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Homeowner shares frustrations after finding landscaping mistake left by previous owners: 'You have my sympathy'

"Despite this complete backwards gardening, we have many mature plants thriving. So I know it's not hopeless."

"Despite this complete backwards gardening, we have many mature plants thriving. So I know it's not hopeless."

Photo Credit: iStock

A Redditor recently took to r/NativePlantGardening to express their frustrations and to seek advice regarding a backyard mishap. 

"The previous owners of my house loved the manicured look," they explained in their post. "So much so they put landscaping fabric across the entire space under some beautiful, mature trees. This of course led to the entire space being just dirt. I figured while tedious, I can rip up the fabric and look to introduce native plants.

"Well it turns out about 6-8 inches under that is plastic," they continued. "It seems like it's just one enormous sheet under an incredible amount of soil and roots. My guess is that if I want the transformation to be successful, I will need to remove it all. The question is, is there an easy way of doing it or do I just need to prepare for back pain and rip it all up manually?"

🗣️ If you were to switch from a grass lawn to a more natural option, which of these factors would be your primary motivation?

🔘 Making it look better 🌱

🔘 Saving money on water and maintenance 💰

🔘 Helping pollinators 🐝

🔘 No way I ever get rid of my lawn 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

For context, landscape fabric is made of tightly woven fibers or solid sheets and serves as a barrier to prevent weeds from growing while letting water in. Similarly, putting plastic down in the soil is meant to interrupt weed growth. However, many weeds will still grow on top of fabric or plastic when things like dust, grass clippings, and decomposed mulch collect. 

Additionally, landscape fabrics and plastic sheeting are primarily derived from fossil fuels. Over time, microplastic particles and harmful compounds can break off and enter the environment. 

That's why we have to be careful about the landscaping choices we make in our backyards. That said, turning backyard spaces into native plant havens — especially when using environmentally friendly methods — can be a fulfilling and accessible way to leave a positive impact on Earth.

Cultivating native plants, like this Redditor intends to do — starting with huckleberry and Oregon grape — creates food and shelter for local wildlife and a healthier ecosystem for pollinators all year round. This ultimately benefits humans, as pollinators protect our food supply. 

Other eco-friendly, low-maintenance landscaping ideas include planting buffalo grass, which is native to North America, and xeriscaping. 

Other Redditors took to the comments section to commiserate with the original poster's plight and offered advice to remedy it. 

"We had the same issue. … Honestly it was a few days of serious manual labor but I feel better for having it out," one person said. "I also found it was easier to cut into manageable 2x2 / 3x3 ft chunks with a shovel and pull those sections up rather than trying to shift all the dirt on top of a bigger piece. Good luck whichever way you manage it!! You have my sympathy."

"I just dig holes for individual plant locations and toss out plastic as it is dug up," another commented. "Despite this complete backwards gardening, we have many mature plants thriving. So I know it's not hopeless."

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