Landscape fabric is a useful and relatively inexpensive landscaping tool that gardeners, homeowners, and landscaping companies often use for various landscaping projects. While landscape fabric is not rocket science and is actually quite easy and straightforward to use, it’s important to know how to properly use it so it can be as effective as possible. While improperly used landscape fabric will still do something, it’s best to take the time to properly prep the space, apply the fabric, and fix it to ensure it can work effectively. Do your best using the landscape fabric, and it will do its best for you!

What Is Landscape Fabric?

A roll of landscape fabric on a white background

Landscape fabric is basically what it sounds like: a kind of fabric used in landscaping projects. Laying down landscape fabric is an easy and effective way to control and manage weeds in the garden or other parts of the yard. Landscape fabric creates a barrier between the soil and air, meaning, it is more difficult for unwanted plants to propagate and for flying seeds to land, grow, and make themselves at home. Because landscape fabric is porous, it still allows for soil moisture regulation and airflow while keeping out sunlight and seeds to prevent unwanted growth.

Different Kinds of Landscape Fabric

Person with gardening glove on smoothing out the landscape fabric around a small shrub

Different kinds of landscape fabric differ in their durability, life expectancy, weight, and permeability, and other factors. The two main kinds of landscape fabric are woven and nonwoven, the latter being the more porous of the two and ideal for cultivated garden beds.

Landscape fabric is often preferred by gardeners or landscapers over black plastic because it’s more durable, porous to moisture and air, less toxic, and easier to work with. Black plastic has its place, but can tear easily and create a big plastic mess in the yard and garden with loads of little shreds of plastic flying around. For environmentally-conscious gardeners and homeowners, you can specifically buy biodegradable landscape fabric that is durable to last but won’t cause the long-term problems of petroleum-based landscape fabric.

What is Landscape Fabric Used For?

Person wearing red gardening gloves while removing weeds from their garden

The main use of landscape fabric is weed control. It is considered a resilient barrier system ideal for gardens or beds that are prone to lots of weeds. It can also be used in landscaping projects and garden beds to help prevent erosion and loss of soil. Landscape fabric is also an effective tool to use under walkways, stone patios, or other landscape features where weeds could creep through the crack. For example, laying heavy-duty landscape fabric beneath your stone walkway will ensure that weeds are less likely to sprout out between the stones.

In a garden setting, it’s typically best to use lighter and more porous landscape fabrics to ensure proper moisture regulation and airflow. Black landscape fabrics are also sometimes used by northern gardeners in vegetable gardens to help warm up the soil in the spring and retain heat in the fall. This is helpful in extending the growing season. If you’re looking to try this technique, be sure to use light landscape fabric that allows for ample moisture and air to move through and isn’t UV resistant, as the sun’s UV rays are what ultimately warms the soil.

How to Install Landscape Fabric

Properly using landscape fabric ensures that it lasts long and works effectively. Follow this step-by-step guide to be sure you cover all the bases:

Person wearing green pants using a gardening rake to work up the soil

1. Remove debris

Remove all weeds, stones, sticks, grass, and other vegetation. Using a hoe and rake, properly prepare the area where you are going to lay the landscape fabric. Tilting your hoe at an angle, carefully pull out weeds and grass at the root to discourage further growth.

Person wearing green overalls using a yard roller to flatten the soil

2. Clear and level the soil

Rake through the ground to remove sticks, stones, twigs, or anything else that can cause the landscape fabric to wear down or tear. Discard any loose stones or sharp objects so that the earth is smooth. Using extra topsoil if needed, level out the surface so it’s relatively flat. Be sure you use a steel rake, or bow rake, for the best effect.

Person wearing red gardening gloves crouched laying down landscaping fabric

3. Lay the landscape fabric

Sort of like making your bed, simply roll the fabric out over the area. If your fabric has an “up” and “down” side, then be sure the proper side is facing up.

Person wearing green overalls cutting landscape fabric around plant

4. Cut the fabric

With a sharp utility knife or scissors, cut the landscape fabric to the proper length. If you are covering an area bigger than the width of the fabric, lay another row of fabric next to the first one and overlap the fabrics between 3-6 inches.

Person sticking ground staples into the landscaping fabric to hold in place, close-up

5. Fix the landscape fabric

Use stones or other heavy objects to temporarily weigh down the fabric so it doesn’t blow away. Take ground staples and secure the landscape fabric to the ground with a staple every few feet or so. Use a hammer or sledge hammer to drive the staple into the earth.

A bunch of small plants stilling out of cutouts in landscaping fabric

6. Plant

If your intention is to use the landscape fabric in garden beds, planting through your landscape fabric is simple. Using a utility knife, cut an X-shaped incision into the fabric that is big enough for the root ball to fit through. Pulling the flaps back, dig a hole and plant accordingly. When you’ve finished, tuck the flaps back around the base of the plant. Keep in mind that landscape fabric can limit the amount of water that plants get, so be sure to water accordingly!

Person wearing red gardening gloves spreading out mulch on top of landscaping fabric

7. Add mulch

This is not necessary, but mulch is another more aesthetically pleasing layer to add atop your landscape fabric to keep it secure, functioning, and looking pretty. Use natural mulch like pine needles or wood chips and add a layer about 2 inches thick. Gently use a rake to distribute and flatten the mulch layer so it looks uniform and covers the fabric. You can also use gravel, stones, or other materials as a top layer.

Landscape fabric is a versatile and useful tool that, when used properly, is impressively effective in weed control for a wide variety of garden and landscaping projects.