Weed Barrier Fabric or Weed Barrier Cloth? Does it work?
In my opinion, and I have plenty of experience to back it up, weed barrier fabrics and weed barrier cloths do not work! How about black plastic? Black plastic doesn’t work either.
I’ve spent most of my life working in the landscaping industry. I’ve landscaped well over 500 homes. Many of those were re-landscapes. In way too many cases when we arrived to re-landscape a home the very first thing that we had to deal with was weed barrier cloth that was practically welded to the ground because there were so many weeds growing through the fabric that removing the weed barrier fabric was a nightmare of a job.
I didn’t deal with this once or twice. I dealt with it dozens of times! I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a situation where weed barrier cloth actually worked. And there are reasons for this that I’ll explain after I show you a few photos.
About two years ago Pam and I purchased (she wasn’t too crazy about the idea) this old house because it sits on 4.6 acres or wonderful soil. I got all excited about the soil, not the house. It also had some old buildings that my insurance company didn’t like at all. Because the buildings were in such poor condition they had to come down and we had a new garage built behind the house for my nursery equipment.
We fixed up the inside of the house, it was actually a lot nicer than the outside. So now, in just a few weeks the same guy that built the garage for me is going to replace doors, windows and install new siding on this old house.
Then I will landscape the house. Which brings me to weed barrier cloth! The previous tenant put a ton of weed barrier cloth and black plastic around this house. It’s in the beds in front of the house and it’s in the middle of the yard where there used to be a bed. I’m going to landscape the house, and this plastic and weed barrier cloth is sure to haunt me for many years to come. Urrrrrrrrrrg! See the photos below.
A lot of what you see in these photos is black plastic, some clear plastic, but there’s also a great deal of weed barrier fabric scattered around these beds.
This is why weed barrier fabric and black plastic do not work for very long for weed control. You put down the weed barrier fabric or plastic, then over that you put mulch or stone. Usually mulch. The mulch breaks down over time and eventually becomes the best topsoil you’ve ever seen. Weed seed blows in, and because you now have topsoil on top of the weed barrier cloth, the weeds grow like crazy, on top of the weed barrier cloth. But they don’t just grow on top of the cloth, the roots actually grow through the cloth into the soil making a huge mess of your planting beds.
You then have a bed full of weeds, and weed barrier cloth that is trapped between the weeds and the soil. You really can’t use tools to remove the weeds because the weed barrier cloth interferes with your ability to dig into the soil. Trust me, I’ve dealt with this so many times it makes me crazy to think about it. Now I own a house that came with this built in nightmare. I’ll deal with it once again, but I won’t be happy about it.
As a matter of fact, the mess that I inherited it so bad that I won’t even be able to remove these materials because they deteriorated to the point that if I pull on them they just break. But the rest of the material is still below the surface just waiting for me to try and stick a shovel in the ground.
If you put stone over the weed barrier fabric you still get weeds. Eventually dust and dirt will find their way between the stones and along come the weeds. Same situation as with mulch. With stone it usually takes a little longer, but it will happen.
I’ll show you some photos when the house is sided and the landscaping is done in a month or two.
Okay, lots of great comments on this topic and some questions. First, several people mentioned that they use weed barrier fabric in their vegetable gardens and at the end of each growing season they pull it up and to re-use it again the following season. I think one even mentioned washing it. For this purpose I think the weed barrier fabric would be perfect because it’s not left down over the winter, nor is it left down long enough for the weeds to work their way through it. So for veggie gardens, weed barrier fabric might be the perfect solution as long as you pick it up before any weeds can root through it.
Secondly, lots of people asked; “Mike, how do we control weeds?” So I wrote an article titled Weed Control Facts, just click this link to read that article.