranty, which I could cover the whole hill with for about $100. But the issue is, the hill is too steep to cover with mulch; it would all just slide to the bottom. My question is, if I just install the landscaping fabric (pinned down) with nothing on top of it, how effective would that be?

Or what about thick black plastic sheeting instead? But I think the sun will destroy that quicker than the fabric, right?

I did spray an entire large (~2 gallon?) pump full of Round-Up onto the hill last year; it took forever and had virtually no effect on the weeds. I think they briefly turned yellow like they were dying, but came back just as strong a week or two later. And I'd rather avoid herbicides if possible.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Landscape fabrics and/or plastic won't work. An instant method for sheets of water moving down the hill and causing severe erosion at the foot of the slope.

For Roundup to be effective, you must apply it at the correct time -- when the photosynthetically produced sugars are moving into the roots. Generally that's at or just prior to bloom.
If applied during the growing season, the stuff moves upward in the plant, turning it yellow -- the plant survives.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 2:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why not let the trees grow? What kind are they?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 2:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, the foot of the slope is a street. I can see how plastic sheeting would result in lots of runoff, but wouldn't the fabric (which is porous and designed to allow water to pass through) be much better in this regard?

I didn't know Round-Up had to be applied at a certain time like that -- thanks.

I don't want to let the trees grow because they're about 3 feet from the street, in a steep rocky hill, which seems like a liability at best, if not a disaster waiting to happen. Plus they'd be shading the south side of our yard where our garden is. I don't know what kind of trees they are.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 10:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

The label tells the dose and timing.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Touted to allow water and air through, landscape fabrics do - but not as much as soil covered by mulch or turf. They still create more runoff when by themselves.

But, the other concern is that most of them are black - creating much more heat when hit by the sun, drying soil beneath more quickly and creating more heat for foliage of wanted plants to deal with.

Not to mention the visual effect.

Maybe an alternative would be a "weed torch" used on the trees? Seems like either that or concrete...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 5:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Torching the weeds isn't an option due to local ordinances, plus from what I understand, burning poison ivy is a bad idea.

The landscape fabric I mentioned here is actually gray, not black, so it should generate somewhat less heat. And there won't be any wanted plants in the vicinity, so I'm not really worried about that, nor am I especially worried about the appearance -- plain gray landscape fabric probably won't look amazing, but it already doesn't look amazing since it's just a weed-overgrown hill.

The problem that I had in mind, but no one has brought up, is the efficacy of the landscape fabric for actually killing the weeds or preventing their growth. Would landscape fabric accomplish that with no mulch on top? Or would the weeds just grow straight through it?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do NOT use landscape fabric, no matter what the color is! My grandson and I spent 2 days pulling up the 3 rolls I had a landscaper put down 1 1/2 years ago because of severe weeds growing right thru it. My sister used an old rug, cutting it in pieces, and hasn't had a weed since. The only downside is if you plan on putting in new plants, you will have to cut the carpet for a space to plant. Cardboard is another alternative, but I've heard newspaper breaks down easier.

If you think you might want to try rugs, there's plenty of them at thrift stores~use one of those sharp blade tools for cutting. Probably less money than the landscaping fabric and a lot less frustrating.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:07AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Preventing weeds
When planting bareroot roses, the instructions say...
Idea for homemade herbicide: think it'll work?
So I have been brewing kombucha at home. A bunch of...
Yet another ID request
I am in Vancouver BC. This weed is very common and...
ID Invasive Vine Weed
Does anyone know the name of this weed? It's a vine...
The battle against Bermuda
Tilled a new spot back in late summer. In my past experiences...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™