Landscape fabric mulch - dos and don'ts?

Hank-B(5/Chicago)February 26, 2012

I'm planning to use landscape fabric from 3' wide rolls in my garden this summer. My primary desire is to help control weeds but if it will help conserve soil moisture and warm the soil earlier, that's good too. (I'm not sure if the fabric is helpful for warming. I think that clear plastic may do that better.)

We have a clay based soil but luckily our house was built before the practice of removing the top soil was established. We have what looks like decent top soil that supports a very healthy crop of weeds. ;)

I plan to use a fabric around tomatoes, peppers and bush summer squash. Can I use it between rows of stuff like beans? Carrots? Peas? I also grow vining winter squash (Waltham Butternut) and allow them to wander around the garden. I think they may root along the vine. Will I cause difficulties for them if they are not allowed to do so?

How about around rhubarb and asparagus? Maybe not. the rhubarb seems to do a pretty good job of crowding out weeds and the asparagus does need to come up in a larger area than just a single stalk. Maybe once the asparagus is up, I can surround it with fabric to suppress weeds and then pull it up in the fall or winter so the shoots can come up unhindered in the spring.

If you have any particular success stories or attempts that didn't work, please share them with me so I can be more successful with my application.



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rnewste(8b NorCal)

I strongly recommend the use of the 15 year DuPont Landscape Fabric, sold at Lowes. I tried the (cheaper) stuff sold at Home Depot and it was a failure. The DuPont material was clearly superior in my situation. This fabric is water permeable so rain and hose watering will not be negatively affected.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:26PM
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Thanks for the tip mewste. How did the cheaper stuff fail?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 3:59PM
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mustard_seeds(4 -Onalaska Wisconsin)

Hi Hank!
There is a great deal of info on here about landscape fabric if you do a search you may see some helpful stuff. Are you planing to take the fabric up after a season of gardening? Organic matter from your garden will pile over the fabric and eventually many seeds will be germinating in the later above the fabric and you will still have the fabric "down in there" causing headaches for stuff you want to plant in the future. Consider some other ways to reduce weeds. Reduction in tilling is helpful. Layers of newspaper around your plants or sheets of cardboard, covered with leaves or shredded leaves, is great to block sun that is needed to germinate weed seeds. It will help preserve moisture. It breaks down so it is something you do every year. But I can't imagine placing the fabric and taking it up every year in a bed I am using.

I have some rocky landscaping around the house that was there when we bought our house. I am glad there is landscape fabric under the rocks. But I am super glad that there is no fabric in my garden beds. I hope that helps.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 7:07PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I used landscape fabric, cheaper stuff. I was very happy with the results. The only think I wasn't happy about was the price. This year we are putting down more plastic mulch, but I bought a 6,000 foot roll for the price I paid for the 500 feet I put down last year.

Sweet Potatoes on Fabric

Okra on Fabric

Good luck!


    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 1:17AM
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I use fabric every year and will continue to do so. The cheaper fabric tears easily and is not really reusable. The heavy duty woven can be used for multiple years. I don't use it around asparagus and potatoes, my onions, radish etc, I grow in a raised 4x8 cedar box for ease of knees. I highly advise soil test and OM as I have the same (or worse) soil. You will get some weeds growing thru any holes or in dirt piles but they are easy to remove. My biggest challenge every year is the wind! Use no shorter than 8 in landscape pins. I have a fence around most of the garden and I put that on top the cloth also. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 7:10AM
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Hi folks,
Thanks for the additional info. I did do a search and found lots of mentions of landscape fabric without much detail on how it is actually used. maybe it's just not that big a detail.

I should probably have mentioned a couple things that probably matter. My garden is about 15'x23' so it is relatively small compared to many. Labor intensity of application is less important as is the cost of the material.

I do not expect that this is going to be a long term installation. I plan to pull it up either at the end of this season or the beginning of next. I don't want to plant things in the same spot from one year to the next so that necessitates moving this stuff around anyway.

I have a roll of the cheapo fabric (5 year rating) rather than the film I see in the pictures. My sister (organic farm in New York) uses the film and also has a drip irrigation setup for watering, but she has acres of land under cultivation compared to my square yards.

thanks again,

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:30AM
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