Installing a gravel pathway, patio, or driveway can provide an attractive, low-maintenance surface for your yard. But should you use a landscape fabric weed barrier underneath the gravel? This comprehensive guide examines the pros and cons so you can decide what’s right for your project.
What Is Landscape Fabric?
Landscape fabric, also known as weed barrier cloth or weed control fabric, is a material used in gardening and landscaping to suppress weed growth and provide a barrier between the soil and other materials like gravel, mulch, or sand.
It is typically made from woven or non-woven synthetic fibers, which allow water and air to pass through while blocking the growth of weeds.
Definition and Purpose
Landscape fabric serves as a protective layer that prevents weed seeds from germinating and growing. By blocking sunlight and providing a physical barrier, it helps to reduce the need for manual weeding and the use of herbicides.
Additionally, landscape fabric helps to retain moisture in the soil, prevent erosion, and promote healthier plant growth by allowing water and nutrients to penetrate through.
Different Types of Landscape Fabric
There are various types of landscape fabric available on the market, each with its own unique characteristics and applications. Here are some common types:
- Woven Landscape Fabric: This type of fabric is made by weaving polypropylene or polyester strands together, creating a strong and durable material. It is suitable for areas with heavy foot traffic or where long-term weed control is desired.
- Non-Woven Landscape Fabric: Non-woven fabric is made by bonding fibers together through a heat or chemical process. It is generally lighter and more flexible than woven fabric, making it easier to install and mold to the landscape’s contours.
- Permeable Landscape Fabric: This type of fabric is designed to allow water and air to pass through easily, ensuring proper drainage and ventilation for the soil. It is commonly used in areas where water accumulation is a concern.
- Biodegradable Landscape Fabric: Biodegradable fabric is made from natural materials like jute or coir, which eventually decompose over time. It is an eco-friendly option for temporary weed control or areas where future cultivation is planned.
When choosing the right landscape fabric for your specific needs, it is important to consider factors such as the type of soil, climate conditions, and the intended use of the area. Consulting with a gardening professional or visiting reputable gardening websites like Gardening Know How or Better Homes & Gardens can provide further guidance in selecting the most suitable fabric for your project.
The Benefits of Using Landscape Fabric Under Gravel
When it comes to landscaping projects, one common question that often arises is whether or not to use landscape fabric under gravel. While there are differing opinions on this matter, using landscape fabric can have several benefits that are worth considering.
Prevents Weed Growth
One of the main advantages of using landscape fabric beneath gravel is that it helps prevent weed growth. Weeds can be a persistent and frustrating problem in gardens and landscaping areas. However, by installing landscape fabric, you create a barrier that blocks sunlight from reaching the soil, preventing weed seeds from germinating and growing.
This can save you time and effort in the long run, as you won’t have to constantly pull weeds or use herbicides.
Holds Gravel in Place
Another benefit of using landscape fabric under gravel is that it helps to hold the gravel in place. Without a barrier, gravel can shift and become uneven over time, especially in high-traffic areas or areas prone to erosion.
Landscape fabric provides stability and helps to keep the gravel in place, ensuring a neat and uniform appearance. This can be particularly beneficial for driveways, pathways, or areas where you want to maintain a clean and well-maintained look.
Allows Water Drainage
A common concern when using landscape fabric under gravel is whether it will hinder water drainage. However, when properly installed, landscape fabric allows for adequate water drainage. It allows water to seep through the fabric and into the soil, preventing pooling or runoff.
This is important for maintaining healthy plants and preventing water damage to your landscaping. Additionally, the fabric acts as a barrier, preventing the gravel from mixing with the soil and becoming compacted, which can impede drainage.
The Downsides of Putting Landscape Fabric Below Gravel
While using landscape fabric under gravel can have its benefits, it is important to consider the downsides as well. Here are a few drawbacks to keep in mind:
1. Can impede water and air flow to soil
One of the main concerns with using landscape fabric under gravel is that it can restrict the natural flow of water and air to the soil beneath. This can result in poor drainage, leading to water pooling on the surface or causing damage to the plants and trees in your garden.
Additionally, restricted airflow can prevent the roots of your plants from receiving the necessary oxygen, which can hinder their growth.
2. Makes it hard to change or remove gravel later
Another downside of using landscape fabric is that it can make it difficult to change or remove the gravel in the future. Over time, you may decide to switch to a different type of gravel or make changes to your landscaping design.
However, if the fabric is installed underneath the gravel, it can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process to remove it. This can be particularly problematic if the fabric has deteriorated or if it has become intertwined with the soil.
3. May shift and bunch up over time
Landscape fabric has the tendency to shift and bunch up over time, especially when subjected to heavy foot traffic or extreme weather conditions. This can create uneven surfaces and cause the gravel to become unevenly distributed.
Not only does this affect the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, but it can also make it more difficult to walk on the surface without tripping or stumbling.
It’s important to carefully consider these downsides before deciding whether to use landscape fabric under gravel. While it can help with weed control and provide a stable base, it’s crucial to weigh the potential negative impacts as well.
Installation Tips for Using Landscape Fabric with Gravel
Dig out area and level soil
Before laying down landscape fabric, it is important to prepare the area properly. Start by digging out the designated area and removing any weeds or grass. Level the soil as much as possible to ensure a smooth and even surface for the fabric and gravel.
Lay fabric over soil and cut holes for plants
Once the soil is prepared, lay the landscape fabric over the area. The fabric acts as a barrier, preventing weed growth while still allowing water and nutrients to penetrate the soil. Cut holes in the fabric where you plan to plant any shrubs, trees, or flowers.
This will ensure that the plants can still receive the necessary nutrients and water.
Cover fabric edges with extra overlap or secured gravel
To ensure that the landscape fabric stays in place and doesn’t become exposed, it is important to cover the edges. You can achieve this by either providing extra overlap of the fabric along the edges or securing the fabric with gravel.
This will prevent the fabric from shifting or becoming exposed over time.
Add gravel depth of 2-3 inches
Once the landscape fabric is in place and secured, it’s time to add the gravel layer. Aim for a depth of 2-3 inches of gravel, evenly spread over the fabric. This will provide a solid and stable surface while allowing for proper drainage.
Pro Tip: Before installing landscape fabric, consider the purpose of the area and the type of plants you plan to grow. While landscape fabric can be beneficial in preventing weed growth, it may not be necessary in all situations.
Consult with a professional landscaper or garden center for personalized advice based on your specific needs.
Alternatives to Using Plastic Landscape Fabric
Newspaper or cardboard sheets
One alternative to using plastic landscape fabric is to use newspaper or cardboard sheets. This is a cost-effective and eco-friendly option that can effectively suppress weed growth. Simply lay down several layers of newspaper or flattened cardboard over the soil, making sure to overlap the edges to prevent weeds from poking through.
Then, cover the sheets with a layer of gravel. The newspaper or cardboard will break down over time and add organic matter to the soil, improving its overall health. It’s important to note that glossy or colored paper should be avoided, as it may contain chemicals that can harm plants.
Thick mulch layer
Another alternative is to create a thick layer of mulch over the soil. Mulch acts as a natural weed suppressant by blocking sunlight and preventing weed seeds from germinating. Organic mulches, such as wood chips or straw, are ideal for this purpose.
Spread a layer of mulch that is at least 4-6 inches thick over the soil, ensuring that it covers the entire area. This will not only help control weeds but also improve moisture retention and regulate soil temperature.
However, it’s important to regularly monitor the mulch layer and replenish it as needed to maintain its effectiveness.
Porous weed barrier cloth
A porous weed barrier cloth is another option to consider. This type of cloth is specifically designed to allow water and nutrients to pass through while blocking weeds. It is made from a permeable material that allows for proper drainage and prevents the growth of unwanted plants.
Simply lay the cloth over the soil and secure it in place with landscape staples. Then, spread a layer of gravel on top to provide stability and aesthetics. This option provides the benefits of weed control without the use of plastic.
However, it’s important to choose a high-quality weed barrier cloth that is durable and resistant to tearing.
When installing a gravel yard feature, using a landscape fabric weed barrier underneath has some benefits like preventing weed growth. But it also has drawbacks like impeding soil health over time. Consider your specific needs, climate, and project lifespan when deciding if using plastic fabric under gravel is right for your yard.