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Resident concerned after uncovering landscape material left by previous owners: 'The only solution is to pull it out'

"Can anyone think of why the previous owners would do this?"

"Can anyone think of why the previous owners would do this?"

Photo Credit: Reddit

A new homeowner in Colorado who was eager to plant a garden in their yard discovered an unpleasant surprise lurking below the surface.

"Turns out about 4 inches deep there's a tarp laid throughout the dirt," they wrote in a post on the r/Gardening subreddit. "Can anyone think of why the previous owners would do this? Questioning whether I should rip it out or lay more soil on top."

They included a photo of the offending material, which can be seen poking out from beneath the dirt.

"Rip it out," one person advised. "It's landscape fabric. People buy it because it's marketed as a way to prevent weeds, but it doesn't work. A LOT of us have this same problem, and the only solution is to pull it out and try to repair the soil."

"It does have its use at times," another person countered. "I have used it to overcome soil that was thick with oxalis - but even then …. Removed once the job was done."

Gardeners occasionally opt for landscaping fabric as a means of smothering stubborn weeds. The issue is that the fabric is generally so thick and impermeable that it begins to deprive microorganisms in the soil of oxygen and water, ultimately damaging the soil health and making the area less hospitable to all plants, as Treehugger and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explain.

Finally, while it's labeled as "fabric," this material is generally made of plastic, which leaches into the soil and contaminates it over time — often in lasting ways that damage whatever is planted next, according to Linda Chalker-Scott, a Ph.D. and an associate professor at Washington State University.

Dealing with stubborn landscaping fabric — as well as other similar harmful choices, like plastic netting and rubber mulch — is particularly frustrating when it's been left by a previous owner, such as in this case. 

"Same thing happened to me," another Redditor empathized. "Took a whole summer, and now 3 years later I'm still enriching the soil. But I am seeing worms again!! You need to do it."

For homeowners like the original poster looking to plant a garden, it's best to steer clear of these toxic landscaping mistakes and instead opt for natural ground cover or native plants, which are far more beautiful than tarps and help the local ecosystem thrive, per the National Park Service.

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