Pros and Cons of Landscape Fabric

landscape fabric laid down in a garden with young strawberries poking through the holes

Many homeowners rely on landscape fabric to act as a permanent weed barrier that allows water and air to pass through its porous design. It might sound like the magic cure to your garden’s weed problem, but in due time, landscape fabric reveals that its promises are a bit too good to be true. 

Before you roll the weed barrier across your garden, let’s consider the pros and cons of landscape fabric. You might discover that the mulching solution works better in your gravel pathway than in your vegetable garden. 

What is landscape fabric?

Landscape fabric is made of various materials, including polypropylene, linen, and recycled materials. It’s usually made up of individual strands of woven landscape fabric or is a solid sheet of perforated fabric.

Landscape fabric is designed to physically block weed growth and limit the weeds’ access to sunlight. It’s also known as weed barrier fabric, weed block fabric, weed control fabric, or landscaping fabric.

The pros of landscape fabric

  • Helps prevent weeds from growing for one to two years
  • Allows airflow and for water to penetrate the soil
  • Prevents rock mulches from sinking into the soil
  • Can be a good solution for erosion control
  • Reduces chemical herbicide control
  • Stabilizes soil temperature
  • Helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation

As you can see from the pros above, landscape fabric has similar benefits to mulch. That’s because it is a type of mulch! Landscape fabric is an inorganic mulch, which means it doesn’t add nutrients to the soil and it’s not a plant-based material. 

If landscape fabric sounds like a good solution for your garden, learn how to install landscape fabric

The cons of landscape fabric

  • Landscape fabric is not a permanent solution. Landscape fabric requires regular maintenance and replacement.
  • Many of landscape fabric’s benefits, such as allowing air and water into the soil, will worsen over time. 
  • Soil and weed seeds from neighboring lawns and gardens can accumulate above the landscape fabric. The weed barrier will not block any weeds that are growing above it. 
  • Weeds growing on top of the fabric will send their roots downward, which then intertwine with the barrier. These sprouting weeds can make your weeding chores especially difficult.
  • According to Colorado State University Extension, landscape fabric can be detrimental to plant and soil health
  • Landscape fabric will eventually clog and prevent water and oxygen from reaching the soil. 
  • Removing landscape fabric can be a lot of work, and you risk harming any plant roots that have grown through the barrier.
  • It kills earthworms and many other beneficial insects in the soil by blocking their access to oxygen. 
  • Exposed landscape fabric can be unattractive in the landscape.
  • Landscape fabric can degrade when exposed to sunlight.
  • The fabric does not decompose in the soil. 
  • Landscape fabric adds no nutritional value to the soil. 

Does landscape fabric sound like a headache? You might prefer landscape fabric alternatives

Is weed fabric suitable for your landscape?

Weed fabric might have many pros and cons, but it can still serve a valuable purpose in your landscape. 

Your pea gravel walkway will be easy to replace with a layer of landscape fabric underneath. The small rocks won’t sink into the soil, and you can gather the stones by pulling the landscape fabric out of the ground. 

Did your new landscaping project run into an erosion problem? A layer of landscape fabric might do the trick. 

Your vegetable patch and flower beds might do well without the fabric weed barrier. When you correctly apply organic mulch, such as wood chips or other organic materials, it effectively controls weeds while also promoting healthy plant growth.

Don’t have time to mulch your landscape? Hire a local lawn care professional to mulch up your garden beds for you. A lawn care pro also can mow the lawn, edge the landscape, and remove autumn leaves. And don’t you worry –– the help of a lawn care pro isn’t too good to be true.  

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.