Landscape Fabric Before Mulch

pasoOctober 20, 2010

We have some areas of our soil that contains Phytopthora and Rhizoctonia and some that is okay. Do you install landscape fabric before mulch or skip the fabric altogether. I know I can't use any uncomposted bark or amendments for mulch due to the soil disease. I have never used the fabric, so we can use your thoughts. As always, thanks so much for your help.

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Generally I have found that landscape fabrics do not work over the long term and are a large pain after a few years. Is the soil where these disease pathogens are compacted and poorly draining? Adding organic matter to improve that drainage will more than likely help control them better.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 6:36AM
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gardengal48

I'd be interested to know why you think uncomposted mulch is contraindicated in infected soils. There has actually been quite a lot of research done to indicate that mulching (yard waste mulch) actually increases disease resistance of certain plants in phytophthora infected soils.

Regardless, it is well documented that compost (used as a mulch OR amendment) contributes a great deal to counteracting various soil pathogens in addition to improving soil conditions overall. For it - or any mulch for that matter - to be the most effective, skip the landscape fabric. It adds nothing and will inhibit the free movement of the bioorganisms that work against the pathogens.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 3:04PM
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plaidbird

Regarding landscape fabric.

You get hat you pay for. Most sold to the home owner are less expensive and weak. They develop holes pretty early in life. Before purchasing peel open a tiny piece of the plastic covering the roll. Pull out a corner of the fabric.. how hard is it to poke your finger through ?

Professional quality landscape fabric last for ages. I purchased a large roll back in about 1984 or 85 and even the large block used in a work area, with no mulch over it, is still as good as it started. True..I'm not driving forklifts over it..which is done in a nursery. Mine does get heavy traffic though, along with uv rays..and it still great.

I used what I needed the first couple years then sold the remainder of the roll to a friend who is still equally happy with hers. I have used pieces folded and stored in a recycling tub, and they are reused when needed.

I noticed this same professional quality fabric is now for sale in small rolls in all the specialty garden stores around here. I would not expect to ever see it is a big box store though. Better to work a smaller area as you can afford it, than to try and save $ with cheaper, disposable fabric...which is way too much work and much more expensive per year.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 5:03PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I agree with gardengal; the use of landscape fabric does nothing to prevent the spread of soil borne diseases. And I'm curious as to where you heard about the negative aspects of using bark or amendments.

The use of landscape fabric has really fallen by the wayside in favor of mulch. Unless your goal is to install it under pavers, bricks, or other pathway uses, I'd leave it out completely. Your soil system will be ever so much happier without it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 5:11PM
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greenbeans

Don't use landscape fabric. Our previous owners used it everywhere and every time I want to plant something I have to pull it out or try to cut holes in it. Cutting holes sounds easy but when the fabric has had mulch applied to it year after year, it gets heavy on top of the fabric, and in order to cut a hole into it you have to clear away alot of dirt and mulch to give yourself enough room to work with.

At least don't put down landscape fabric with the idea that it'll control weeds. What will happen is whatever mulch you use (unless it's stone which has several drawbacks itself - it compacts the soil and does nothing to add nutrients) will break down and create compost; weed seeds will blow in and grow right in that compost that is sitting ON TOP of the landscaping fabric.

Worse yet, tree roots can start to grow into it, so when you want to remove it you have to contend with those. Not an impossible job, but tedious and tiresome.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 10:20PM
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plaidbird

Hi Paso,

I happened onto an article regarding soil-borne pathogens and thought of you. It may not be up your alley, but it is interesting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell Cooperative Extension

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 7:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

plaid, thanks for attaching that link. There's a lot of very useful information throughout the entire site. The particular article you pointed out is very interesting.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 12:50PM
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plaidbird

Hi Rizo,

I'm so glad you found that. I know it's late in the conversation and most will miss it, but it was too good to let go. Funny..I don't even remember what it was I was looking for when it showed up.

I've always felt a bit helpless when it comes to certain soil born pathogens. We are taught prevention only for the most part. Doing active battle with a patch of mustard sounds self empowering. :)

I'll bookmark it now before I forget, since you have gone ahead of me and seen more. Thanks. A good thing for a rainy nights reading.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 7:18PM
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