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Homeowner discovers major problem after breaking ground on small lawn renovation: ‘How should I deal with this?’

After discovering the previous resident’s mistake, this homeowner wasn’t sure what to do next.

After discovering the previous resident's mistake, this homeowner wasn't sure what to do next.

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowner was baffled about how to proceed when they found disintegrating landscape fabric buried under the soil of their new yard.

The Portland, Oregon, resident initially posted on r/askportland for advice, and also crossposted to r/NoLawns. “Previous owners liked landscape fabric. We are doing a small addition and when digging to pour a modest foundation, we found landscape fabric like this under the entire ‘lawn,’” they explained.

Photo Credit: Reddit

Their post linked to a photo of the issue. In the picture, the top layer of soil had been scraped back, and the space for a foundation has started being dug out, leaving a square section of dirt sticking up. Embedded in the sides of that section are tattered scraps of landscape fabric, visibly weathered and with holes in it.

Landscape fabric is prone to this kind of damage over time. While installers promise that it will create a barrier and prevent weeds from sprouting, that protection only lasts until the weeds find or make a hole. It also can’t prevent seeds from sprouting in the soil above the fabric — and as Michigan State University explains, all topsoil contains weed seeds. 

There’s no way to grow a healthy lawn or garden that’s immune to weeds.

Meanwhile, landscape fabric pollutes the soil by shedding microplastics as it breaks down, creating a mess that’s impossible to completely remove. It also hurts the soil quality over time.

After discovering the previous owner’s mistake, this Redditor wasn’t sure what to do next. “How should I deal with this landscape fabric?” they asked. “Should we just put new top soil on top and plant and go, or should we go to the trouble of actually scraping down the soil (by machine, no way I can do it) and removing the fabric entirely, before reapplying fresh soil and plant from there?”

They also explained that they wanted to use half the yard for planters to grow vegetables and the other half for ground cover that wasn’t turf grass to create a comfortable space for their dog.

One commenter had a tip to make the removal easier. “I use lots of water to move dirt,” they explained. “I use a pressure washer to go way down around a plant root base to help free it easier too. … Just get after any piece you uncover while planting, and use pressure nozzles or a pressure washer.”

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