If you’re looking to create a weed-free area within your garden design then using Landscape fabric as a weed barrier is a great option. Whether it’s a walkway, seating area or simply to make weed control easier in your garden borders, the long-term advantage can be huge.
But what’s the difference between Landscape Fabric and Geotextile, and do you need 3oz or 5oz fabric? Well, that’s what we’re going to cover in this article, so you can find the best landscape fabric for your garden projects.
Finding The Best Weed Barrier
To choose the right material, you first need to have a basic appreciation of the options and their properties and characteristics. So let’s spend a few moments looking at each option, and what their features and benefits are before I provide you with a list of my preferred weed barrier products.
What Is Landscape Fabric And How Does It Work
Landscape fabric is a type of thick horticultural textile material, usually sold in rolls. The actual materials used to make this fabric vary by manufacturer, but commonly include polyester, linen, and some forms of recycled plastic.
The fabric is designed with thousands of tiny holes across its surface area, allowing water to penetrate through and drain off into the soil below. These holes are formed as part of a weaving process or perforated during manufacture.
Benefits of Landscape Fabric:
- Weed Reduction: The primary purpose of Landscape Fabric is to act as a weed barrier, by preventing sunlight from reaching seeds within the soil below. It’s particularly effective when put under a surface layer like bark or gravel.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Landscape fabric is highly affordable on most budgets and usually lasts for several years. It helps discourage weed growth over the long term.
- Water Conservation: All weed barrier fabrics help limit moisture evaporation from the surface of the soil. This reduces the need for water, so it’s particularly useful in drought-stricken areas.
However, landscape fabric does also have some weaknesses that prevent it from being the perfect choice in every gardening situation.
Landscape Fabric Limitations:
- Limited Breathability: The weed barrier stops air from freely moving through the soil. This can reduce aeration around plant roots.
- Blocks Nutrients: Landscape fabric can stop nutrients from grass clippings from returning to the soil. However, reducing the water flow through the soil also prevents nutrient wash-away.
- Some Structural Weaknesses: Landscape fabric is durable but not impervious. Some plants such as bamboo can pierce through it, leading to the weed barrier becoming compromised.
How Does Landscape Fabric Let Water Through
Landscape fabric lets water through by having thousands of tiny holes per yard of fabric. Small enough to block light and stop weeds penetrating, but big enough to let water molecules soak through uninhibited. Which means you can water plants straight through the fabric.
As I mentioned previously the fabric also reduces evaporation. Action as a seal to capture any water evaporation until it cools and drips back down into the soil below.
Geotextile vs. Landscape Fabric vs. Landscape Plastic
With so many products, brands, and marketing messages it gets messy trying to understand what each fabric type is intended for and what it offers you, so let me try and break it down like this…
A category of fabrics that help filter, reinforce, separate, protect, or drain the substrate they cover. The primary characteristic that separates geotextiles from barriers is that they’re permeable to air and fluids. This is similar to how landscape fabrics work, but geotextiles mainly reinforce soil and stop erosion rather than prevent weeds from growing.
Geotextiles are a common choice when designers want to let water through while keeping soil in place. For example, heavy rainfall can wash silt and topsoil away from fields, particularly on slopes. Geotextiles can catch the heavier particles holding the subsoil in place, while still letting the water drain through.
Primarily a weed-control measure. While you can place landscape fabric directly on the surface of an area and weigh it down with stones, it’s still somewhat vulnerable to wind and other weather damage if you use it this way. Most people prefer to put a heavy layer over it, often bark or gravel, or pin it down using landscape staples.
Used this way, landscape fabric prevents weeds and other unwanted vegetative growth. Making it a great option for gardens and walkways.
An impermeable alternative to landscape fabric, although sharper materials like gravel can tear holes in it over time. It functions similarly to landscape fabric but with less permeability for water, air, and sunlight. This makes it even better at controlling weeds than landscape fabric but at the cost of making it hard to grow anything else.
Landscape plastic can also create drainage issues. Water won’t soak through it very well, so this material works best on a slight slope that channels all the water into a purpose-built drainage system. Installed poorly, landscape plastic can create areas of standing water above it.
How Long Does Weed Barrier Last
The exact lifespan of the best landscape fabric, and other weed barriers, depends on the environment and materials used. Areas with daily watering and surface contact will see weed barriers wear out much faster, while fabric placed several inches down in areas with minimal rainfall could last much longer than usual.
In ordinary circumstances, landscape fabric will probably last ten years at most. Remember that plants may grow roots into or through the fabric during this time, so removing the fabric when it needs replacing could damage existing plants.
Replacing landscape fabric is quite challenging, so some people choose to lay an additional layer down and cover it with more bark or gravel. This can increase the height of an area by an inch or two, but it’s also much simpler than digging up an entire garden.
How Much Does Landscape Fabric Cost
According to Porch, landscape fabric costs about $0.24 per square foot. Prices may vary depending on where you live and what fabrics you choose. This doesn’t include the cost of installation, which can significantly increase this cost unless you’re going DIY and doing it yourself.
Professional landscapers typically charge installation by the square foot, allowing for a cut-to-size pricing option.
If you’re buying it directly, landscape fabric usually comes in large rolls, and you’ll need to get an entire roll in a set length and width.
Best Landscape Fabric Reviews
Each weed-suppressing landscape fabric has been laid and tested to find its characteristics and qualities allowing me to share with you my view on the best weed barrier on the market for home use.
My criteria were based on the intended use of the landscape fabric, how easy it was to handle and install, durability, and overall value for money.
Best Overall Weed Barrier
- Excellent 5oz heavy-duty fabric with premium hydrophilic technology
- Top choice for garden borders and use around plants and trees, allowing good water, and airflow
- Gridlines make it easy to estimate the distance between plants when cutting holes
- More expensive than most other landscape fabrics
Dewitt’s 5oz weed barrier fabric comes in several sizes, with the smallest roll being about 750 square feet. The fabric is a needle-punched polypropylene, which is relatively standard, but it’s the other attributes that set this fabric apart from the competition for me.
The first thing I like is the addition of gridlines every twelve inches along the fabric. They were a great help in estimating the right distance for putting in my plants without getting a ruler or a tape measure. It’s a nice touch for an easy installation.
However, the part that stands out is the hydrophilic treatment this fabric goes through. In layman’s terms, this treatment modifies the fabric to make air, water, and nutrients flow through better. This makes Dewitt’s fabric objectively better than many of its competitors, and easily my top choice for most backyard situations.
Check the latest DeWitt price here on Amazon
Sadly, no fabric is perfect, or I wouldn’t even need to review anything else, right? But it is worth noting that this fabric is a little more vulnerable to some sharp stones and thicket, but for me, the water and airflow on my border were more important and as a full-weight 5oz fabric it is a heavy-duty garden weed barrier. Perhaps check out my No.2 choice Hoople for areas of heavy underfoot use such as walkways.
- More durable than many other choices so perfect for pathways
- Holds water exceptionally well
- It needs to be installed the correct way up to optimize water retention
Hoople’s thick fabric is noticeably more durable than many of its competitors. It’s thick enough that it’s almost closer to a halfway point between landscape fabric and landscape fabric, other than the way it still lets some air and water through.
While this isn’t our top choice overall, it’s a strong runner-up for any areas of your garden where you want to minimize all plant growth. In other words, this is a particularly good landscape fabric for pathways and large, open areas with no bushes or other plants. It’s not quite as good in gardens where you want to have a lot of plants coming through, though.
In the right environments, this fabric can realistically last up to 15 years. The manufacturer only rates it for five years, but if you care for it well, it will last. The main concern is sunlight, which can degrade this fabric much faster. You can minimize that with a good layer on top, though, which is usually the best way to use this fabric.
Finally, this isn’t quite a one-way fabric, but it does have a clear way that water flows through easier. This makes it better for water retention than many other products.
- Better at preventing erosion than other fabrics
- Particularly good for large areas with no plants
- More expensive than regular landscape fabric
- Not as good in areas of planting
This is technically a geotextile rather than regular landscape fabric, but it can serve the same role. It offers a puncture resistance of 100 lbs, and general tensile strength of 205 lbs, both of which are impressive for this product category.
Mutual’s WF200 is especially useful if you need to cover a large area or expect to have unusually active plant activity in the area. The woven polypropylene here resists both ultraviolet light from the sun and acidic chemical compounds created by rotting plants. However, these same qualities prevent nutrients from passing through, so this isn’t as effective in garden areas.
As a geotextile, this fabric is a great choice in areas where you’re trying to prevent erosion. You can place it horizontally, like regular fabrics, but you can also install it vertically to act as a filter and stop silt or mud from flowing out of the area. That’s a bigger project than most casual gardens need, but it does help to have options when you’re designing things.
Check Mutual WF200 latest price on Amazon
Alternatively, you can layer this with a regular landscape fabric at specific heights. For example, you can use this to coat the bottom of a garden area and put landscape fabric on top. Either way, this isn’t a general-purpose choice, but it does have niche applications.
- More affordable than most other landscape fabrics
- The two-layer weave allows more cuts
- Blocks fewer types of weeds than some other products
- Particularly vulnerable to sunlight
ECOgardener’s weed barrier is a durable, two-layer fabric that holds up well under both wind and rain. It’s also tough enough to use in vertical applications as long as you install it correctly, which isn’t as common among landscape fabrics as it should be.
This fabric doesn’t perform quite as well as our top choices, but it’s far more affordable on a tighter budget, and that can be a decisive factor. Like most better fabrics, it’s good at letting both water and air through, but it isn’t rated for letting nutrients through the way our top choice is.
One thing that’s not immediately apparent is the general resistance to fraying. The two-layer structure holds up to cuts well, making it a decent choice for dense gardens where you end up with a lot of holes in the fabric. No landscape fabric can endure too many holes, but this one holds up better than most other choices.
Find ECO Gardener online here
It’s hard to truly recommend this because better products are available, but it’s a good choice if you’ve never used landscape fabric before. It’s affordable enough to experiment with, readily available, and easy to cut to the shape you need
- Better at customizing water flow than other fabrics
- Can double as a nearly waterproof material if you don’t soak it
- Better maximum lifespan than other fabrics if installed correctly
- Harder for DIY’ers to lay correctly
- Requires more work to install
AHG’s fabric is exceptionally durable for this product category, with the manufacturer rating it for 20 years if you install and maintain it correctly. It takes more work to lay down than most other landscape fabrics, but many years of added durability are often worth some additional trouble at the start.
Like most polypropylene fabrics, this choice is vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation and will degrade in the sun. It needs a thick layer of material like mulch, bark, or gravel on top to protect it and let it function. That’s rather normal. What’s not normal is the soaking process this fabric requires.
Unlike other landscape fabrics, this material starts out blocking most water. However, you can soak it to let water start flowing through better. For advanced users, this means you can fine-tune how much water you want to let through the fabric. For regular owners, it’s just one of the extra steps necessary to get this product’s full lifespan.
Getting the water flow rate just right can be challenging, so it may be better to put this fabric under walkways instead of in gardens.
- Good choice for limiting erosion
- The non-woven design offers added durability
- Wears out sooner than many other landscape fabrics
- Not a great choice for most gardens
This landscape fabric is a reasonably durable backup choice, although it doesn’t perform quite as well as the top options above. While ostensibly a landscape fabric, this is much closer to being a geotextile that helps prevent weeds and erosion.
The manufacturer recommends this fabric as a short-term option for annual plantings, rather than long-term protection. It does stand out thanks to its non-woven design, though. This particular fabric has three layers of laminated plastic fabric, making it surprisingly tough during its intended lifespan.
However, while this works well for preventing soil erosion, sharper weeds will still puncture it. Fortunately, this fabric still works well if you double-up the layers, and that’s a fairly good way to install it.
This landscape fabric also works well for some rarer activities, like creating french drains. A good fabric layer can prevent dirt from rising into the pipe, and geotextiles work better than regular landscape fabrics because they’re noticeably better at blocking dirt.
Check Flarmor latest price on Amazon
How To Install Weed Barrier
Installing weed barriers is actually a lot easier than it looks. Just follow this process:
- Remove all vegetation. You can dig out existing plants or use herbicides, as long as you don’t get those too close to plants you want to keep. Make sure to get the roots of the plants.
- Level the soil. Weed barriers work best on smooth, flat surfaces. Make sure to get rid of any sharp items. You can install a weed barrier on a hill or a slight curve, but this is a little trickier however, give it a go.
- Roll out the fabric. Cut the fabric with a utility knife, as needed, to match the area’s shape. If you need to overlap in areas, give it at least 6 inches. Make sure you’re installing the correct side down.
- Staple the fabric. Add a staple roughly every 10 feet, or more often if needed. Put additional staples in along curves or other areas that can change the tensile strength.
- Add covering. Most landscape fabrics do poorly if exposed to sunlight, so cover them with mulch, bark, gravel, or similar products as soon as possible.
Landscape Fabric Pins
Landscape fabric pins are another name for staples. These are long, arch-shaped items, usually made of metal, that you can push through landscape fabric and into the ground to hold it in place. These are essential for keeping landscape fabric where it should be, so buy plenty as they are a good investment.
Landscape Fabric Alternatives
Nothing quite matches up to landscape fabric for preventing weeds, especially in walkways and other areas where you don’t want to have anything grow.
You can try biodegradable options like cardboard or newspaper, both of which are relatively affordable and easy to lay down. However, these come at the cost of extremely short-term protection from weeds. The protection here is so short that it’s often not worth bothering with.
An alternative to traditional landscape fabric that’s quite close to it, but will eventually biodegrade into the soil. This makes it a good food for earthworms, who can help improve your garden’s quality.
Ground Cover Plants
Some types of ground cover plants can crowd out weeds and other problems, serving as a natural alternative to landscape fabric. These are particularly good in areas where you don’t want to have bark or gravel.
Weedkiller is a good option to clear weeds but lacks the other benefits of moisture retention and the ability to exclude light from any seeds that fall onto the ground after the herbicide application has happened. So you will always be battling weed this way. Far better to do the job properly and do it once with a weed barrier.
Most alternatives to landscape fabric don’t work well under gravel, which is both heavy and often sharp. Plastics tend to get cut and torn, while newspaper and cardboard will get shredded almost as soon as people walk on them. Gravel is also incompatible with ground cover plants, and it’s not good to keep spraying herbicide in places where you’re walking.
Ultimately, this means that while landscape fabric isn’t the best choice in every situation, it’s often better than the alternatives and particularly so when you’re putting it under gravel.
There’s one more thing to consider about landscape fabric alternatives: soil modification. Using the right biodegradable alternatives can help change your soil’s composition and add nutrients, break down clay, or otherwise support future gardening efforts.
It’s hard to adjust soil once you have a good landscape fabric on top, but using an adjuster as a weed barrier will work in some situations.
Best Landscape Fabric Round-Up
As you can see in the reviews above, landscape fabrics have a surprising variety of options offering different levels of performance. Even though they generally look similar on the surface.
Consider buying different purpose-designed landscape fabrics for different areas of your garden. For example, Hoople’s fabric above works especially well under walkways, while our top choice from Dewitt works better in garden beds. It’s perfectly fine to use different fabrics as needed.
Finally, consider double layering your fabrics if you want extra protection from weeds. This can reduce airflow through the soil, but that’s not a major concern unless you’re covering a huge area. Weeds can poke through thin fabrics, so layering things two or three times can drastically improve weed control.
FAQs About The Best Weed Barriers
Here are some common questions that people have about weed barriers.