Landscape fabric used in landscape design and maintenance

There are so many types of landscape fabric variations used in landscape design and maintenance. They are not just used for controlling weeds. So which landscape fabric do you choose, and when?

Landscape cloth or a geo-textile for weed barrier and erosion controlThe fabric of landscape design is sometimes just that -- landscape fabric that is laid on the ground under mulch, in French drains, or on steep slopes. Landscape fabrics are used for a variety reasons; most commonly as a weed barrier, but also for soil separation, water filtration, slope stabilization, and erosion control.

It is almost time to get out and prepare for spring planting so here is what we recommend as you go looking for landscape fabric.

Landscape fabric used for blocking weeds

Weed control fabric, as mentioned, is a common type of landscape fabric. The type of landscape fabric we often see people using for weed control is not biodegradable, but instead lasts for years. You know what I'm talking about -- the kind you get from your local hardware store or garden center. These typically come in the form of spun polyester where the fibers have been spun into a mat and heated so they stay in place. The cloth is relatively strong, lightweight, and porous. It makes a good weed barrier...for one season. After that, it's a nuisance.

I have my own personal dislike for the common landscape fabrics when used as a weed barrier because, although they do prevent weeds from growing through them, they DO NOT prevent weeds from growing on top of them AND they tend to last forever.

Many landscape projects require hours of pulling up old landscape fabric that is a mess and no longer effective. So...while landscape fabric can be useful to stop invasive weeds like Horsetail and Blackberry, the manner in which it persists in the garden is troubling.

I prefer the concept of using a biodegradable weed barrier as seen on this web page: Biodegradable landscape fabric at Since the fabric does biodegrade, you may wish to reinstall if the weeds get out of control again, but you won't have to worry about pulling up the old stuff.

When providing landscape maintenance and garden stewardship, we usually pull the large weeds by hand and then use both biodegradable landscape cloth and mulch to cover the small weeds and control further growth. Visit our webpage about Landscape Maintenance and Garden Stewardship for more information about that service.

Landscape fabric used for controlling invasive weeds

When invasive weeds need to be controlled, you may need to reach for a permanent landscape fabric solution. These are available in a range of thicknesses. The thickness you want in a weed-control fabric depends on what type of weeds you are trying to block. If you wish to cover blackberry roots, you will need a thick landscape cloth or use 2-3 layers. Even this may not be enough to control some invasive weeds. Other forms of weed-extermination may also be necessary.

If dandelions are your nemesis, a thin landscape fabric will work just fine, but consider using biodegradable fabric whenever possible.

Landscape fabric used for soil separation, water filtration, stabilization and erosion control

Water filtration and erosion control are very important if you live in an area where there are mudslides, rock slides, flooding, or other similar problems. If landscape fabric is not used to separate soil from rock, a drainage system may become ineffective over time as it slowly fills with fine silt. A French drain will remain effective for a long time if it is covered or wrapped in a tough, long-lasting landscape fabric which is designed to block most of the silt while allowing water into the drain. Have you ever walked near a construction site and seen the drains covered with fabric? Chances are, they did not place it there to keep people from losing their keys or cell phone if dropped in the drain.

For high-traffic areas and under stone walkways, a heavy-duty landscape fabric helps keep the stone from settling and provides support.

Geo-textiles are what we use when we want to hold back soil and rock on a steep slope or when building a retaining wall. A geo-textile landscape fabric is very thick and strong -- even its name sounds tough compared to "landscape fabric". A typical land-retention wall will have large rocks as anchors, smaller rocks as fill, and all wrapped with the geo-textile before being covered with soil or faced with more decorative rock. Water can then flow through the wall without building up enormous hydraulic forces and weight, which are what causes landslides. A geo-textile fabric can be expected to last 30 or more years if kept from the sun and ultra-violet light.

Using landscape fabric for integrated pest control

Here is another reason to use landscape fabric -- it is sometimes known as "integrated pest management". Put down a layer of woven landscape fabric, which is a thick and very strong landscape fabric. Then add a 2-inch layer of sand and a 3-inch layer of top soil. Now you have a mole-resistant, rock-heave resistant lawn base. ("Rock-heave" is when the rocks and stones in the soil slowly rise to the surface of the lawn over time). This integrated pest control is effective at reducing pests; however, the very nature of pest is to find another weak area, if possible.

Need help? The world of landscape fabric, biodegradable cloth and geo-textiles can be...well, smothering. Environmental Construction Inc. is here to help with all your landscape maintenance needs.

A quality landscape installation, especially an ecologically friendly landscape, may include the use of weed control fabric, but should always make good use of French drains, rain-gardens, retaining walls, and erosion control for steep slopes. Landscape fabrics, including geo-textiles, are a key element for maximizing the longevity and effectiveness of quality landscaping.

Contact us by phone, email us (, or request a consultation through our website.

Category: Landscape Maintenance

Environmental Construction, Inc.

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