Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

Landscape Fabric – Weed Barrier Cloth

Landscape fabric, weed barrier and weed barrier fabric are names for the same product.  It is a black mesh type of plastic that is used extensively in landscaping to keep weeds out of your garden. Does it keep the weeds out? Does it let water through to the plants? Lets have a look at the effectiveness of landscape fabric.

landscape fabric - weed barrier

Landscape fabric – weed barrier cloth

Landscape Fabric – Weed Barrier Cloth

This is how landscape fabric is advertised to work. You place it on the ground and cover it with mulch. Weeds already in your soil can’t grow through the cloth so they die. Weeds can’t grow on the cloth, so any sprouting seeds also die. Voila! No weeds.

Don’t Buy Into the Landscape Fabric Myth.

It is true that seeds sprouting under the cloth will not grow through it. However, strong perennial weeds will eventually grow through or around it. Many perennial weeds can grow quite a distance under ground and since landscape fabric comes in 3 and 4 foot wide roles they only need to grow a few feet to find an opening.

If you use a thin cover of mulch, weeds do not grow in the mulch because it is just too dry there. But in no time at all you will see the landscaping fabric stick up through the mulch and then it looks terrible in your garden.

If you use more mulch to hide the weed barrier, wind and water deposits soil particles and plant remains onto the cloth. In no time at all you have the perfect seed mix sitting right above the weed barrier, and weeds start to grow. Believe me when I say that plant roots can grow through the holes in the landscape fabric.

Weed barrier cloth is no better for controlling weeds than a 4 inch layer of mulch.

Landscape Fabric Stops Rain

Weed barrier cloth is porous (ie it has holes in it) and it is advertised as ‘letting the rain flow through’. This is mostly a gardening myth. The reality is that some rain will go through the holes, but much of it flows over top of the cloth and away from your plants, which remain dry.

Weed Barrier Sucks the Life out of Your Soil

I’ve talked many times about the importance of life in the soil. Landscape fabric reduces the air reaching the soil, and prevents any new organic matter from getting to the surface of the soil. It does not take long and the dew worms, microbes and other soil life, which depends on air and food, either leave or die. When this happens, there is a reduction of nutrients for your plants, and soil structure starts to degrade. Neither is good for your plants.

Permanent Plantings are Damaged

In permanent landscapes, plant roots will grow into and through the landscape fabric. At some point in the future when it is replaced (needs to be replaced every 10 years or so), you will damage the roots.

Is There a Good Use for Landscaping Fabric?

Maybe. If you are planting trees in uncultivated land that is very weedy, there is a benefit to using the weed barrier around the tree for a few years in order to keep the weeds down, and give the tree a chance to get established. The tree roots have less competition for space and nutrients. The loss of water due to the weed barrier is offset by the fact that the weeds are no longer using the water. The landscape fabric should be removed after a couple of years once the tree is large enough and strong enough to compete with the weeds.

Recent scientific findings, reported by Dr Linda Chalker-Scott, suggest that a 6- 12 inch layer of wood chip mulch is just as effective. I have used the landscape fabric, as described above, for trees planted in fields, but have now switched to using just mulch.

More Reasons for NOT Buying Landscape Fabric

  • it is a plastic and we don’t need more plastic in the environment
  • plant roots growing on top of the fabric can’t withstand a drought as easily
  • moving plants, and dividing plants is a nightmare because the weed barrier prevents you from digging new holes
  • if you do get weeds they are near impossible to pull out
  • it is relatively expensive for a product that does almost nothing!


1) Photo Source: Two Women and a Hoe

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Robert Pavlis
Editor of
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

105 Responses to 'Landscape Fabric – Weed Barrier Cloth'

  1. This is the fabric I use to great success. This is the type that is used in nurserys and greenhouses to provide a weed free surface to grow potted plants on. It is not covered with mulch. I never cover it with mulch. I use it to maintain weedfree low maintenance rows between raised beds. I use it to maintain weed free low maintenance rows between berry rows. Just sweep 3 times a year. I also use it to start berry/shrub/hedge rows. 2 rows drip, strip or 3-4 foot fabric, cuts holes every 3-5 feet, plants shrubs/ berries/hedges. Do not cover with mulch. A little bit of weeding in cut holes the first year. But besides that only sweep occasionally. After 4-5 years the ugly fabric is under the hedge row and is not seen or you can remove then as the hedge row exclude its own weeds by being a solid hedge row. I have established many hedge rows of berry bushes, deciduous and evergreen shrubs this way. It is the best way I have found for low cost, low labor hedge row establishment.

    • That material in not the same as what is normally referred to as landscape fabric and available to consumers, at least no in North America. I would not recommend this fabric anywhere you want to have water pass through it. I believe some of it is impregnated with a herbicide to help keep down weeds.

  2. Great advice. I did, though, use paper landscape cloth under a hedgerow, albeit with mulch on top. It was meant to last one season and then decay, which it did. Perhaps mulch alone would have worked as well, but this did work.
    Your website is much appreciated!

  3. james green says:

    There is a serious misunderstanding here. There are 2 types of weed
    blocker material. The one you are describing works just as you say,
    the other lets ALL water and liquid fertilizer thru. The first is plastic sheet with small Perforated Landscape holes. The second is spun bond plastic made by spraying extremely fine (finer than hair) on a moving belt several inches thick and then pressed to a thin sheet. No
    roots or seedlings can penetrate but water flows thru like a filter material with little resistance. It is by oz sq yard to heavy depending
    on how much abuse under mulch it needs.

    • The one I am discussing is not “plastic sheet with small Perforated Landscape holes”.

      You claim the second kind lets all water flow through – prove it. Where is the reference that tested such a product?

      Any type of barrier to the movement of water will back up the water, and then it starts running somewhere else. No material with small holes will work as well as no material at all.

  4. Cory says:

    If your using landscape fabric in the same places you grow plants of course it is not suppressing weeds probably because you cut holes in it for your plants. Weeds and plants are both plants same result. However if you use landscape fabric where it’s supposed to be used and you follow instructions of course it will suppress weeds. There are many instances where it is actually code to use landscape fabric. Weed barrier and landscape fabric are two totally different things. Same with a $100 roll and a $10 roll. Use some not so common sense people. It is a myth to suggest either product would kill insects in the ground unless you laid it in a cube they will just crawl around it. Besides are you gonna lay 4″ of mulch underneath your paving stones.

  5. John P Heikkinen says:

    I am so glad that I stumbled onto your website while researching weed barrier cloth. I will be using your insight regularly.
    I am planting some wildflower seeds…would you recommend temporarily using the cloth to cover them instead of peat moss to keep birds honest?

  6. cindy says:

    I couldnt agree more. I was going to sell my house to my daughter and her fiance. I moved out and they moved in. He proceeded to put down landscaping fabric almost everywhere. Their engagement didnt work out and I ended up having to move back since they no longer wanted to buy the house. WHAT A NIGHTMARE landscaping fabric is ! Ok people, so if your going to use it anyway despite being warned, please put rocks on top of it and not mulch. Save yourself a headache.Mulch doesnt stay mulch forever. It breaks down and bio degrades into….DIRT. Then the weeds just grow right on top of the fabric. Once they start growing on top of the ” new” dirt, their roots get strong and just punch right through the fabric, becoming entangled into the fabric. In the past ive never had any trouble removing weeds. Ide just take a shovel and remove it fairly quickly…easy peasy…until…the dreaded fabric that is. What a special kind of hell it is removing weeds where fabric has been laid !

  7. susan novak says:

    Hello – I have a question – we have a large area that we have previously covered with mulch =however my husband goes crazy with the leaf blower each fall to remove leaves – however it also removes most of the bark mulch each year – is there any heavier kind of a product that could withstand the leaf blowing each fall ?

  8. Glen Mallaby says:


    I have found one of the best weed suppression systems is gypsum sheets ie plasterboard.

    It is long lasting but breaks down over time to cardboard and gypsum.

    I have a builder for a fayher in law so score a fair bit of it.

    I mainly use it on service areas and then cover it with mulch.

    Approx breakdown time is 2 to 3 years

    • Why do you think gypsum from drywall sheets is good for your soil? The inside of the sheets is calcium sulfate dihydrate. Adding some calcium will do no harm, but adding a lot is not good for soil or plants.

  9. Shirrel Hurrell says:

    Just spent $20,000 plus on landscaping and he put weed barrier cloth everywhere. Wish I had of known.drip systom underneath. My question is can u water from top as plants look like they need water. Very frustrated with this landscaping company!!!

    • You can water on top.

      • Tanya says:

        I want to make a “rock garden” in a 16×8 area that is currently covered with grass. I plan to lay down 3 inches of rock. I plan to plant one agave plant, and four Texas red yucca plants in the ground under the rock. The rest of the stuff in the rock garden will be in containers. So those four plants are the only things I need the soil to be good for. How do you recommend I kill the grass first? I was going to put down cardboard AND landscape fabric under the rock to help prevent grass and weeds growing. But now I’m not so sure after reading all this. I was gonna cut holes in the cardboard and fabric with a razor blade type cutter, dig the holes and plant, then lay the rock down

        • You can put down cardboard, but newspaper is better. Keep it watered so it does not fly away as you put it down. It will decompose after a few months. Don’t use the landscape fabric. If you go to 5″ of small rocks you will get very few new weeds.

    • Ruben says:

      If you’re landscaper used the professional grade material, then you should be fine. Fabric is not cheap but it is worth it. Worked on over 100 homes with my commercial grade fabric and not 1 complaint.

      • Commercial grade still has all the problems of cheaper brands – don’t use it.

        • Jason says:

          No, two completely different products altogether. A 3.5 oz fabric is too thick for weeds to penetrate and also comes in 3 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet, 6 feet, 7 feet or 8 feet widths. It also allows water to get through very easily.
          The 3.5 oz is so thick and durable that you can barely poke a knife through it while the cheap hardware stuff is too light that you often accidently poke your fingers through it while putting it down.
          I’m going to assume that you don’t have much experience with the 3.5 oz fabric or your article would read completely different.

  10. Chuck Bermingham says:

    I use landscape fabric on my vegetable garden and nowhere else. I remove it in the fall. My soil is fine, the water goes through it, and there are a lot less weeds. People seem quite happy with the output of my garden, which has been fine for over 20 years. I replenish the soil with mulch and natural fertilizer. Eventually, I will go to regenerative gardening, but if I’m going to pull weeds, it will have to be raised beds. Landscape fabric is bad for people who have the time, energy, and stamina to pull weeds and collect mulch, and I respect that. You can come over here and maintain my vegetable garden for me….

    • You are removing it each fall – that makes a big difference. That is not how it is usually used.

    • Ronald Garnett says:

      I’ve used various brands of landscape fabric over the years so it’s become multiple layers over the soil, mulch and layered over each other. I have more weeds every year then plants it’s ridiculous. This fabric does absolutely nothing but take up time and money. I’m at my wits end with these weeds. Throughout my yard I have about 9 different flower beds piled higher then the grass. It looks like I’m growing weed gardens. I pull them and it seems like they multiply every other day.

    • Daniel says:

      This is also how I use landscape fabric. I buy the nicer stuff that is supposed to last for years. I cuts out most of the weeding from gardening. However I disagree that it is bad. Weeding is probably the single biggest deterrent to more people gardening, most people do not like weeding. If weeding were mostly removed from gardening, more people would grow a garden and thereby probably have healthier diets. Landscape fabric(which is usually black) also helps plants grow in some situations because it warms the soil. It is possible to have soil that is too hot and so people in warm climates may not want to use it with their vegetables for that reason.

  11. Kate says:

    Hi Robert I was just about to go out to buy fabric when I found your post. THANK YOU. I have saved your site for future info. Thanks from an Irish gardener, of sorts, currently in sandy France. x

  12. joejoe says:

    I generally agree with your opinion on landscape fabrics… Weeds will grow on top of it or around it.

    However, I still use landscape fabric on walkways and areas I cover with stone. It will provide added resistance from weeds growing thru the stones, and it will also keep the stones cleaner, since they will not mix with the underlying soil.. Since soil is less dense than rock it will naturally reach the surface… Landscape fabric keeps those two from mixing with each other.

  13. Wendy says:

    so how about the PP non woven landscape fabric? It’s said that it’s air permeable, biodegradable? What if I use this type of fabric instead of the plastic weed barrier?

    • They all say they are air permeable – and they are to some extent, but less than no fabric at all. I don’t see how a landscape fabric can be biodegradeable and still work? Unless it is biodegradeable after many years which means you will have the same problem as regular stuff.

      You do not need it – just mulch.

    • Ann R says:

      PP is a plastic, specifically polypropylene. It is not biodegradable unless it is specifically labeled & has additives to allow it to break down – so it wouldn’t be pure PP. So, it’s no difference than standard woven landscape cloth in its performance. It would be more air & water permeable than solid plastic sheeting.

  14. Lynne Bennion says:

    I’ve read posts by others on your blog who had the problem of trying to remove years’ old woven cloth covering a garden area. Mine has been there for probably 10 years, and there are weeds under, through, & on top of the fabric. Worst of all, the fabric seems interwoven with the soil & grass & weeds. Does anyone have a suggestion for HOW to remove it?

    • The real problem is that roots grow through it and hold it tight. The only way to get rid of it is to tear it out – not an easy job since it will break into smaller pieces as you go.

    • Art Thompson says:

      I recall it being a daunting task with a rake, patience, and a lot of sweat. If you have a lot of grass and weeds I suggest killing it first with Glyphosate (if you have time).
      I am also a big fan of employing strong local youths at a fair hourly rate for these type of projects.

    • With a lot of muscle and patience! Mom wanted to divide her plants that were 20+ years old and I had to cut the cloth out from around the roots – it was an impossible task.

  15. Ashley says:

    Hi there, we are putting in a play set in our back yard and I want to know if 2 inches of play bark without weed barrier will be sufficient to keep weeds out. Thank you.

    • Better to use at least 4 inches.

      • Evelyn says:

        We are also putting a playground and I’m unsure if to put the barrier should we just make it flat and add bark/mulch won’t the grass still grow? Ty

        • If the mulch is 6″ thick it should kill cold season grasses. Or kill the grass first and then add the mulch. You can also apply newspapers and mulch on top. This will kill the grass over a couple of months.

  16. angie says:

    i see this post is from a few years ago, hopefully you are still monitoring it.
    my question is. would you use duck fabric for weed barriers in an above ground flowered?
    i have a few skeens of it and would love to use it if it will work.

    • Not sure what duck fabric is, but any material used in the same way as landscape fabric will have similar issues. The issues become less as the pore size increases, but then it also becomes useless for suppressing weeds.

  17. annroberts54 says:

    I have to say that I must be the odd man out. I use a really good quality landscape fabric to cover the soil between my raised garden beds. Once I mulch heavily it lasts for many years. Rain water never sits on the surface unless it is also doing so in uncovered areas of the yard, meaning we get 6″ in a day which can happen here.

    Yes occasionally I get weeds growing above the mulch. But they are so much easier to pull since they can’t seem to grow thru the fabric. I use Roc-Cloth or now Lowe’s carries the same stuff. Black on one side and brown on the other. Some of mine has been working well now for 7 years.

    • Yes it lasts for years. Water does tend to run off – but a lot does not run through it. You might change your mind over time as so many others have done.

    • I agree with you. We’ve never had any of these problems with the weed cloth. We have about 3-4 inches of mulch on top.
      When we didn’t use the cloth, it would take several weeks to pull out the weeds and wild grasses that grow in over the winter.
      What a pain that was!
      Seems like it works for some people and it doesn’t for other.

  18. Alicia says:

    I bought a house that has stones lining the back of the house. A lot of weeds come through the stones. Prior to us buying the house, the owner had the black mesh cloth through it. We took it up because it looked a mess. Is it worth us putting that back up with stones over the top of it again? If not, what can we use to reduce the amount of weeds that come through the stones? Thank you!

  19. Mandy says:

    Hi Robert,
    I noticed in several replies you mentioned wood chips. We live in an area where there is lots of huge 50-100 year old oak and other tree’s. It’s very shaded and my neighbor up the hill from me doesn’t believe in grass, so her whole yard is weeds and sticks and moldy leaves she doesn’t mulch or remove. So weed control is an issue .I tried newspaper and had weeds everywhere within a month. We also have bad termite issues. I gave had over $15k done in work inside home due to damage. So I’m hesitant to use wood chips or anything “wood”. I tried pine bark nuggets but so light just blow away. And can’t find in bulk in Omaha and by the bag is too pricey. What do you recommend to control weeds. I can’t keep up especially with the neighbor with a whole yard of several kinds. I was going to invest in a commercial grade fabric and then layer with colored dark brown mulch since was told the colored mulch won’t attract termites. Thanks for your time.

    • Seems as if termites either can’t see or have poor vision. SO it is unlikely the ‘coloring’ in wood chips will make a difference.

      Termites are not attracted to wood chips and are safe to use in termite infected areas.

      I would not use commercial grade fabric. Just use the regular wood chips or the colored ones if you prefer.

    • worblux says:

      Give your neighbor some periwinkle (Vinca major), a groundcover that loves shade. Creeping euyonomus is another option. Either will out compete most weeds in deep to full shade under dense canopies.

  20. Mark says:

    Hi Robert,

    I want to lay a dog run beside my house. At the moment it is just topsoil with few weeds. I was thinking of putting down weed barrier fabric and covering with washed rock. But after reading this that seems useless.

    Would you say I should put down wood chips or newspaper first and then put the layer of rock over this or just put the rock down on it’s own?

    Also what type of rock works best for this, Will pea-gravel be as effective as larger stones?



    • I don’t know anything about dog runs. If I was making a path for humans I would just lay down a 5 inch layer of 1/4 inch crushed rock. Pea gravel is difficult to walk on since it constantly shifts.

  21. Helen Richards says:

    What type of wood chips do you recommend?

    • What ever you can get locally. Big chips are better than small ground up stuff.

      The key is that it is organic, and that it is local. In some areas people use pecan shells – that is local and organic and works.

  22. Robert I’m laying a border of one meter around my lawn, what is the best thing to put under these to suppress the weeds.

  23. Lisa says:

    I am desperate. I have a large steep slope that is covered with bindweed. I keep weeding and mulching but nothing is helping. Any suggestions?

    • I would use Roundup. Mulch 2 feet thick might get rid of bindweed.

      • Elle says:

        I can’t believe that you recommend Roundup!!! I could cry with frustration. I was delighted when you advised against use of plastic in the garden but you have no problem with Roundup??!!!

        I have used wet cardboard layers with wood shavings on top to suffocate bindweed with much success.

        • If you understand Roundup you would not be surprised. It is less toxic than vinegar and does less damage to soil than plastic or cardboard, both of which harm soil life by excluding air and water.

          Cardboard rarely kills bindweed – it just travels under ground to a new location.

          • Johnson says:

            You are not able to use Roundup in Ontario. Do you have any other recommendations? Thanks!

          • The only other alternative is hand weeding.

          • Art Thompson says:

            Do I understand correctly that the ban is loaded with exceptions? For example, you can use Glyphosphate on Poison Ivy, but not for ‘cosmetic’ reasons?
            Tell me how that gets enforced.

          • In Ontario glyphosate can be used when the weed poses a health hazard. Farms are exempt from the ban. Poison Ivy poses a health hazard.

            There is no enforcement. Most stores either do not control it or don’t know the law.

    • Art Thompson says:

      I agree.Roundup (Glyphosphate).Bindweed can have roots up to 20 feet deep. You might try a combo of Roundup and covering with black plastic until you’ve conquered the infestation.It will probably take a couple of years.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    My son spread perrinal wild flower seeds over my cloth like gray landscape rolls. He cover it with dirt, fertilize and mulched it. Will the seeds grow. He was making me a seed mat for wild flowers. If not do i need to cut out paper and remove debris and replant. Please let me know.
    Thank you

    • I don’t know. It probably depends on the type of cloth. But I don’t see much benefit to doing all this work – just spread the seeds.

  25. Kerwin Maude says:

    I am not a landscaping nor garden expert but I found commercial landscape fabric immensely costly. Thinking outside the box, this westcoast Canadian layered factory damaged rolls of window bug screens and grabbed recycled ones from customers that were free. Instead of it lying in a landfill, it was recycled for better use in my garden and landscape plants. Innovative and creative, this man layered bug screens (three sheets thick) on top of each other, and buried them out of sight and covered them with lava rocks or drain rock. The rain seeps through the fabric to get at the plants and lawn watering does the same. Weeds have a difficult time poking through as they cannot squirm through the blanketed porous screens. If one or two weeds pop up through they can be killed with cheap vinegar. Before you try this idea ask your local garden expert as their advice supersedes any home remedies. I went to several garden experts before trying it myself, and they unanimously thought it was a great idea, economical and imaginative. Window screen factory places or window screen services often have unuseable rolls of bug screen fabric that are defective. In my case, I gots rolls of it for free and they were happy to get rid of it. Again, this guy is not aware of any environmental issues and my landscaping garden is maintenance free for over 8 years while others use garden tools or get on their hands and knees to spend considerable time manicuring their projects. I would not recommend bark mulch as it is an attractant to bugs and ticks. While it looks great once it is first applied, after time it looks drab after being exposed to the elements. The sad thing is lava rock is expensive but it retains its color for a long time. Good luck..Btw, bug window screen fabric is far more porous and will not suffocate your garden projects like landscaping fabric or chemicals sprays that are not good for the environment, shrubbery or animals. Best of luck…if this works for your readership we all win with shared information.

    • It probably lets air and water through better than landscape fabric. Roots will still grow into it and it will still show if there is not enough mulch on top. I would not use it. Wood chips work just fine on their own and they add organic material to the soil.

      • Robert, I accept your view and you make a good comment about the benefits of wood chips. According to seasoned plant experts and botanist, it attracts unwanted harmful pests like ticks, sow bugs, termites, earwigs, ants, slugs and more. Termites are a huge problem and they can live in a moist wood chip pile and then hit your home to do incredible costly damage. Also, some wood chips from certain trees cannot be spread close to decorative or fruit trees trunks because of their toxicity, so be mindful what type of wood chips you use. Yes, you are correct that; some tiny roots weave through the bug screen fabric, but my idea has been maintenance free for over 12 years. Water still goes through, and so does air unlike landscape fabric. Why not recycle and reuse bug screens, similar to wood chips idea. Wood chips are organic material and will erode and their color will fade in time, whereas, bug screens (hidden under river rocks or lava rocks, will last longer than a human life a it will not break down in a waste dump landfill. Both ideas are great, and try them out to see what fits best for you,

        • Not sure which plant experts you are talking about but the science is fairly clear that wood chips do not increase pest problems. termites don’t like living in wood chips, and my slug problem is less since I use them.

          Wood chips have not been found to be toxic – even walnut wood can be used without problems. At most you will get fewer seedlings.

  26. terri moreno says:

    Landscape fabric provided a nightmare for me when I planted strawberries in rows for what I thought was going to be an easy prevention of weeds. Not only did it NOT prevent weeds from growing, but the runners and weeds got trapped in the fabric, making it impossible for me to manage the four 50 foot rows that I had anticipated would bring much joy and production.. The worst problem was removing the fabric from the garden beds. Everything was so inter-grown that I had to virtually rip out everything – not an easy task. There are still remnants of that awful black stuff here and there.

  27. Sharen Rutledge says:

    I’ve never garden before, where I want to plant my vegetable garden has a lot of weeds. Would it be safe to use wood chips then the soil dirt on top to plant the vegetables. Usually my dogs don’t get in the area, but if they do with the stuff hurt them. Thank you

  28. Mike says:

    Thanks for the article…I have a garden about 30′ x 15’…I’m looking to downsize the garden and utilize say only about 10′ x 15′ the other 20′ x 15′ I want to cover & not grow anything & not have any weeds sprout…I’m looking for something simple to accomplish this goal..I was thinking of buying some contractor grade fabric landscape fabric to cover the part of the garden I will no longer be using…What would be you’re recommendation for my goals?

    Thanks for your time…

    • Landscape fabric will get weeds. Best thing to do is to cover it with 4 inches of wood chips. As a long term solution plant a ground cover that takes no effort and lets in no weeds. In zone 5 I recommend Geranium Geranium macrohizum.

  29. rose-- no web site says:


    • The best thing for trees and shrubs is to leave the soil alone and get them to grow in it. Add wood chip mulch on top of the soil. If they grow and flower you know they are doing well. If they don’t grow – there is a problem.

      I don’t worry about “doing as well as they should”. I am only concerned with are they doing well enough to please me.

  30. Jennifer Lawlor says:

    I certainly agree that the fabric does not work. I laid some down and covered with rubber bark for my kids play area on a dirt surface, and within a month there was grass growing up through the fabric and the rubber bark. It was a mess. I couldn’t pull the grass up, there was just too much of it. I ended up having to just pull the fabric up to get the grass out. What a waste!

  31. Thomas Broohy says:

    For many years I have collected newspapers ( only the black and white) for mulch in the rows between my raised beds. Laying sections shingle fashion, I then cover with collected leaves–4 to 6 inches. These look nice, and oak especially lasts the growing season. It’s kind of a pain to replace each year, but earthworms love it. For the plants, I use a new-ish product : bales of chopped hay/straw, which is mostly seed free and easy to snuggle close to stems. A bale goes a long way. Both vegetable and flower plants do quite well. And, btw, strawberries proliferate in the rows, and are deliciously productive.

    • Newspapers work well, but they do have a problem. They don’t let enough air and water to the soil under them. Worms don’t actually get much nourishment from them. Straw is a much better solution for soil and soil life.

  32. Art Thompson says:

    Robert, this is a great post. Landscaping fabric is the worst solution to a weed problem. When I bought my house 7 years ago, I had a heck of a time getting up the old fabric that was being held tight by all of the weeds growing through it.
    It was common in my neighborhood for all the gravel driveways to have fabric installed first (same contractor). Now they all have weeds and fabric coming up through the driveway!

  33. Hi Robert,

    Just commenting on your premise that landscape fabric does not work.

    Weed fabric is really only suitable in certain situations certainly, but I have to say, if you buy a quality product then it will last for many many years and will allow for the penetration of water and through-flow of nutrients. A lot of people miss-use the fabric, and therefore make it less effective. As a company we only sell high quality fabric, not like the kind you find in the garden centre, but a woven style especially made for us. We provide guides like this ( to try and make sure people use it properly and therefore limiting the amount they need to use. Its all about how and where you use it.


    • Have you done side by side studies to quantify the amount of water going through your fabric vs no fabric? Studies on other products show a definite reduction of water flowing through during a rain.

      • Hi Robert,

        The fabric certainly slows the rate at which the water passes through certainly, however the weed fabric wouldn’t suppress any weeds if it didn’t.


  34. Cami says:

    I agree. I hate weed barrier fabric. I just mulch my plants and sprinkle down some preen. If you need to change anything in your garden over the years, weed barrier becomes a nightmare. Not to mention it DOES block out a lot of water from your established garden.

  35. hotwired64 says:

    I mulched with woodchips and found that after two years it was great soil for weeds. I’m 69 and pulling weeds is not something I can keep up with. I have raised beds with subterraneous irrigation and piping for aeration under the weedcloth. My irrigation, aeration, and feeding are controlled with a 32-channel I/O card, zone valves and moisture sensors. I have not experienced any of the “downsides of weedcloth” that you describe, though I don’t have a conventional garden and don’t use the cheap perforated plastic. Using the more expensive landscape “weave” cloth will eliminate many of the problems you describe.

    • But only if you also invest in a lot of automation as you have described. Seems too complicated to me.

      How do you know you are providing enough air not to affect the soil microbes? How do you measure their activity and populations? I think all you can really say is that using your system – you don’t see a problem.

      I’ll stick to several inches of wood chips which work great. This solution is also better for the environment since I am using fewer commercially made products.

  36. Glenn says:

    Hi Robert, thank you for the great article! What are your thoughts on using weed barrier under what will become a Zen garden? I will only have 3 or 4 bushes in a 450 sq ft area, the rest of the area will be limestone chippings and a few big rocks. I plan on keeping the weed barrier away from those bushes so the they’ll thrive. I realize that weeds may still eventually grow through the barrier and rocks but I plan on keeping up with it. Thanks in advance!

    • I would not use limestone chippings. I used them in some of my paths, and for the first 2 years they looked great. Now they are the perfect seedbed for weeds and my garden flowers. the air pockets are too small and stay too wet – perfect for seed germination. After some research for a Japanese dry garden I found out that what they use are 1/4 inch irregular rock. If you plant to add some markings in the sand they keep the shape for a long time.

      I put down 3-4 inches of larger rocks – just junk rocks from the garden, and covered with 4 inches of the 1/4 inch. I get almost no weeds after about 4 years.

      I would not use weed barrier.

    • Dan says:

      Hello, I’m new here, just stopped in to read an article about Blossom End Rot on tomatoes, which was great, and then noticed the articles on the right, and was curious if the articles on landscape fabric, and ‘DEET’ are as holistic as the BER article. I am quite pleased with this post, as well. In regards to your question, I must say there is nothing ZEN about placing garbage into the earth in an attempt (that will fail) to thwart nature. You may get a few years out of it, but eventually more soil will cover the fabric, and seeds will fall, and you’ll be pulling ‘weeds’ out of the fabric. The most zen thing you can do, in my opinion, is learn about the plants that you term ‘weeds’. Some of them are probably even edible. If you “plan on keeping up with it”, it is much easier to pull plants out of the earth than it is pulling them out of fabric and earth combined. If you’ve ever had to remove landscape fabric, it’s a mess, and the plants really don’t want to come out of it, and they end up ripping the fabric as you tug on them, at least if they are large. If you keep up with them, there’s no point in putting down the fabric in the first place. Pull all the weeds first, then set your stones, then keep up with it. Not trying to be cocky, I just can’t stand the stuff when I’m working with a client or something.

      Thank you for this post, Robert, and good luck with your zenning, Glenn.

  37. Susan says:

    I have an old weed filter with pebbles on top and it has only lasted 14 years; In the UK we’ve had a lot of rain- moss builds up on my weed filter and decays it- I will look for a better mulch method now as the weeds and grasses are taking over the whole of the surface area where the weed filter is supposed to be working. Thanks for the advice.

  38. Sebastian says:

    Dear Robert,

    I am in the process of converting my lawn (incl. some clover and other weeds) into vegetable beds and I am thinking of using sheet mulching/lasagna mulching.
    Cut the lawn really short.
    cover with rich compost/manure
    nitrogen layer
    weed barrier (cardboard)
    nitrogen layer
    compost, manure
    cover mulch (hay,straw)

    About the weed barrier, I do not want to use cardboard (ink, glue). So I thought maybe use hessian sacks. Or skip it altogether? If I do some heavy mulching. What are your thoughts?

    Just another thought: all that compost, manure, etc. wouldn’t that be to much organic matter to add? like 5%?

    • Robert Pavlis says:

      The weed barrier in the blog is quite different than using cardboard. Cardboard will degrade over time, and in a year or two it is gone. Weed barrier lasts a long time.

      The ink on paper and cardboard is made from natural chemicals and is quite safe. Not sure about the glue, but microbes will almost certainly digest it too. I would not worry about them.

      I don’t know about hessian sacks. If they degrade quickly then they would work OK. In a vegetable garden you will want these gone by next spring–either they decompose, or you remove them.

      Lasagna method has gotten a lot of press and it works quite well for getting rid of the grass. The problem with the method is that the newspaper and cardboard keeps water and air from the soil. Consequently, microbes die, fungus dies and dew worms either leave or die. None of this is good for the soil.

      I assume by nitrogen layer you are talking about adding nitrogen fertilizer, either organic or synthetic. I would not have a nitrogen layer. You won’t be planting vegetables until next year, and by then the nitrogen is gone. Nitrogen is the one nutrient that moves very quickly in soil. It either gets washed away, or moves into the air. You can add nitrogen just before planting if you want.

      If you use a couple of inches of manure and compost, and cover with straw, that will kill the existing grass. 3-4 inches total will do the job.

      Soil should not have more than 5% organic matter. It might seem like you are adding a lot, but most of this manure and compost will be degraded, and the amount of remaining organic matter will be much less once you are ready to plant. Is it too much? It depends very much on how much your soil already has. Adding a couple of inches of compost each year, and harvesting vegetables should not be a problem.

      • Daisy says:

        Hey you ! The lasagna method is absolutely brilliant ! The air does get in and the beautiful earth is not compacted by walking on it . The worms are loving it ! My flowers and vegetables grow beautifully !

      • asaf mazar says:

        What the drawbacks of over 5% organic matter? To me it seems that too much organic matter in the soil (not on top as much) can hinder seed germination because water drains through it too fast. I suppose another issue can be nitrogen being locked up in the decaying matter.

        • It is a very good question. In garden soil, too much organic matter results in high levels of nutrients which could reach toxic levels. Gardeners that have used lots of manure find plants stop growing well, and when the soil is tested they find real high levels of P and K.

          On the other hand most seeds started indoors are started in almost 100% peat moss. It is the not organic material that is the problem, but the decomposition of it over time.

  39. Inger Knudsen says:

    I think this is true when we are talking about garden beds but cloth can be efficient under walking path especially if you are establishing a garden of some size. It is true that it looks terrible, with cloth sticking out underneath the mulch, you will put on top of the cloth and you will have to keep on adding mulch to cover the cloth So in most instances you are not ahead because if the cloth was replaced with cardboard you could just leave it alone but with cloth you have to keep on adding mulch
    My problem is to have enough mulch, Establishing a new garden you could accept the cloth for some time and then remove it when the bindweed etc. is gone. It does save a bit of time By leaving cloth for some years you would have killed a lot of life in the soil including a lot of the weeds and you could save on weed killer
    My recommendation is to view cloth as an interim solution It will save some time especially if you have a tendency to want to establish too many beds in too short a time!

    • Robert Pavlis says:

      A think layer of wood chips will reduce weeds just as effectively as the cloth. I doubt that the cloth kills bindweed in a path – it will just find another place to grow it’s green stems. It can travel a long distance under ground.

      • I built a 60′ by 100′ section of cedar raised beds on my farm. The piece of ground I put them on was solid bindweed. Being organic minded didn’t want to spray it 1st. I covered the ground with this fabric 1st Then built the beds on top. I got zero bindweed in my beds or through the fabric. The fabric type makes a huge difference in my experience, The stuff sold in the landscape trade is not the same as the stuff sold in the nursery trade.