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There are many reasons for adding landscape fabric underneath mulch or rocks in a flower bed. The main reason is for controlling weeds, but another important use for landscape fabric is to control the amount of moisture in flower beds. But does that mean that landscape fabric is waterproof? We've done the work to bring you the answer.
Landscape fabric is not designed to be waterproof. It is designed to not only keep water from evaporating from the ground, but also to allow water to pass through it. Waterproof landscape fabric would not be very effective because water would pool on the surface of the fabric.
So how exactly does landscape fabric work for moisture control? What is it made of? Are there any instances where you shouldn't use it, and if so, are there any alternatives? For the answers to these questions and more, continue reading.
Why You Should Use Landscape Fabric
Before landscape fabric was used, people would put plastic on top of the soil in their flower beds for weed control. While plastic did prevent weeds from growing, it had many negative effects on the soil that could cause harm for plants, too.
According to the Dewitt Landscaping Company, plastic prevents moisture and air from reaching the soil which can cause disease and rot in plants. Landscape fabric is a better alternative than plastic for preventing weeds and conserving water at the same time.
How Does Landscape Fabric Work?
Landscape fabric is usually woven to create a water-permeable barrier that allows the proper amount of water to pass through it while also keeping water evaporation from the soil to a minimum. The holes in the woven fabric are small enough to prevent water from gushing through it and soaking the soil. Enough water is allowed to pass through the fabric in order to give plants the amount that they need.
Is Landscape Fabric Porous?
If landscape fabric is not woven, it will have small pores in it that allows water to pass through. However, the problem with this is that if the landscape fabric gets too dirty, those pores can get clogged. This causes water to not be able to pass through the pores and get to the plants.
What Is Landscape Fabric Made Of?
There are different types of landscape fabric. While most woven landscape fabrics are designed for perennial flower gardens because they are meant to last a while, there are some that are designed for vegetable and annual flower gardens as well.
If you are planting a yearly vegetable garden or annual flower bed and want to prevent weeds and retain moisture temporarily, as well as add nutrients to your soil, biodegradable landscape fabrics are a good option to consider.
Usually made out of recycled paper, this kind of landscape fabric will biodegrade over time so that it lasts only as long as your vegetable plants or annuals do. If it does last until the next growing season, it can be tilled into the soil when preparing your garden for the new plants.
Non-woven landscape fabrics are usually made from polyester plastic. While extremely effective at preventing weeds, they aren't the best choice for retaining moisture or allowing moisture into the soil because they aren't as porous as woven ones. This type of landscape fabric is ideal for using under rocks or gravel.
Woven landscape fabric is the best type to use in perennial flower beds and around trees and shrubs. Most commonly made from needle-punched polypropylene, this is the most porous kind and is the best choice for conserving moisture. Cutting holes in the fabric large enough for your plants to grow allows plenty of water to both enter and exit the soil, keeping your plants healthy.
This video shows how to cut holes around plants when installing your woven landscape fabric:
When Should You Not Use Landscape Fabric?
Landscape fabric certainly makes gardening easier by decreasing the amount of water used as well as the time spent weeding your flower beds. However, there are some instances where it may not be the best choice for the health of your garden and soil. Let's take a look at those instances:
Under Deciduous Or Pine Trees
Deciduous trees are trees that shed their leaves every autumn. The fallen leaves, as well as pine needles and pine cones that fall to the ground under pine trees, create organic, biodegradable mulch that mix with the soil, adding important nutrients to it.
Adding landscape fabric under these types of trees creates a barrier. The leaves and pine needles can't decompose easily, so your trees may not thrive like they should because the soil is missing natural nutrients.
In Vegetable Gardens
While biodegradable landscape fabrics can be used, woven landscape fabrics should not be used for vegetable gardens, even if they are planted in the same location every year. Digging new holes in the woven fabric every year to plant new vegetables will make it ineffective at conserving water and preventing weeds because the holes from the previous year will still be there.
In Gardens That Are Frequently Changed
For the same reason as vegetable gardens, woven landscape fabric shouldn't be used in annual flower beds either. That could mean digging new holes for plants each year after the old ones have died, allowing weeds and excess water to break through.
If you decide to change a perennial flower bed and previously had woven landscape fabric in the garden, you will want to pull up all the old fabric and install new fabric before digging up older plants and adding new ones.
Around Existing Plants
If you've decided to add landscape fabric to your garden or flower bed but there are a lot of existing plants that you want to keep, it may not be the best idea. It can be time-consuming adding landscape fabric around existing plants because you will have to measure and cut out holes to fit around the plants.
In Areas With Lots Of Earthworms
If you've noticed a lot of earthworms in your garden, you may not want to put landscape fabric in it. Earthworms live under the soil and help add oxygen to it, but also need to be able to come to the surface. With landscape fabric, the earthworms become trapped underground and the soil can't be aerated properly, causing it to become compacted. This can make it unhealthy for plants that grow there.
What Are The Best Landscaping Fabrics?
As mentioned earlier in the article, there are certain types of landscape fabrics that are better suited for certain types of gardens. There are some fabrics that are good at preventing weeds but not great for water conservation. These landscape fabrics are effective for not only conserving water but for preventing weeds as well.
Biodegradable Landscape Fabric
This biodegradable landscape fabric is ideal for vegetable gardens.
Non-Woven Landscape Fabric
This non-woven landscape fabric works well for raised garden beds and prevents weeds from growing around it as well.
Woven Landscape Fabric
Try this woven fabric in perennial flower beds, greenhouses, and nurseries.
What Can You Use Instead Of Landscaping Fabric?
If after reading this you've decided that landscape fabric isn't the best choice for your garden, there are several options you can try instead that are just as effective but more affordable than traditional landscape fabric:
Cardboard is an alternative that is effective at preventing weeds and grasses from growing in your garden. It is not only affordable but biodegradable as well. Simply lay the cardboard on top of the soil and cover it with store-bought mulch, leaves, or grass clippings.
The downside to using cardboard is that it may have to be replaced more often because it is biodegradable. It is also a food source for earthworms and termites when it gets wet.
Most people who use landscape fabric put mulch on top of it, but organic mulches can be used by themselves and are just as effective at helping to conserve water. Good choices for organic mulch are wood chips, tree bark, leaves, or pine needles.
The downside to using mulch by itself is that it will biodegrade and start to look unattractive. It will need to be replaced every year in order for it to be effective at preventing weeds.
Newspaper, either shredded or spread in sheets across the soil, is effective at making sure that plenty of water will reach plant roots. However, it is biodegradable and will need to be replaced frequently. It can also look unattractive but can be covered with a layer of mulch so that it isn't noticeable.
Create More Beautiful Gardens
Landscape fabric is both easy and quick to install and saves valuable time spent weeding gardens as well as saving more water. A variety of options and alternatives lets you choose what is best for your garden and the beautiful plants that live there.
Make sure to check out Uooz.com for more helpful home advice!