"How to use it, how to choose it, and where to get the good stuff"While there's nothing hard or technical about using landscape fabric in your new project, there are a few common mistakes that do it yourselfers make when choosing and using it.
Plastic sheeting is a plant and soil killer. It should never be used as a substitute in any landscaping that will support plant life. Soils need to "breath" to support healthy vibrant plant growth. It's also nice if they can accept rainfall. Plastic sheeting inhibits all of these while also creating an atmosphere for harmful fungus, bacteria, mold, and rot.
Don't use plastic sheeting in your new design!
Measuring and overlap is another area where do it yourself make a common mistake. Try and remember that where two sheets of material meet, there needs to be a three to six inch overlap. This will help insure that weeds and grasses don't find their way to sunlight. So, also remember when figuring amount needed, to allow a little extra for the overlap.
Keep it completely covered from sunlight. Sunlight will do more natural damage than anything else. A good fabric will last virtually forever if covered completely from sunlight. So don't skimp on your groundcover and replenish yearly as needed.
Securing pins are often offered as a necessary accessory to weed barrier. This is true if you're using a cheaper material as they tend to shrink. As far as holding the material down while you work? You don't have to waste your money on them. You can simply hold the cloth in place as you go using your chosen groundcover.
Not all fabrics are alike. Home center and off brands most usually have the word "professional" or "commercial" on their labeling. And a lot of the time they don't quite live up to their labeling (I'm being nice here).
Here's what to look for:
A good quality product should be tougher than you are. You shouldn't be able to tear or stretch it easily and it should have a stiff quality to it. It shouldn't be flimsy and limp like regular cloth.
Test it before you place it in your landscaping. Next time you're at the local home center, try tearing a piece of it with your bare hands. If you can tear it or stretch it with your bare hands, chances are that weeds and grass can and will grow through it.
When shopping for professional fabric, you'll find many different types such as spunbond, woven, non-woven, and needle punch from many different manufacturers. And you'll find it in different weights as well.
While it would seem that a heavier fabric would offer better weed prevention, we haven't found this to be true all the time. Heavier weights higher than 3 oz. per sq. yd. are generally heavier price and shipping cost with no noticeable difference in weed protection. Just because it says it, doesn't mean it's so.
Another thing. When installing landscaping materials, make your cuts only as large as they need to be for the plant openings without choking the plants. Simply make an "X" in the barrier big enough for the plant or root ball to fit through. Then fold it back to the plant and cover with ground cover.
If you do have some large cuts or openings, use some scrap barrier to make a "patch". The fewer cracks or openings you have, the fewer undesirable plants and weeds you'll have.
Here at S&S Designed Landscaping we use a professional 3 oz. per square yard landscape fabric that exceeds anything else we've tried. If you can't find a professional weed barrier locally, you can find out how to access some of our by following this link.