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Gardener seeks help removing harmful landscaping feature: ‘It’s useless after a couple years’

“It’s not a good option in the long run.”

"It’s not a good option in the long run."

Photo Credit: iStock

A gardener took to Reddit to seek advice on whether or not to continue using a common landscaping tool: landscape fabric.

The gardener shared photos in the r/NativePlantGardening subreddit of their shrub plants surrounded by landscape fabric. 

“Is landscape fabric going to prevent my shrubs from getting water?” the person asked in the caption.

"It’s not a good option in the long run."
Photo Credit: Imgur
"It’s not a good option in the long run."
Photo Credit: Imgur

“The fabric is tightly woven and doesn’t seem to be that permeable so I’m wondering if this is going to prevent water getting to the roots and prevent the roots (and the bush) from growing to their full size because water is only available at the tiny gap in the landscape fabric,” they explained in a comment

Fellow gardening enthusiasts responded to the person’s questions in the post’s comments. 

Most commenters shared their negative experiences using landscape fabric, advising against its use.

“It will be fine but it’s not a good option in the long run, remove it while you can. It doesn’t degrade, and weeds and grass will eventually grow on top of it anyways,” one Redditor commented.

“It’s useless after a couple years,” another wrote.

Although landscape fabric is commonly used to suppress weeds, gardening experts advise against using it long-term. Christopher Enroth, a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, stated in an article that landscape fabric’s inconsistent permeability can block water and air from reaching plant roots.

“There [are] different grades and thickness levels of landscape fabric that all affect porosity, but either way, it still creates a restriction of water and air movement,” Enroth wrote. “And over time, It has been demonstrated that landscape fabric pores will trap dirt and other sediments, making them even less permeable.”

Landscape fabric may also cause more weeds to grow and make weeding more difficult. According to GreenPal, weeds that grow through landscape fabric are usually enmeshed within it, and you may need to rip the fabric in order to remove the weeds.

Additionally, GreenPal stated that landscape fabric can contain harmful chemicals such as petroleum. Gardeners advise against using products with chemicals around plants, especially those that are edible.

There are several sustainable substitutes to landscape fabric that will cause less harm to your yard and help you save money on gardening tools. Enroth suggested using newspaper, cardboard, and wood mulch as alternative weed suppression methods. 

On the original Reddit post, commenters agreed, with one saying, “I’d remove the fabric and use cardboard instead. Landscape fabric is terrible for the soil.”

Another added, “If you need to smother the surrounding areas, cardboard and mulch is a far superior option [in my opinion].”

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