Why Landscape Fabric Doesn’t Work and What to Do Instead

What is Landscape Fabric?

Landscape fabric, also known as weed barrier fabric, is a popular tool used by many gardeners and landscapers. It is a woven or non-woven polypropylene material that is laid over the soil before applying mulch or gravel. The purpose of using landscape fabric is to suppress weed growth by blocking sunlight from reaching weed seeds in the soil. It allows water and air to permeate through while acting as a physical barrier against weeds sprouting up from below.

Why Landscape Fabric Doesn't Work

The idea is that the fabric acts as a barrier between the soil and potential weeds. However, in reality landscape fabric rarely works as intended long-term. In fact, according to a study by the National Gardening Association, 78% of gardeners who used landscape fabric found it did not successfully prevent weed growth after 2 years of use.

The main reason landscape fabric fails is that organic mulches like wood chips or bark nuggets break down over time. Most mulches will decompose significantly after 1-2 years of being exposed to sun, rain, and microbial activity. As the mulch breaks down, it converts to soil and organic matter that sits right on top of the landscape fabric.

Once soil forms on top of the fabric, weed seeds landing on top now have a viable place to germinate and take root. The landscape fabric becomes useless as a weed barrier, because weeds happily germinate and grow in this thin layer of soil above the fabric.  This completely defeats the original purpose of using landscape fabric!

According to a study by the National Gardening Association, 78% of gardeners who used landscape fabric found it did not successfully prevent weed growth after 2 years of use.

Better Alternative: Pre-Emergent Herbicide

Pre-emergent herbicides offer a more effective solution for preventing weeds than landscape fabric. Unlike landscape fabric, pre-emergent herbicide prevents weed seeds from germinating in the first place.

When applied properly, pre-emergent forms a chemical barrier at the soil surface that blocks newly sprouted weed seedlings from establishing. This stops weeds like crabgrass and dandelions from taking root.

Timing is important when using pre-emergent. It must be applied before weed seeds germinate. Early spring is the best time to apply for summer weeds, while early fall prevents winter and spring weeds. The herbicide lasts around 3 months, so plan split applications.

The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that pre-emergent herbicides provide 80-95% weed control in home gardens when applied at the right time of year.

Unlike post-emergent weed killers that target established weeds, pre-emergent only affects newly germinating seeds. It does not harm existing plants, trees or shrubs when used as directed. Established lawns and desired vegetation remain unaffected.

For best results, apply pre-emergent to bare soil or after clearing existing weeds. Combining it with mulch helps prevent new weed growth. Just be sure to apply it before laying down mulch.

Overall, pre-emergent herbicide is a simple, effective solution for preventing weeds without landscape fabric. When used properly, it can significantly reduce the need for pulling weeds by hand.

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Landscape Fabric Doesn’t Work Cover Photo

Use Roundup for Existing Weeds

Roundup is an effective and fast-acting herbicide for killing existing weeds in your garden. When sprayed directly on the leaves and stems of weeds, it is quickly absorbed and moves throughout the plant, disrupting essential growth processes and causing the weed to die within days.

To use Roundup for weed control:

  • Mix the concentrated Roundup product with water according to the instructions on the label. Typically a dilution rate of 1-2% is recommended for lawn and garden weeds.
  • Spray the diluted Roundup solution directly onto any unwanted weeds, thoroughly coating the leaves and stems. Avoid contacting desirable plants.
  • The effects are rapid; targeted weeds will yellow and wilt within 2-4 days after application.
  • After 1-2 weeks the weeds will be completely dead. They can then be easily pulled, raked or tilled out.
  • One application is usually sufficient, as Roundup translocates throughout the entire plant. Repeat applications may be needed for perennial weeds regenerating from roots or tubers.


Just remember, Roundup is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill any plant it contacts. But when carefully applied only to unwanted weeds, it provides an easy and effective way to keep your garden free of common invaders like dandelions, crabgrass and bindweed. A quick spot-spraying once a week can keep on top of new weed growth.

Weekly Weed Maintenance

Spending just a few minutes each week spraying weeds with Roundup can help keep your garden weed free without the need for landscape fabric. Set aside 10-15 minutes on Saturday or Sunday morning to walk around your garden with a spray bottle of Roundup. Look for any weeds that may have popped up and spray them directly with Roundup, being careful not to get it on desired plants.

The key is to catch weeds when they are small. If you stay vigilant each week, you likely won’t have any large, established weeds to deal with. It becomes a quick and easy task. Roundup is most effective on sunny, non-windy days so the leaves can absorb it. Follow the instructions on the Roundup bottle for proper usage and safety precautions.

With this simple weekly weeding regimen, you can keep your garden looking great all season long without landscape fabric. Consistency is important – make it part of your weekend routine. Just a few minutes a week is all it takes to keep your beautiful yard or garden free of pesky weeds!

Final Thoughts

Overall, landscape fabric provides a false sense of security against weeds. A diligent approach using pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides is more effective for both preventing new weeds and managing existing ones. Avoiding landscape fabric eliminates the need to constantly replace the fabric once it becomes ineffective after a year or two. 

Get outside my friends!