6 Ways to Use Landscape Tarp

landscape fabric used on soil and weighted down using stones

You’ve probably used tarp in your backyard before, but you might not realize how useful landscape tarp really is. It’s a more long-term solution compared to landscape fabric if you’re trying to get rid of weeds or elevate the way your landscape looks. 

Landscape tarp is a versatile product that can help with weed control, decorating, hardscaping, and more. Read on to learn six clever ways to use landscape tarp in your yard. 

6 ways to use landscape tarp

1. Weed control

There are many ways to use landscape tarp for lawn care and landscaping, but many people use them for weed control. There are two main ways to use landscape tarp for weed control: One is a more “permanent” use, while the other is temporary and is used to get rid of existing weeds. 

Long-term installation:

  • Measure the area of your yard you want to cover with landscape tarp so you can get an idea of how much to buy at the store.
  • Rake up debris such as dry leaves, branches, and any weeds.
  • Use your rake to level the soil.
  • After performing a soil test, make amendments or add fertilizer to the soil, if needed.
  • Lay tarp over the area of soil you want to cover, making sure to cover edges and corners.
  • You can secure the edges of the tarp using garden staples, or make sure to cover the edges of the tarp with rocks or mulch.
  • Add mulch on top of the tarp.
  • Decide where you’d like your plants to be, clear mulch from these areas, and cut holes big enough to put the plant in the ground.
  • Place plants in their respective holes and fill gaps with soil.
  • Remove excess soil from the top of the tarp.
  • Put mulch back around the plants, leaving a few inches free around the stem to allow water and nutrients to pass through.

If you have existing plants:

Instead of digging your plants out of the ground, you can cut slits or x-shapes into the tarp and gently slide it over top of the plants. It’s best to do this as you’re unrolling the tarp so you can carefully measure each one and get the best weed-proof fit. 

Pro Tip: Experts recommend using a black plastic tarp for this method of weed control because it will block sunlight and prevent unwanted weeds from germinating. 

Temporary installation:

  • Measure the area of your backyard or garden that’s covered in weeds.
  • Rake up debris such as dry leaves, branches, and any weeds.
  • Apply a soil fumigant (such as Dazomet) and follow the product’s directions.
  • Get a rototiller: you can buy your own, or rent one from most lawn and garden shops.
  • Use the rototiller to mix soil 2-3 inches deep.
  • Water soil thoroughly.
  • Cover the soil with the tarp while it’s still moist.
  • Weigh down tarp edges with rocks.
  • Wait one week then remove the tarp.
  • Use the rototiller to mix soil again — up to 2 inches this time.
  • Wait for 14 to 20 days to plant in the soil again.

2. Line rock gardens

Rock beds are a low-maintenance alternative to mulch-based garden beds. 

Rocks are more durable than organic mulches, such as wood chips, grass clippings, or straw. Lined rock gardens won’t be easily disturbed by foot traffic or the natural elements, and they even prevent the soil from eroding. 

You can install lined rock beds underneath windows with leaky A/C units, or around your house to add a bit of personality. Rock gardens can add a unique flair to your backyard, without adding much to your list of lawn chores.

Installing a tarp-lined rock bed:

  • Prevents decorative stones and river rocks from being washed away or sinking into the ground
  • Keeps weeds from growing through the rocks
  • Prevents the soil from eroding 

How to install a tarp-lined rock garden:

  • Measure the area of your yard you want to cover.
  • Rake up debris.
  • Use your rake to level the soil.
  • Make amendments or add fertilizer to the soil, if needed.
  • Lay tarp over the area of soil you want to cover — you also can use landscape fabric.
  • Add rocks on top of the tarp.
  • Decide where you’d like your plants to be, clear mulch from these areas, and cut holes big enough to put the plant in the ground.
  • Place plants in their respective holes and fill gaps with soil.
  • Remove excess soil from the top of the tarp.
  • Assemble rocks around the plants, leaving a few inches free around the stems to allow water and nutrients to pass through.

3. Structure your walkways

Rock, gravel, or mulch pathways make for a durable and elegant addition to your landscape. Gravel walkways are budget-friendly and easy to install. 

What you’ll need:

  • Garden hose, spray paint, or rope to measure out the walkway
  • Square-edged spade
  • Steel rake
  • Hand tamper
  • Crushed stone
  • Pins
  • Utility knife
  • Edging
  • Spreader or wood scrap
  • Woodblock
  • Hammer
  • Gravel or mulch

How to install a tarp-lined walkway:

  • Mark the length and shape of the walkway using your garden hose, spray paint, or rope.
  • Grab a square-edged spade.
  • Dig out the walkway, going 4 inches deep into the ground.
  • If you have an extra tarp, use it to pile the discarded soil for an easy cleanup.
  • Even out the edges and bottom of the walkway.
  • Use a steel rake to smooth the bottom of your trench.
  • Compact the soil with a hand tamper. 
  • Line the trench with 2 ½ inches of crushed stone, using a rake to level it out.
  • Lightly spray the crushed stone with water.
  • Use a hand tamper to pack the crushed stone into a smooth, flat surface.
  • Lay out the landscape tarp (you also can use landscape fabric).
  • Fit the tarp around curves by making relief cuts and overlapping rolls of tarp.
  • Use pins or landscape staples to hold down the fabric and prevent it from shifting or rolling.
  • Install the edging using a spreader bar to hold them up parallel to each other.
    • Make your own by cutting two grooves in a wood scrap to slide over the edging and hold it in place.
  • Slide the spreader across the path, using a block of wood and hammer to tap the edging into the ground.
  • Fill the path with gravel, mulch, or pavers, and rake it out evenly so that the landscape tarp is no longer visible.
  • Line the path with plants or rocks for a unique upgrade to your new walkway.

Pro Tip: It is not recommended to use tarp with gravel driveways, since your vehicle will quickly damage the tarp. 

4. Protect equipment and outdoor structures

Landscape tarps can help protect your valued items from the elements. If you don’t have covered storage space, or need to cover something that can’t be moved, landscape tarp will be useful for when the seasons change or the weather is poor. 

Use landscape tarp to protect: 

  • Out of season vehicles (campers, snowmobiles, four-wheelers)
  • Outdoor fireplace
  • Piles of firewood
  • Compost piles and containers
  • Hot tubs and pools
  • Truck beds
  • Loads of materials in your yard or the bed of your truck
  • Empty garden beds in the winter

5. Yard cleanup

Landscape tarp can make your yard cleanup chores a breeze.

Is your lawn littered with leaves? Rake them onto a landscape tarp for easy cleanup. Make sure to tie the tarp to prevent them from blowing away. 

Need to trim that overgrown plant? Place a landscape tarp around the perimeter of your plant before you start trimming. The tarp will help catch the tree or bush trimmings, allowing you to easily clean up the debris.

Is your lawn covered in grass clippings? If you don’t like the look of mulching grass clippings, you can rake them onto a landscape tarp to easily transport them to your compost or garden

6. Protect your plants

In addition to aiding you in the battle against weeds, landscape tarp is there to help you take care of your plants when the weather becomes too extreme. 

You can use clear, mesh, or silver tarps to cover your flower beds and vegetable gardens. Use a clear PVC curtain to cover your plants without blocking the sun, extending the life of your garden when frost threatens or the weather starts damaging your plants.

Use a mesh tarp to protect your flower beds and vegetable garden from hungry wildlife. They will keep deer and rabbits out and can provide a little shade from the hot summer sun. 

Use a silver heavy-duty poly tarp to cover your plants as winter approaches. You’ll extend the life of your late-season crops, and prevent them from succumbing to frost or mildew. 

What is landscape tarp?

Landscape tarp is very similar to landscape fabric in use, but is simply a non-woven, usually plastic sheeting. It can block sunlight, prevent weed growth, and control the passage of water and nutrients to the soil. 

You’ll find landscape tarp rolled up near the garden or outdoor section in gardening and home improvement stores. 

Types of landscape tarp

Make sure you know what kind of tarp you’ll need for your project. The main types of landscaping tarp are:

  • Blue poly tarps: best for yard cleanup
  • Clear PVC curtains: best for covering crops without blocking the sun
  • Mesh tarps: give crops a little shade or protection from animals
  • Silver heavy-duty poly tarps: protect your late-season crops from frost and mildew
  • Vinyl-coated tarps: best for blocking weed growth and installing under walkways
  • Canvas tarps: best for protecting your items from the elements

Pros and cons of landscape tarp

✓ Inexpensive✗ Can degrade soil over time
✓ Can cover big areas✗ Impermeable
✓ Long-lasting✗ Needs to be replaced once worn out and easily torn
✓ Prevents weed seeds from growing
✓ Controls erosion
✓ Regulates soil temperatures
✓ Holds in moisture

FAQ about landscape tarp

1. What is the difference between landscape tarp and landscape fabric/weed barrier?

Landscape fabric is a geotextile that you can find in various materials (polyester, linen, recycled). Landscape fabric is a weed-control fabric and is usually used specifically for weed prevention, while landscape tarp is more versatile in use. Landscape fabric is also referred to as garden fabric, weed block fabric, and weed barrier fabric. It’s similar to a tarp but is usually woven in a way that water and nutrients can pass through to the ground. 

Landscape fabric:
Only lasts a little over a year
Is not 100% weed-proof
Can get clogged and prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil
Harmful to plants — plant roots can get tangled in it
Depletes soil health

2. Why use landscape tarp for weed control over herbicide?

Herbicides are harmful to the environment and your health if breathed, ingested, or touched. Thankfully, there are natural ways to get your weed problem under control. Use landscape tarp to smother weed growth and prevent new weed seeds from germinating. 

In the off-season, you can cover your vegetable gardens with landscape tarp to prevent the soil and other organic matter from eroding and weeds from sprouting in the spring. This will give your new plants a strong chance against weeds in the upcoming growing season. 

If you decide to go with herbicide, you can use a post-emergent herbicide to get rid of existing weeds or a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weed seeds from growing. There are many different types of pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides, so be sure to check that they are targeting the weeds you’re hoping to get rid of. 

3. What are other ways to keep weeds at bay?

If you want to remove weeds without using herbicides or landscape tarp, you have a few options. Vinegar is a great way to have a weed-free backyard by killing weeds without using harmful chemicals. You can take the long-term route of improving the health of your soil to prevent weed growth. A unique way to get a weed-free yard is to rent a goat to graze your yard and eat up the weeds. This unconventional method is referred to as “goatscaping.” 

4. What are some other ways to elevate my landscape?

Homeowners who are looking to elevate their landscape have plenty of options. Spice things up and add some personality to your yard by:

Trying a new ground cover
Creating a pet paradise
Cooking up some recipes to feed your grass
Making a topiary
Creating a rain garden
Making an ornamental garden
Trimming your bushes and hedges
Cutting your grass

Need a hand getting rid of those pesky weeds? Call on a Lawn Love expert to help with all your lawn care and landscaping needs. 

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.