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Why Fabric Weed Barriers Do Not Work

Posted June 24th, 2016 by Mike McGroarty in

Weed BarrierIn my opinion, and I have plenty of experience to back it up, fabric weed barriers and weed barrier cloths do not work! Black plastic doesn’t work either.

I’ve spent most of my life working in the landscaping industry and have landscaped well over 500 homes. Many of those were re-landscapes. In way too many cases when we arrived to re-landscape a home the very first thing that we had to deal with was weed barrier cloth that was practically welded to the ground because there were so many weeds growing through the fabric. Removing the weed barrier fabric was a nightmare of a job.

I didn’t deal with this once or twice, I dealt with it dozens of times! I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a situation where weed barrier cloth actually worked.

Several years ago my wife and I purchased (she wasn’t too crazy about the idea) an old house because it sits on 4.6 acres or wonderful soil. I got all excited about the soil, not the house. It also had some old buildings that my insurance company didn’t like at all. Because the buildings were in such poor condition they had to come down and we had a new garage built behind the house for my nursery equipment.

We fixed up the house and I started on landscaping the yard, which brings me to weed barrier cloth! The previous tenant put a ton of weed barrier cloth and black plastic around this house. It was in the beds in front of the house and in the middle of the yard where there used to be a bed. Weed barrier fabric and black plastic do not work for very long for weed control. You put down the weed barrier fabric or plastic and then cover that with mulch or stone, usually mulch. The mulch breaks down over time and eventually becomes the best topsoil you’ve ever seen. Weed seed blows in and because you now have topsoil on top of the weed barrier cloth, the weeds grow like crazy, on top of the weed barrier cloth. But they don’t just grow on top of the cloth; the roots actually grow through the cloth into the soil making a huge mess of your planting beds.

You then have a bed full of weeds and weed barrier cloth that is trapped between the weeds and the soil. You really can’t use tools to remove the weeds because the weed barrier cloth interferes with your ability to dig into the soil. I’ve dealt with this so many times it makes me crazy to think about it.

If you put stone over the weed barrier fabric you still get weeds. Eventually dust and dirt will find their way between the stones and along come the weeds. With stone it usually takes a little longer, but it will happen.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at FreePlants.com  and read his blog at MikeBackYardNursery.com.

Want more information? Try these articles:

Common Facts that Help Win the Battle of the Weeds

Managing Weeds in the Garden

Simple Steps for Better Weed Control in the Garden

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