THE GREAT WEED BARRIER DEBATE:
Is landscape fabric really that beneficial?
When planning on planting an area around the house most of us think that some type of barrier to minimize the weed infestation is an absolute necessity. Professional weed barriers do provide a level of deterrent for weed populations; however, they do not eliminate the weed problem completely. Mulch on top of the fabric will eventually break down and create a layer of organic material that is perfect for weeds to grow in. Even using a rubber type mulch, dirt carried by the wind will eventually settle in and give the weeds someplace to populate. Truth is, those pesky little plants will find a way to grow nearly anywhere, regardless of the steps we take to minimize them.
A thick layer (3-4”) of good wood mulch will do as much for keeping the weeds down as landscape fabric will. The mulch is beneficial for the plant material because it helps to regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. There are mulch products that will mat together after they have been installed and have had a season to develop mycelia (very fine hair-like filaments) which help hold the material together. Nugget type wood products may look great when they go down, but will not provide the same characteristics that a ground natural wood product will.
When planning the plant material for your beds, remember that along with the trees and shrubs that will go in, perennials and ground cover will help crowd out the weeds as they fill in.
As professional landscapers, there are situations where we will use a landscape fabric in a bed area. Typically this is in areas that will have rock installed in the bed, or in commercial landscapes. One of our biggest issues with landscape fabric is that it creates a thin layer of moisture where the fabric touches the soil. This layer of moisture tends to promote root growth between the fabric and soil. When regular moisture is not available (hot summers and in the winter) it more likely that the plant may struggle in the long run due to the roots drying out so rapidly.
Weeds are going to grow in your beds, whether there is fabric or not. Pulling weeds or subscribing to a bed and border program is part of having a beautiful garden. Let us know if we can help.