Landscape Fabric Pros & Cons Finding an Alternative thru Sheet Mulching for Weed Control

Landscape Fabric Pros & Cons Finding an Alternative thru Sheet Mulching for Weed Control

Hi YouTubers. I’m Al Gracian from Today, I want to talk to you about: Landscape
Fabric. This is something that is commonly used in
the landscaping industry. We’ll often times put it in our beds and we
might think that it going to solve a lot of problems for us. But sometimes it can cause some unexpected
challenges in the landscape. If you ask a landscaper, a professional landscaper,
what they think about it, you’ll probably get some interesting stories. So I want to show some pros and cons of using
this in our landscapes today. But, quite importantly, I want show you a
pretty cool alternative that you might consider using. And it might be something that could really
help you out just depending on what you’re trying to accomplish when you’re setting up
a bed. So let’s get in and look at what landscape
fabric can do for us and also what it can’t do for us. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” And so what that means is, if you have a big
open area, maybe even disturbed land where nothing is growing, odds are it isn’t going
to stay that way for long. Due to all of the different natural forces
in the environment you always have new organisms coming in. Plant seeds being blown in from the wind. From birds. From their droppings. And so before you know it, an area is overtaken. And often times, what it’s overtaken by, is
what we call “weeds.” Things that we don’t want growing there. So on the edge of my property line, what had
been a completely open, barren spot is now overrun by all types of plants that I don’t
want growing there, which means I’ve gotta keep pulling them out again and again, fighting
nature constantly. Most of us don’t enjoy spending our whole
day weeding our yards and our landscapes. Yet, at the same time, we do like things to
look nice. And we don’t want them to look messy and chaotic. You’ll especially find that in some urban
areas where some people are even forced to live that way because of the neighborhoods
that they reside in. Sure, we could take the easy way out and just
spray a big ol’ swath of Roundup and kill all those weeds just like that. But I think that at this point, society in
general is finally waking up as to the dangers involved in using chemicals like glyphosate
and other types of herbicides and what they’re doing to the environment, to the wildlife. So we can quickly rule that out as a way of
dealing with weeds, which leaves us with the next option: Weed Suppression. Often the easiest way to go about initially
suppressing weeds is just by adding some form of a mulch. Often times, in a landscape setting, you’re
looking at a wood-based mulch because you get a nice aesthetic value. But you also do, at least for a time, have
that ability to suppress the things that you don’t want from growing. And then you can of course have a nicer environment
where you retain moisture and you can get those things that you want to grow. I know what you thinking: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know that mulch stuff, by itself, it does
work ok at first. But before too long you have all of these
stupid weeds coming up. And now you’re back at it again anyways, having
to pull this junk out. And well, isn’t that what the point of weed
fabric is all about? That landscape fabric?’ Sure we could put this stuff down. Maybe put a nice layer of this first. And then we could come in and put our mulch. And wouldn’t that help tremendously with suppressing
weeds? Well, let’s look at how this fabric actually
works and what happens over time in our landscape beds. Over time that layer of wood mulch that you’ve
put down, starts to decompose which is great for the landscape. It’s great for your plants and the different
organisms in the soil. But what that means is you now on top of your
landscape fabric are building an actual layer of top soil on top of that. So, even though you’re stopping plants and
weeds and things from underneath from being able to come up, you’re not able to stop them
from growing down into it. So when fresh seeds get blown in, things are
still being able to root now in this soil that is being built on top of your fabric. And so every year or so as you keep bringing
in fresh mulch in order to have the aesthetic and the practical value of that mulch still
working for you, what’s going on is that fabric is getting buried deeper and deeper, under
the ground. And you’re still fighting weeds anyways. So now at this point, after having initially
suppressed existing vegetation, you’re now having to fight new vegetation that’s coming
in anyways. And that’s where you start complaining about
this stupid landscape fabric and how it just doesn’t seem to do what you thought it was
going to do. But what we may not consider is the detrimental
effects that it’s having even though it’s not really working that great at keeping out
fresh weeds, it’s still a barrier here. And it’s stopping something from occurring. And often times we don’t think about that. We don’t take that into account. And for this reason alone is why I would non
longer would use a landscape fabric anywhere. We naturally have organisms that are moving
from below in the sub-soil up to the surface. Think about earthworms and the great work
that they do in our landscapes, in our yards, in our gardens. They tunnel down below, but then they tunnel
all the way up to the very surface of the soil. And how are they able to do that properly
when we have this fabric, this impassable barrier that is there right below the surface
of the soil? Then too if we have any type of a creeping
or a spreading plant, well as it starts to advance and it spreads out more and more it
starts to root into this mulch, this top soil that your building up here. But then the roots can’t get all the way down
like they should. And so now you have a shallow rooted perennial,
something that’s a desirable plant that you may want in your bed. And it’s being choked by a fabric. There’s gotta be some kind of a way to suppress
these things, allowing us to take over our landscape with a design that we want. But then going forward, what can we do to
reduce maintenance? Well first, let’s look at something that is
an excellent alternative to a fabric, that doesn’t interfere on a long-term basis with
biological activity of different organisms. But in the initial laying down of it, it is
great at suppressing weeds. Right here, several months ago, I began putting
down layers… of cardboard. Just simple cardboard. I pull off all of the stickers. All of the tape. And then on top of that, a nice generous layer
of mulch to help to hold that in place, to block out light. And look at what we’ve gotten as a result. In this spot here, without having to rely
on landscape fabric, I was able to take a product that would have been possibly thrown
away, maybe recycled. But even still, rather than sending it off-site,
I’ve been able to turn it into a resource that allowed me to suppress a whole bunch
of weeds that I had in here. And so after several months they get completely
choked out. And what that does, is that now prepares a
site where I can come in and put in things that I do want, and begin replacing that vacuum,
that empty space, with things that are desirable. Move over landscaping fabric. It’s time to make way for some simple old
cardboard. It’s something that does work well at initially
suppressing weeds, while later on allowing the plants that you want to grow to be able
to grow properly, to be able to be properly rooted and to be able to thrive in your landscape. The biological life in your soil will thank-you. A couple of quick tips that I wanted to share. This is a general idea, built around the concept
of sheet mulching which is used in permaculture. Often times, in addition to putting a mulch
on top, there will be many more layers of things like compost, leaves, that are intended
to add fertility to a site. Maybe whenever you’re going to do some biointensive
gardening and you want to really build up a topsoil level. But even in a more simple application, where
all you want to do is suppress some weeds, and start to fix up a bed that you allowed
to kinda get overrun. Well, you can use this stuff and put on a
nice thick layer of mulch and it will do the job. I recommend getting the biggest pieces that
you can possibly get of this cardboard. If you have a bunch of tiny scraps and you
try to piece them together it’s not going to work very well, as opposed to having some
very nice, large maybe a nice thick cardboard. You could do double layers or more. And if you do get to points where you have
overlapping, make sure that you’re generous in regards to how you do overlap that stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice though if you could keep
weeds at bay without having to constantly mulch large areas every year? Well, as part of a longterm management strategy
I suggest looking at what you’re doing with your plants. Fill in that vacuum. Put in as many perennials as you can fit,
getting as many benefits as you can from these different plants. Many flowering and herbal perennials can offer
so much to a landscape. In addition to the general aesthetic value,
they can be used perhaps for culinary uses or as medicinal uses. And certainly they’re greatly appreciated
by wildlife, such as our honeybees and other beneficial insects. But by having them very close together, what
happens is, they completely occupy an area, out competing weeds, making it so there is
nowhere for those weeds to grow. You might have a couple that are struggling
to survive. They’re easy to identify and eliminate. And other than that, that’s it. And eventually, you don’t even have to mulch
that area because there is no more exposed ground. A very specific type of plant that I am a
big advocate for are ground cover plants. Here’s an example of a ground cover plant
that I put in a couple years ago. This is a creeping thyme. And just look at what this has done. In a low lying area where you don’t want maybe
tall bushy plants, you’re able to fill in a spot that no longer needs mulched. No longer has excessive weeds that you’re
constantly fighting. And it looks nice. So, utilizing various different types of ground
covers -that should be on your list as part of your end game, your final design element
that you’ll want to use in a landscape. In between your other plants that maybe are
bushes, shrubs, trees, use ground covers to fill in the rest. That means no more weeds. Well that’s it for today. Thanks for taking time to watch this video. I hope that it’s given you something to take
into consideration. Landscape fabric can offer some benefits,
but it has definite drawbacks. And it’s good to be aware of those. That can help us to have realistic expectations. And maybe we may decide that we don’t want
to spend the twenty dollars on that roll of this synthetic stuff. But instead, you might find that you have
exactly what you need already in your house, ready to go to the recycling bin. Why not give that a try? Well, please subscribe if you haven’t already. And as always: Happy Gardening! It does look like I have one last spot that
I want to take care of. I’ve been putting it off. But I’ve got some cardboard and some mulch
so it’s time to get back to work. Oh hey, have you ever seen a tour of my Dad’s
yard? He uses a lot of weeping trees and things
that work well in the shade. It makes for a nice contrast. You should check it out. Or maybe you just might want to see the playlist
that shows the different walkthroughs of my yard and how things have progressed through
the years. It’s your choice. I won’t judge.


100 thoughts on “Landscape Fabric Pros & Cons Finding an Alternative thru Sheet Mulching for Weed Control”

  • Absolutely brilliant wee idea couple of pin punctures for quicker break down in cardboard. 🤔 Got to laugh when you say remove all stickers n plastic and amazon is stuck on. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Cheers for the heads up I've just had the mini cat In to chomp my land nae black mesh for me I have plenty of cardboard this is good game changer! Come on the WORMS!

  • Salvador Nobre Veiga says:

    Thats something i never thought about – the new layer of soil being created on top of the weedbarrier in essence in time, is just another spot for weeds to grow barring the barrier innefective. However, I have a question. How about on gravel/rock beds? Since we are not replacing constant "mulch" that decomposes and turns into soil, you never build up a layer. Would the weed barrier be more effective there? I am asking especially because I am building a deck and want to make sure no weeds would come through the grave and then up through the deck (ground level deck). As for the other areas cardboard makes a lot of sense.. and it's free considering how many packages we receive nowadays in the house from Amazon and what not!

  • Would it be ok to put the cardboard down alongside the foundation of the house then cover with mulch? Just worried about water getting into crawlspace.

  • Hibiscus Lilytea says:

    I hate Mulch its so ugly and nasty my neighbor has it when it rains it melts down into my driveway ends up in my car in my house yuk who ever thought this was good Id rather have rocks and pavers

  • Fathers Daughter says:

    I used to use newspapers and forgot, thanks for the reminder! We get so many boxes and newspapers(free neighborhood). Will definitely do this again☺

  • BarbaraL Lowell says:

    I am always on the lookout for big boxes I can repurpose as you suggest. I find it lasts in North Central FL about a year and then weeds start growing through and on top of so then I replace it. Best sources are mattress boxes and bicycle boxes. Scout dumpsters everywhere and turn the word side down so the brown showing through looks organic until things build up atop it. Its not a perfect solution there will still be weeds who can grow on anything, but it does work great.

  • CurlsOfaJamaicanJourno says:

    Thanks for this for this vid! I was also told to use black bin bags and card boards along with it. Will try both.

  • I was going to order the landscape fabric but was not 100% convinced. Your video gave me a great alternative. It makes perfect sense. Thanks so much!

  • Anna Duffield says:

    Love this video. Question when you have plants in a bed already do you place the cardboard around it?. And when planting a new one do you cut a hole in it?

  • I need to kill field grass that is also rooted with fruit trees planted a year ago. Would the cardboard suffocate the tree roots or only kill the weeds?

  • Comet Caller says:

    Oh, I'm so disappointed. I expected some real adult content. Just kidding ! ! Maybe Youtube just took your mentioning "WEED control" out of context?? Do you have any videos on growing hot tomatoes? Maybe some garden challenge videos? If so watch out. BTW You might find you have reached more viewers now that you have an Age-restricted content-video 😉 Anyhow, nice video.

  • What part of the country are you? I am in PA. I am starting to plant things for the first time. If I buy herbs, are they annuals to me? I like the look of many herbs together as you show and I have an invasive ground cover that I am trying hard to choke out. It is taking over my yard this year, so I plan to plant blue grass in August.

  • Rustified Squeaker says:

    Anyone else notice this video has been age restricted by youtube and demonitized?
    Just goes to show how youtube is trying to control useful information.

  • * why are they flagging your video? How can it be inappropriate? I don’t understand. You are only trying to help people and the environment. It’s too bad!

    They have also flagged some of my videos, well technically I am not on them. I am new as a YouTube creator and I just posted some videos regarding fasting in the month of Ramadan for Muslim. I didn’t think that would offend anyone, but I guess, oh well!

    But I am sorry that they did it to you! By the way, it looked like you had a mint plant on the ground, wow! Those things are crazy like weeds, they go every where, they need to be in a container. Take care!

  • Rachel Garafola says:

    Thank you. Great advice! I hate chemicals and Have been suggesting more plants to hubby for years…thanks for backing me up on this one! And since he found your video first, now he believes me! We will definitely try some cardboard.

  • This is a great video! I also had experience with wood mulch turning into compost and the fabric being a barrier and weeds growing in it. Will consider the cardboard idea. One issue with wood mulch is when it is blown it goes away and need to replace.

  • Carla Marlene says:

    i ALMOST bought a roll of landscape fabric. i already use cardboard but thanks for explaining the mistake i was about to make

  • Great video with no chemicals involved. I heard that wood mulch brings ants and termites and it's better to use rubber mulch made of tires. What do you think? Also I used roundup around my bushes to kill the weeds 3 months ago and I think I also killed some of my bushes, is there a way I can revive them or is it a total lost?

  • I AGREE !! Great video, I recently moved and my new place has landscape in front/back, that desperately need help! since, I'm on a budget,  this is perfect ! I recently bought 5 bags for $10 of Mulch, I can use some in the front/back, I always  take a before/after picture for family and friends.  I'm also going to use tires for décor.  thanks again for sharing.. I really appreciate you, I'm a Single 55 yr. woman on a budget. Educating myself to do different projects around the house.

  • Curious George says:

    have anyone one encountered termites using cardboard? how often do u soak it down and
    how fast will it break down with cardboard underneath?

  • The very nature of microbes in soil means that they convert carbon (organic matter) into carbon dioxide. If the soil doesn’t get replenished with organic matter it slowly degrades into nearly sterile sand, silt, and clay parent material. The worst for gardening!! Your advice is great!! Thank you!

  • I started with cardboard last fall on a BIG yard. I used landscape pins and rocks but I couldn't afford the amount of mulch I needed to cover it up. Consequently it got wet then dried then began to blow away (all over the neighborhood)over winter when I was away from home and it ended up a big mess. If you are going to do this ( it does work and it is cost effective!), take off the tape and make sure you can get it adequately covered up properly as soon as you put it down.

  • lyricwritertoo says:

    Totally agree with all he said. Fired the too young but energetic landscaper that didnt even know an acid plant from a non one. And belligerent. Used I swear ceiling insulation, totally needle pricking fiberglass stuff. I hate weed cloth and not my plan. The guy zoomed ahead on many days we were not home, never announcing when he was coming. It’s weird got out of control. I explain him and the experience like women getting a bad hair cut. He kept using hair dresser responses as plants dying in our high desert heat that were acid and shade plants in total sun. “Just wait for the 4 growing seasons”??? You sit there getting a bad hair cut and you know it but the hair dresser keeps saying “you will see it will be great” then you pay for your bad hair cut and go home and cry. Thats our front yard we are redoing. Big lumps with no dirt, sprinklers too far apart. I redid the beds spreading out the planting areas. Slowly cutting the weedcloth away and adding only mulch.

  • I use old carpet. Install it upside down. You can use a knife to cut openings for plants. You can find carpet on trash night.

  • Not sure if it went over my head or what but what does the cardboard do that the fabric doesn’t? I know it’s basically free vs. buying the fabric but doesn’t the cardboard create another top layer and won’t the weeds grow above that?

  • I've done this in my garden with mixed results. There are some weeds (the wild violet is one) that will go to extraordinary lengths to seek out a place where one piece of cardboard overlays another and grow up around and through it. But I intend to use it again because I'm extending my garden and I don't have enough time to dig out all the sod. I don't use a commercial mulch product- I don't like them, to me they look messy and unnatural. I mulch with topsoil. So I lay down the cardboard, cut holes where I'm planting things and then mulch it with a layer of topsoil. I'm thinking I'll tape up the joints with something like duct tape because that will work free eventually (hopefully after everything underneath is dead) and be easily pulled out. I do have some non-visible areas where I may use landscape fabric and nothing else, like they do at nurseries/garden centers; I would never use it in my garden. They're not large areas, they're in corners of parts of my house and they're hidden by shrubs. It will make cleaning up leaves, etc. easier and if a few worms die, so be it. Anytime you cultivate the soil you're killing them.

  • Very informative video, thanks! 👍 Is sheet mulching also recommended if you plan to plant a rock garden with succulents/river rock?

  • my mom was getting her carpet replaced and,she put the old carpet out in the garden rows after being cut into the width of the rows, fabric does not work my neighbor showed me how her ornamental grasses grew right back up through it and weeds

  • Lenore DeLitizia says:

    First of all, thank you so much for the great video. I live in North Carolina, and when I first moved into my house, I did use landscape fabric and covered it with mulch. The problem was, it created termite infestation in my garage. So, I think our idea of cardboard (which I've used before) is a great idea. However, I think, this time, I'll cover the cardboard with river rock or pebbles.

  • The ground cover, can you remove some to plant annuals without the ground covering stopping the flowers from lasting the summer season?

  • Marie Vanpeski says:

    wished i had watched your vid before I laid fabric…. didnt even give the worms a thought! thanks for remin
    ding me to think !

  • I 've use landscaping fabric and it's not a great idea. I can't even pull the weeds out. The fabric actually acts as a barrier when you try to pull weeds out. The roots stay underneath the fabric, and you end up with just the stem of the weeds. NEVER AGAIN. I'm going to try the cardboard. Thanks for the video

  • But what about water and air permeability? The landscape fabric seems to have better permeability, and thick sheet cardboard, though biodegradable, should still block worm avctivity early on.

  • This is great. Do you plant on top of the cardboard or do you put cardboard around the plants? How long do you need to leave the cardboard in place with mulch on top before you can plant?

  • What a great video! I used river stones as mulch. Ha! AWFUL idea. I've been trying to figure out what to do about the massive weeds that grow there. Thank you.

  • Thank you! Cancer=Roundup! Can't even breath in the grocery store that sticks it right in the store. We use vinegar to get rid of some weeds. I tried to use that fabric to weed "control" everything gets stuck in fabric and it just messes up. Like the card board method. Some other person said that you can use cardboard to kill grass and make a new flower bed putting soil on top of the cardboard. Nice !!

  • Tks very much for your video; one of the best ones i've watched and high quality HD !! You seem really passionated about using organic, bio-degradeable materials to block out weeds. Tks for ur video and that stopped me wasting time buying more landscape fabric. Keep up the good work.

  • Andrew F {pluckyfella7} says:

    Hi Al. At the end at 11:46, are you growing your Creeping Thyme ON TOP of a cardboard mulch, perhaps with a layer of compost on top of the cardboard, or not? Thank you for this interesting video with your tips. Andrew.

  • Good show. Should cardboard have awl holes poked through. Im thinking goid for water pass through or else water needs to seep around to be conveyed.

  • kath biddle-dutton says:

    Will it work for mike a minute vine weed ? Thanks great idea 💡creeping time ? Shade/sun .. I’ll need to google.. great 👍

  • Yes the cardboard works great for suppressing weeds but it takes years before anything can push roots through it, so it is acting just like the landscape fabric for years.
    I used to use newspaper until I went to pull up some weeds and found out that even newspaper takes years to break down. I had newspaper fully intact after three years. It had not even begun to break down.
    I had even soaked the newspaper before putting it down.
    What I found to work best is a nice deep mulch over those areas and new mulch every year without turning the soil.
    Yes I do get some weeds but a person will never truly get 100% weed free without pouring concrete over the area. But it really makes it tough to plant in concrete.

  • Thank you for the great video and ideas! Would you please give me the name of the (ground cover plant), the short plant covering the bed to prevent weed between plants. I have same problem in my garden. Thank you! Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you for educating & sharing you knowledge! 👍👏 My other issue is using something that goes into landfills. Thank you thank you. China doesn't want as much of our cardboard as they used to.

  • I like the idea of using cardboard. One drawback I can think of is that cardboard will be a haven for slugs which are a pest for garden plants. Slugs love the moist environment and they will always find their way somehow or rather.

  • Atlas WalkedAway says:

    I have a beef with the phrase "Nature abhors a vacuum." (when used in its native context, it makes perfect sense when used as synonymous with "nature hates bare ground") Nature loves the vacuum. it composes 99.many9s% of the universe. We just happen to live in one of the technically vanishingly rare places that nature dumped all the garbage that was clogging up its pretty clean vacuum.

  • Atlas WalkedAway says:

    You were right on the mark with glyphosate. 100% confirmed to be an environmentally persistent human carcinogen that causes lymphatic cancers.

  • So cardboard is a better alternative to landscape fabric, however I would think that the same problem regarding the weeds will exist. The mulch will still break down and create compost, the birds and the wind will still provide the seeds . Or am I misunderstanding something?

  • I hope the erroneous age restriction that YouTube applied has been lifted from this video! I can’t see anything that I wouldn’t show to a child! How stupid of them. Thanks for this video… I have extended my garden by buying a piece of land 60ft x 100ft that is completely wild. I have been battling with the weeds, trying weed killer in some places, manually weeding in others, and it’s backbreaking. As this is a long-term project, I’m thinking your advice on ground cover will be ideal, once I’ve suppressed those awful weeds. I love the look of the creeping thyme. And I now have a use for cardboard that I’d not thought of before. I’m going to put a notice on my corner shop noticeboard for donations of cardboard! Hopefully, my neighbours will provide me with enough to cover a significant portion to get me started. Thank you SO much, Al. I only found you today, have subscribed and have already learnt a great deal from your videos and from your website.

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