By Stephanie Lezotte
When tending to existing flower beds that hadn’t been weeded or mulched for two years, I relied heavily on landscape fabric. The beds were both neglected and fruitful, and since I prefer a minimalist approach to my yard, my goals were to reduce and transplant in order to achieve clean-looking, organized beds. Therefore, I had a lot of ground to cover and wanted an economical, non-chemical weed control option.
I chose Greenscapes Basic Landscape Fabric and paid only $10 for a 150-foot roll (I estimate needing two more rolls). Greenscapes Basic fabric is made of a thin material called polypropene, which looks like spun black cotton candy. Polypropene is a breathable polymer that allows water and sunlight to penetrate its surface.
The package says that the Basic fabric is ideal for annual beds—plants that sprout yearly will surely rip it into useless pieces. One advantage of this type fabric over thicker plastic fabrics is that there is nothing to clean up since the fabric will just disintegrate into the soil. This is a useful feature when replanting annuals, or in my case, implementing a temporary weeding solution.
I chose to use Greenscapes Basic Landscape Fabric in two test beds. Both beds were cleared of any perennial flowers and weeded to ensure no existing stalks would rip the fabric. One bed contains four flowering shrubs and the other bed contains a rose bush and brick walking paths. The width of the fabric roll is three feet, which fit my shrub bed perfectly. The material is easy to manipulate.
I tucked it under railroad ties, edged it around the walking paths, and cradled thorny plants without issue. I probably used more landscape pins than I needed (about 75 for 150 feet of fabric), but I wanted to firmly secure fabric that overlapped at seams to prevent weeds from finding ways to the surface. On a particularly windy day, the fabric was hard to position precisely around the existing shrubs, but once tacked into place using the pins, the fabric didn’t move.
I was pleased to see that the pinned fabric remained secure after application, despite winds and rainwater that ran down the slanted beds. The fabric was exposed to direct sunlight for a few days, and I intended to cover it as soon as possible in order to preserve its lifespan. To the shrub bed I applied a one-inch layer of white mini marble chunks. I was not too careful during this process and while spreading the stones, some jagged edges caught the fabric and produced small tears. Spreading also drove some of the stones between the seams and into the soil.
Because this material appears to degrade quickly, I would not advise using it under stone beds because any re-application will be extremely messy and burdensome. On the other bed I applied a three-inch layer of undyed hardwood mulch. The fabric stayed in place completely; I never had to reposition it when raking the mulch. In both beds, the fabric is completely covered.
I started this process in March before any weeds had a chance to grow. In mid-May, two months after the fabric application, I found minimal weeds in those beds. There have been approximately ten weeds in the 100-square-foot mulched bed. There have been virtually no weeds in the stone bed. Weeds are predominantly growing in areas where the landscape fabric is flush with concrete, fencing, or bed edging. This is understandable and acceptable as I had difficultly creating an impenetrable junction at these points.
Weeds are also growing, with less frequency, in the areas where fabric ends overlap. In order to have a control by which to assess the product’s effectiveness, I did not apply any landscape fabric to another flower bed and instead just topped with mulch after weeding. The untreated bed harbors significantly more weeds; in a 100-square-foot bed, there have been approximately 30 weeds.
So far I’m happy with the product as it has significantly reduced the amount of weeds growing. I am concerned with having to re-apply the fabric next year, but I expect the mulch and stones to reduce the rate of fabric deterioration. Even if a second application is necessary, it’s reassuring to know that the Greenscape Basic Landscape Fabric is an economical and easy option.
A published writer and novice gardener, Stephanie Lezotte dabbles in over 1500 square feet of newly purchased gardens that yield hundreds of tulips, daffodils, hostas, and daylilies. She enjoys trying new gardening tools and techniques and isn’t afraid to get (a little) dirty.