Weed control fabrics also known as sheets, covers, or weed suppressing membranes are portrayed as permanent, organic & good for the environment and they seem to be all over the internet these days. The revolutionary new method of weed control seems to be practical, easy, and clean too. The fabric can be very helpful in various situations but it is an aid, not a remedy. The reason behind it is that any kind of fabric or cover that suppresses weeds by covering them, also keeps the fallen leaves mulch from being decomposed and added to the soil. This reduces the organic material reaching the soil and enriching it. The lack of organic matter may leave the soil hardened and makes the survival of plants in the area tough over time.
The weed control fabric is effective, but it shouldn’t be you’re only option. So, let’s first understand the role of weed suppressing sheets in controlling weed growth, before we jump onto any conclusions.
Ideal Scenarios for Using Landscape Fabric
Owners of a brand new garden – if your garden comprises of woody shrubs, ornamental grasses, heathers etc., it means you are probably through with adding plenty of organic matter for the season. Since you have enough of the organic matter, you may now go ahead with a landscaping fabric or weed control fabric.
- Adding a layer of fresh and thick wood chip mulch after removing the fabric will help control the future growth of weed.
- A great way to control weed for years, the fabric can be laid in your garden until you find time to tend to your beloved plants.
- For pet owners, especially dog owners will find this landscaping sheet very rewarding, as it prevents them from digging up your garden.
- For slopes, the fabric turns out to be a boon.
The limitation of the weed control fabric is that it makes removal of any new weed difficult. And if it grows through the fabric, the weed control measure is voided.
Advantages of Weed Suppressing Membranes
Every such measure, which isn’t 100% effective, is then compared to find the trade-off, or the quid pro quo with its usage. If the adverse effects are tolerable enough for your application, considering the cost-effectiveness and other factors, then it is viable to use the measure.
With weed control fabrics, the time limit is the beneficial point which attracts the landscapers and gardeners. Some professional grade landscape fabrics are known to last up to ten years. After a significant amount of time, either of the two situations occurs:
- There is a layer of top soil over the fabric for weeds to grow in, as the wood chips used as mulch, and the fallen leaves, other organic materials break down to provide soil and nutrition.
- The fabric degrades over time, letting weeds come up from the holes, weak points.
If you are planning to use the fabric, remember to remove it after a few years so that the soil keeps getting nutrition. So, basically, using the fabric is like delaying the hard work for a few years. This isn’t the ideal scenario but suits to the requirement of most people.
It is a pain to dig up plants or to plant new ones with the landscape fabric on. And making holes in the fabric isn’t an option, as it reduces the effectiveness many times.
- The fabric will be a nuisance if you are growing flowering plants and perennials, which need a lot of nutrient
- It is not a good idea for the English Cottage-style garden with re-seeding flowers and plants that travel and intermingle.
- For active gardeners, who get creative every now and then, it takes away the freedom to move things around and tuck in new plants fairly often.
A reflection from different user experiences and feedback
The Best Weed Control Fabric
If by this point you’ve decided to use a weed control fabric, here’s the top ones on the market:
1. Kingfisher Heavy Duty Weed Control Guard Fabric Membrane
Review: The Kingfisher Heavy Duty weed suppressing fabric is a spun-bonded membrane that allows air, nutrients, and liquid to pass through to the soil. You can use fertilizers with it and the fabric does need to be covered with a mulch. A mulch is simply a bunch of organic materials such as compost or shredded bark applied to the surface of the soil in order to retain moisture and soil productivity. This fabric is created by Kingfisher which is one of Europe’s leading home improvement retailers. It’s UV treated, suitable for most applications, and measures 25m by 1m.
2. Yuzet Heavy Duty Weed Control Ground Landscape Fabric
Review: This membrane is made a little differently – it’s woven through polypropylene fibers. It’s also double the size as the Kingfisher model and includes 40 securing pegs so you can nail the fabric into the ground. It’s suitable for most applications meaning you can use it for tough weed control in areas such as decks, garden paths, scree gardens, under block pavements, plastic grid paviors, shed bases, patios, flower beds, and shrubs. It allows water and nutrients to pass through to the soil. The polypropylene materials keeps the fabric strong that allows it to withstand pedestrian and vehicular traffic making it ideal for use under driveways and paths.
The Urban Legend
Word is on the street that weed control fabric is the least harmful and most effective measure. It all began with the increased concern of indiscriminate use of chemical herbicides. Mulches weren’t a good alternative too, although they may be organic, inorganic, or synthetic and often can bring an aesthetic quality in the garden.
These factors gave way to development synthetic mulches, geotextiles which are non-biodegradable and permanent solutions to weed control.
Checking the Facts!
Every gardener and landscape professional look for a permanent solution, and weed control fabric promises one. Unfortunately, this method isn’t so permanent either.
Let’s list the facts:
- Weed control fabrics are not permanent and will decompose (rain, sunlight etc.)
- They can control weeds in areas such as gravel driveways, vegetable gardens, allotments, and artificial grass.
- They tend to degrade the soil in the landscape
- Any organic matter or soil on top of the fabrics will invite weeds
- The fabric needs regular care to remove such organic mulches
- Weeds make their way through the fabric, after all, it is in their definition to be resilient
- Roots tend to grow in and colonize fabrics, and are eventually damaged at the time of fabric renewal
- It brings down the aesthetic value too
- Weed control fabric doesn’t seem so permanent and effective now!
Since, listing all the feedbacks and sharing every experience is tough, this compressed form of the users’ view will help you get some perspective.
The Bottom Line
- Weed control/landscape fabrics are not permanent weed control solutions
- They eventually become high-maintenance
- Organic mulches are one of the preferred alternatives
Alternatives We Are Left With!
Well, you can pull out the weed the old-fashioned way, use wood chip mulch, or use the herbicides. The key is to understand your style of gardening, long and short-term requirements, and then finding an ideal solution, which may be herbicide, mulch, fabric or a combination of many home remedies, chemical methods and mulches, fabric. You can also resort to using a natural homemade solution such as a vinegar solution.
In conclusion, the weed control fabric is an effective and long term solution, but there is no permanent solution. You will have to dedicate your time to the garden, tend and care to plants and keep experimenting.