I dare say that Landscape fabric is one of the most misunderstood garden products out there. a lot of people think of landscape fabric as the black plastic that became a nightmare in the flower beds. Landscape fabric has changed so much, but struggles to outrun its bad rap from the earlier days!
What is Landscape Fabric?
Landscape fabric is a ground cover that is most commonly put down as a weed barrier around new plants to protect their fragile root systems until they are well established and no longer need the protection. Landscape fabric can be used in new garden beds for flowers, shrubs trees, vegetables, berries and grapes. It can also be used for erosion control on newly planted slopes. Some kind of mulch, such as bark chips or gravel, should be placed on top of the fabric to prevent UV exposure break down and make it look “natural.” Theoretically, the weed barrier is not permanent and is removed once the plants are established and can fend for themselves.
What is Landscape Fabric Made of?
This is a non-woven spun-bonded polypropylene fabric. Spun-bonded fabric is made from long fibers tangled together in a web and bonded with heat and compression. The final product is formed into stiff, long thin sheets that resemble fabric. This fabric is well suited for Landscape fabric. It lasts long enough to give the new intended vegetation a head start over weeds. Eventually, it disappears and leaves no mess behind.
Woven is made from woven polypropylene in a criss-cross pattern and is needled punched with polypropylene fibers. They are located on the under side of the fabric and look like fuzz. The fiber’s main purpose is to allow better water permeability by sucking the water down like a straw into the soil. The fibers also provide traction for the material to stay in place without sliding. Although the fuzzy side is meant to face down, on a slope it can be laid fuzzy side up and pinned with fabric pins. This will allow you to hold the mulch in place on hillsides. the mulch will hold traction on the fuzz. Woven landscape fabric can be covered with mulch and have a very long life. However, if the need arose it could be used on top of above ground and uncovered. It would not last as long as covered but would last a decent amount of time.
How Landscape Fabric Improved Over The Years:
The main difference between the old landscape fabrics and the new is the material that they are made from.
In the past, people used black plastic as a weed barrier. The problem with that is, plastic does not allow air, water, and nutrient circulation, which the soil needs to be healthy. After a time the soil covered with plastic would become stagnate. The worms and microbial would die off and the vegetation would eventually suffer because of it. If the soil is not healthy what’s the point!
Another frustrating thing about using plastic as weed block is that it breaks down slowly and leaves bits and pieces of unsightly plastic rising to the surface. I hear horror stories of people picking bits of plastic out of their beds for years.
Landscape fabric nowadays is made from a material that is permeable to air, water, and nutrients, while at the same time, blocking weeds and controlling erosion.
Current day landscape fabric has many options for individual needs. You can get a fabric that will break down quickly and just give the new plant a head start on any vegetative competition. You can also get a fabric that will stay around for a long time so that you never have to fight with the weeds. The most common life expectancies for landscape fabric are 3 years, 7 year,s and 20 years.
In this picture, you can see how the plastic is migrating up and breaking apart.