Just to roll some Weed Control Fabric (aka landscape fabric) out in your garden and not to worry about weeding anymore sounds good. Stopping weeds without dangerous chemical, and doing it for many years – some give a 25 years guarantee, wow! But is this true, does it work as promised? Here are 3 reasons why you should not use weed control fabric in your garden as a long term solution. Along with some good uses for weed control fabric.
1. It is unnatural
Even though it is true that weed control fabric is not a questionable chemical, it still is far from being natural. When used under mulch, rocks or even soil, it traps earthworms and other creatures in the ground. These living beings live in the soil and are very beneficial to the soil and our food. Whatever happened to be underneath the landscape fabric has to stay there, and whatever happened to be on top can not go down anymore. Not a healthy situation. Well, you might not care so much about those thousands of creatures living in our soil, but this is just one of the reasons not to use a weed cloth. Even though I would encourage you to care, these creatures make our soil alive and nutritious.
Weed Control Fabric is also not biodegradable. Once in, it stays there for many many years, creating more and more problems. Over time it will deteriorate so that getting rid of the fabric becomes almost impossible. There are biodegradable options available. We tried it with our sweet potatoes and got rid of it half way through the growing season. It does heat up the soil, which is great during the cool early summer days. However, in hot days it gets very warm and it’s also harder to water.
A better alternative, which is also free is cardboard (see how we used it), or a few layers of newspapers. These things will stop weeds as well and feed the earthworms in the process.
2. It does not work
Even though weed control fabric sounds like the perfect solution against weeds, it does not work as good as one would think. I was weeding the back of our garden the other day. I started in the corner and went towards the pathway. It was a very weedy area. I had let the weeds grow so we could see what comes up since the garden is new to us. While weeding I was happy to learn that even though there were many weeds, they came out very easily. A previous owner had put wood chips there. It really encouraged me to see how wood chips really work for the good in a garden.
Right next to the pathway however, there were especially many weeds, more than anywhere else. I also had more trouble to pull them. Since it was getting late and I was tired, I blamed it on me. Next morning we discovered that this higher weed-infested area had weed cloth underneath it. Oops! We have no idea how long that weed control fabric had been there, but we could clearly see that it did not work well. Here’s a picture of the fabric, see how weeds grow right out of it.
Every time you put something on top of the weed fabric that turns overtime to soil, weeds will grow. Even with rocks, it will take longer, but eventually, enough soil will build up between the rocks, so that weeds will grow.
3 Makes weed pulling impossible
The bigger problem with Weed Control Fabric is the fact that really bad weeds grow through it. This makes pulling those weeds impossible. Once in there, you will have to replace the landscaping. Here’s a picture of what the weed cloth looked like underneath. Hard to believe, is it? This was very eye-opening for us, and I wanted to share it with you.
You see roots everywhere, strong roots that grow right through the fabric.
Natural weed control
We certainly prefer a more natural way of dealing with weeds. If a weed block is needed, newspapers or cardboard work great too. They will compost and actually feed worms and not trap them. Adding heavy mulch is probably the best solution. Some weeds do grow in mulch too, but are so easy to pull.
In the award-winning book: No Dig Organic Home & Garden Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty explain how to set up a no dig garden. An annual dressing of compost helps to improve the soil structure and leads to higher fertility and fewer weeds. No dig organic gardening saves time and work and is a great natural way to do landscaping.
Uses for Weed Control Fabric
Weed Control Fabric can be used under walking paths and decks. Places where dust and dirt will not find their way between the weed barrier and the surface, so weeds can not grow.
Weed control fabric is also great as a cover in the garden if you do not use mulch. Cover the garden bed in the fall, so weeds do not grow during the winter (not happening here, but in warmer areas). Or cover in spring, to warm up the soil. Also, warm-season crops like to have the soil warm. Again, weed control fabric can be used here. Just remember not to cover the fabric, so weeds grow, but to use the fabric as a cover. Do not use plastic for this, it will kill all soil life.