The Q&A Archives: Using Landscape Fabric

Question: Is it better to use landscaping plastic when mulching to better keep out grass and weeds, or will mulching alone without plastic work just as well?

Answer: There's landscape fabric which has tiny holes in it to allow water to trickle through, and there's black plastic, which completely eliminates the possibility of air and water reaching the soil surface. Each has its own place in the garden, and both will keep weeds from growing by keeping light from reaching the soil surface, which will keep most weed seeds from germinating. If they do sprout, they will quickly die from lack of light. Organic mulch will accomplish the same thing if it's laid in a thick enough layer to eliminate light. The benefit of using organic mulch is that you can turn it into the soil at the end of the season to help enrich the garden. Or, you can keep adding organic matter as the bottom layer decomposes (and provides nutrients to the roots of your plants). So, either landscape fabric or organic mulch will keep weeds down, but you won't need both. Landscape fabric is more permanent, but will need to be covered to make it look nice. Organic matter will need to be replenished, but as it's breaking down it's providing nutrients to the soil. I vote for organic mulch material!

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