We all mean to do well for our gardens. It can be hard to make the right choice when surrounded by so much hype from unnecessary products. There is one product, however, that is very commonly pushed onto gardeners that is one of the worst things you can put down. I’m talking about weed barrier, also known as landscape fabric.
Many of us have heard the supposed benefits about using the black plastic fabric and some of us might have it in our gardens. Maybe you moved into a garden that had it in, or were convinced by a company of the usefulness. My garden came lined with the fabric, and by the time I moved in, there was no mulch left, just an ugly expanse of black fabric with weeds growing straight through.
That’s the funny thing about weed barrier. It prevents weeds for about a year, but after that, they start popping up, as happy as ever. And they’re impossible to get at because they have a nice barrier separating you from their roots!
Weed barrier also interrupts the natural flow of nutrients. As plants drop leaves, and the mulch decomposes, those nutrients go straight back into the soil. Weed barrier prevents this. In many cases, the mulch decomposes enough that weeds start growing on top of the fabric, and eventually those roots will break through the fabric and into the soil underneath.
It is very difficult to move your plants around once weed barrier is put down. Also, perennials need space for their roots to grow and many companies don’t cut big enough holes for the plants to grow in. I’ve rescued many a plant that had started growing half on top of the landscaping fabric and was struggling to reach soil and water. The fabric also prevents water from getting down to the roots. With this hot summer, our plants need every drop they can get.
Weed barrier is not the prettiest material. No matter how much mulch you put on top of it, rain, foot traffic, wind and the slippery surface of the fabric will cause bare spots to be exposed. The dark surface of the fabric will heat up faster than the soil and encourage the ground to dry up a little faster.
Are you going for a lush full cottage garden? Often those gardens rely on plants that reseed every year, and landscape fabric will prevent those seeds from sprouting and taking root.
Some people use weed barrier to kill off a section of lawn or weeds. A good alternative is cardboard or black and white newspapers underneath a layer of mulch. This does the trick of preventing light from reaching the weeds and when you’re ready to plant in it the next year, the papers will have decomposed nicely!
The weed barriers are made out of non-recyclable plastic and are not environmentally friendly.
With a little creativity, you will never need to use weed barrier and your plants will be much happier because of it.
These photos showcase one of our gardens and also demonstrate that even in difficult hilly and rocky areas weed barrier is not needed! Some mulch and some weeding keeps this garden looking gorgeous all year round!