You probably see them every year at your local garden supply store. Rolls and rolls of synthetic, usually plastic barriers that promise to keep weeds at bay and minimize the maintenance of your garden. At first glance, landscaping fabric might seem like an ideal solution to an age old problem. But does it deliver? Many gardeners find that the drawbacks outweigh the advantages, and here’s why.
One of the great things about mulching your garden is that at the end of every season it decomposes and turns into rich fertilizer for your soil. With landscaping fabric, however, all that organic material isn’t able to permeate your soil. This means that after a few years of using landscaping fabric in your garden, the soil can become starved for nutrients.
Once you’ve committed to a planting arrangement with landscaping fabric, you’re more or less stuck with it. Replanting with landscaping fabric is a messy and difficult enterprise. If you stagger plantings throughout the season, or if you think you might want to rearrange your garden later on, landscaping fabric is probably not for you.
Most landscaping fabrics contain petroleum and other harsh chemicals. As a result, many gardeners are wary about using them, especially around edible plants.
Weeds Grow Anyway
Many gardeners report that midway through the growing season, as leaves, dust and dirt accumulate over the fabric, weeds begin to grow on top of the barrier anyway. Once the roots of the weeds get tangled in the fabric, it can be very difficult to weed your garden without making a real mess of all your work.
As an alternative to synthetic landscaping fabrics, trying laying down a layer of newspaper below the mulch in your garden instead. This will achieve many of the same weed-fighting benefits, while still allowing organic material to decompose and fertilizer your garden. Sometimes the simplest solutions really are the best!