Landscaping fabric is not the answer to a no maintenance landscape. Many people are under the impression that they can simply buy it, place it, cover it, and forget it forever. This is not the case.
All landscaping requires some maintenance. There are triming, mulching, weeding, fertilizing, and watering requirements for even low maintenance landscape plans. In many instances landscape fabric can make your life a lot easier. However, there is an upside and a downside to using it. As with many other things, proper installation and maintenance is necessary if you decide to use it.
When to Use Landscape Fabric
Landscape fabric has an appropriate use. It is not recommended in all situations. The general rule of thumb is to use landscape fabric in areas where you are using rock, like river rock, as a ground cover. In this case, it is necessary to have a separator between the soil and ground cover. Otherwise, the rocks will settle into the soil as soon as the soil becomes wet. If you need to remove the rocks in an area, it will be very difficult to separate them from the soil.
Maintaining a Rock Ground Cover over Landscape FabricWhen you create a design using landscaping fabric and rock, you must be aware of a two things. There will be blown in seed and dirt, and something will have to be done about it to keep it from accumulating.
Even with landscape fabric under the rock, weeds will appear. Spray the unwanted weeds with herbicide, such as RoundUp, to take care of the weed problem. Be careful to spray the weeds on a calm day and make sure you don’t spray any nearby plants. Products like RoundUp will kill your landscape plants also.
Periodically use a blower on your bedding areas to slow down the accumulation of dirt and in some cases eliminate it altogether. How easy and thorough this is depends a lot on the type and size of rock you use. Small pea gravel accumulates and holds onto dirt, and is harder to clean than rock of a 1 ½” + nature. Not only does it hold onto dirt but has a tendency to be blown around when being cleaned with a blower. Pea gravel works well for paths, walkways, and smaller areas but I don’t recommend it for covering larger areas.
When not to Use Landscape Fabric
If you are creating an bed in the landscape with plants and flowers, and are planning on mulching the area, then don’t use landscape fabric under the mulch. The mulch should be in direct contact with the soil. The mulch integrates with the soil which keeps it from blowing away dureing strong winds. Plus, as the mulch breaks down, it adds nutrients to the soil. Weeds are still going to grow in a mulched area, but generally their root systems are not very deep and they can be pulled easily or aprayed to kill them.
Remember. There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape. Landscape fabrics can make things easier in many applications but like everything else, they require a little bit of keeping up. No, they aren’t necessary in all landscaping applications. However, you’ll find them to be your best choice for groundcover applications using rocks as the groundcover.