How to use landscape fabric - 7 easy ways

If you're wondering how to use landscape fabric, its versatility might surprise you. While weed prevention is its most well-known purpose, landscape fabric has developed over the years for tasks like filtration, stabilization, and erosion control.

Seven (7) easy ways to use landscape fabric:

  1. Protect existing plants
  2. Create flower beds
  3. Protect mulch compacting
  4. Provide a Stabilizing Layer
  5. Protect a Retaining Wall
  6. Install a French Drain
  7. Pond Liner Underlayment

That said, landscape fabric remains your best option for the simple task of controlling weeds. Not only does it prevent germination, but it also limits the growth of existing weeds. It’s perfect for the areas beneath your deck, around trees, and along patios and walkways.

To ensure your landscape fabric performs well, be sure to secure it with landscape staples. These metal pins firmly attach the fabric to a variety of surfaces to make your project a success.

  1. Protect Existing Plants

When decorative plants, flowers, or shrubs don't have the protection of landscape fabric, many homeowners are disappointed when weeds grow faster than the flowers. Fortunately, it’s not too late to protect them by installing landscape fabric around the existing plants to stop the destructive weeds.

When shopping for landscape fabric, check the durability rating, life span, and water permeability features of the fabric before buying. The more traffic the area has, the more durable your fabric should be.

Assemble your tools and remember that landscape pins are necessary for your project.

Prior to installation, be sure you’re laying the fabric correctly, with the proper side facing down. Though some are interchangeable, many fabrics have a textured side that must face the ground.

Use a sharp pair of scissors or utility knife to cut slits that create openings for your plants. After cutting the slits, wrap the fabric around the base of your plants and overlap the edges. Then, use landscape staples to keep the edges snug and to secure the fabric to the ground.

For functional purposes and to maintain a beautiful aesthetic, spread bark or mulch on the landscape fabric throughout the coverage area. Use enough for two to three inches of coverage. This step further secures the landscape fabric along with the staples and prevents the fabric from curling up or fraying.

  1. Create Flower Beds

Begin this project with accurate measurements of your planned flower bed. Use a tape measure to note length and width. Multiply these numbers to determine the square footage and use that information to determine the size or number of rolls of landscape fabric you require. Add about 10 percent to ensure you have enough.

Before laying the landscape fabric, prep your flower bed by raking and leveling the soil. Next, roll out the fabric over the designated area and cut to size. Hammer landscape staples through the fabric into the ground to secure the cover about every 6 to 8 inches along the edges.

Map the area for your flowering plants or shrubs with a marker. Use a utility knife to cut large x’s at the plant sites. Peel back the fabric at each site and dig holes for planting. After planting, fold the landscape pieces back in against the plants. Secure the fabric with your garden staples. Finally, spread mulch to cover the entire area.

  1. Protect Mulch Compacting

Many people choose to use mulch in their landscaping to prevent weed growth. By using multiple layers, you can create mulch compacting. This blocks sunlight from reaching the soil and helps prevent weed germination.

Both organic and inorganic mulches are available. Without landscape fabric, organic mulches in direct contact with soil decompose rapidly. So, this choice requires periodic mulch replacement and top ups.

The wide range of mulch colors allows for a variety of styles and designs, and even the simplest application can be very attractive. For best results, install landscape fabric with pins before the mulch to map your designs and strengthen the weed-prevention properties of mulch compacting. 

Although woven landscape fabric blocks light to inhibit weed growth, water, air, and nutrients still permeate the fabric to maintain healthy soil underneath. In addition, it slows decomposition of organic mulch. This reduces the need for frequent replenishment.

Correct installation of your landscape fabric is essential for maximum weed prevention. You don’t want to leave any open spaces that allow sunlight in. Avoid this potential issue with landscaping fabric pegs and staples. Secure your weed barrier fabric throughout the coverage area with them. If you’re using landscaping fabric and mulch for several areas, consider landscape fabric staples in 1000-count packages for more secure coverage and cost effectiveness.

  1. Provide a Stabilizing Layer

Placing landscape fabric under gravel, pavers, and other types of hardscaping materials creates a stabilizing layer.

If you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing, frost heave is a potential problem. The cycles of freezing and thawing force the ground to expand — heave — moving your gravel or pavers upwards. This creates unstable and even messy or muddy surfaces and walkways. But if you install landscape fabric first, it can limit the frost heave effect that moves rock and soil upwards.

Another problem is that loose hardscaping like gravel or pebbles settles into the soil over time. This also creates uneven pathways and an unappealing aesthetic. But landscape fabric can help prevent that unwelcome sinkage. Simply install the ground covering with landscape fabric staples before placement of your pavers or gravel.

  1. Protect a Retaining Wall

A barrier between the soil and your wood, brick, or stone retaining wall is necessary. Without this protection, dirt can mar the appearance of your hardscaping and leave it vulnerable to weed growth. Soil gets into the layers of the wall giving weeds a place to thrive. Use landscape fabric to prevent this problem.

Dig a small trench flush with the wall. It should be about 6 inches wide at the bottom of your wall underground. Line the side of the trench along the back of the wall with the landscape fabric. The top edge of the fabric should be level with the top of your retaining wall (assuming it's at or just above surface level). Attach it with construction adhesive. Use landscape fabric staples in the trench's bottom to secure the liner.

Carefully place gravel in the trench. Fill to about 2 inches beneath surface level. Cover with topsoil and tamp down the soil to make it level. Some homeowners take the extra step of installing drainage in the trench, such as a French drain system. 

  1. Install a French Drain

Unless drained away, storm water buildup around homes, buildings, and landscaping can cause foundation damage, fungus and mold growth, and plant root rot. Pools of water are also a breeding ground for insects like mosquitos. French drains, also called trench drains, solve this drainage problem.

Creating a French drain requires advanced DIY skills. So, consider bringing in a professional if that’s not within your comfort level.

To start, dig a trench that directs water away from your home or other area, starting at a higher elevation that flows to a lower level. Dig about 1-1/2 foot down and 9 inches to 1 foot wide.

Use landscape fabric in the trench to prevent silt, tree roots, and excess dirt from entering the drain. Non-woven geotextile landscape fabric is suitable for this type of project. Buy enough landscape fabric to line the trench with about 10 extra inches on each side.

Add a gravel bed by pouring gravel into the trench atop the fabric. This bedding should be about three inches deep. Then lay a PVC pipe system or drainage hose, creating a slope of at least one inch per 10 feet of pipe. If you use piping, drill holes every six inches in the pipe and place it in the trench on top of the gravel with the holes facing down.

Pour more gravel over the pipe or hose, keeping it below ground surface. Wrap the extra landscape edges around the gravel and secure with durable landscape fabric staples. Now, refill the trench with topsoil.

  1. Pond Liner Underlayment

When installing a pond or water feature, use landscape fabric for the underlayment. It’s an economical choice with several benefits. The fabric safeguards your liner from root punctures and sharp rocks. It also allows gasses to disperse from under rubber pond liners.

Landscape fabric replaces the fine sand and soil mix that’s often used on the pond liner as a base for the rock or gravel layer. It removes the expense of buying and hauling the sand, as well as the extra labor. Using landscape fabric instead also eliminates the cloudy water that appears until the mix settles.

With the protective landscape fabric underlayer, you can place the rocks on the liner without the sand and soil buffer. Pin down the landscape fabric underlayment with landscape fabric staples to prevent movement while building the pond.

These are just a few of the many ways that landscape fabric along with landscape fabric staples can improve and protect your garden, foundation plantings, and beautiful outdoor spaces.

For your next project, secure your landscape fabric with our strong Shape Your Scape staples.

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