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Why Weed Cloth is Probably Not the Answer
Why Weed Cloth is Probably Not the Answer

The idea of laying down weed cloth and throwing some mulch over it to say goodbye to years of weeding is a completely understandable temptation. But anyone who has installed weed cloth and lived with it for several years will know the reality: this product can create more problems than it solves. That is not to say that the weed cloth doesn't work. It does, but it only works well in specific situations.

The weed cloth shades the soil surface, which inhibits the germination of weed seeds under the cloth. Bark mulch is usually applied over the weed barrier. Eventually, the mulch breaks down which is highly desirable because it adds organic material to the soil. Unless of course there is some kind of barrier keeping it from the soil, in this case the organic material builds up on top of the weed cloth. As the mulch layer breaks down it becomes thinner, allowing sunlight to reach this layer of organic material beneath, creating the ideal environment for seed germination.

Weed seeds blow in, are dropped by birds, etc. and land in this seed Paradise and germinate. Once the roots reach the cloth, they often just grow through it. And if you thought weeding was a pain before, wait until you have to remove a weed that has entangled itself in this cloth. After it is removed, the weed cloth now has a hole which defeats the purpose of it in the first place.

It isn't just undesirable plants whose roots grow into the weed cloth. Your shrubs and perennials may also put out shallow roots that grow into this fabric and trying to remove the fabric without damaging the roots is practically impossible. Dividing, moving or adding plants is difficult too. Over time, the weed cloth will rip apart as it is exposed to the elements and various weeds and plants growing through it. You will be perpetually pulling up bits of cloth!

Though we generally stay away from weed cloth at scott flanagan landscape, one instance in which we use it is when installing decorative stone. Stone is not a media that weeds grow easily in and using the weed cloth under stone prevents the stone from eroding into the soil beneath.

Though in the beginning weed cloth may save you time in your garden beds, in the long run it will create more work. For more information, check out this article by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from Washington State University:

https://puyallup.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/landscape-fabric.pdf

For weed management techniques, check out our article here

http://www.scottflanaganlandscape.com/Weed-Management-Techniques.html

Nicole Gear
Horticulturalist
scott flanagan landscape


Scott Flanagan Landscape    708.460.5884    sfl@scottflanaganlandscape.com

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