So, you're wondering, what is hardscape fabric? The name is synonymous with landscape fabric. Its primary purpose is to suppress weeds throughout the landscape.
Hardscape fabric creates a physical barrier between the sun and soil. It’s usually sold to consumers in rolls and is generally constructed using non-woven and woven materials. The material suppresses weed growth by smothering weed seeds. In theory, it helps eliminate the need for extra weed control.
Today, we’ll talk about exactly what landscape fabric is and the various uses for it, as well as the pros and cons of using it in the yard. We’ll also discuss four different types of hardscape fabric used in landscapes, the materials used to manufacture them, their best uses and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
I’m not a huge fan of hardscape fabric. We’ll discuss my reasons later on, but I do know that there are times when it’s the best option for some. So, I’ll use my experience using this fabric in my front yard as a guide to help you understand it more.
What Is Hardscape Fabric?
The primary purpose of this material is to smother weed seeds within the landscape. This helps stop new weeds from growing while also smothering existing weeds.
The hardscape material is known by multiple names:
- Landscape Fabric
- Weed Fabric
- Weed Barrier
- Weed Block
Professional landscapers use this material to create eye-pleasing gardens, walkways, pathways and yards. It’s commonly used as a barrier between the soil and other hardscapes, such as patios, rock gardens and perennial gardens.
Laying the fabric down before installing the other hardscapes stops weeds from growing up in between cracks and crevices. It’s supposed to eliminate the need to go out and pull weeds regularly or spray toxic chemicals to keep them off.
This fabric stops mulches from getting mixed up with the soil itself, so you don’t have to replace the mulch so often. It also helps prevent the soil from eroding, which is great for sloped landscapes.
Pros and Cons of Hardscape Fabric
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using weed block in the landscape. Let’s discuss a few:
Advantages of Landscape Fabric
There are many other uses for this hardscape material than just weed control. Some other benefits of weed fabric include:
- Moisture Control – Blocks the sun from the soil, slowing down water evaporation and helping the soil stay moist
- Erosion Control – Helps keep soil stable so heavy rains and melting snow doesn’t cause it to washout
- Hardscape Control – Acts as a barrier between the soil and other hardscapes, such as pea gravel, rocks, pebbles, mulches, etc…
Disadvantages of Landscape Fabric
As noted earlier, I don’t care for this fabric at all. And here are some of the reasons why:
- Weed Control – Many weeds still tend to get through the microscopic holes throughout the fabric. Winds can also blow new weeds seeds onto the hardscapes sitting on the fabric and emerge from there.
- Deters Composting Process – Wood chips and other mulches decompose with time, becoming rich, organic compost for the soil. Because the fabric blocks the mulch from the soil itself, it also stops the mulch from making the soil more organically rich.
- Not Worm Friendly – Earthworms are outstanding bugs that aerate the soil. They also help break down organic matter, such as mulch, and transform it into compost. Weed barrier stops this process from happening.
- Makes a Mess – This stuff tends to tear over time. It’s been almost one year since I put it down in our front yard. And I’m still picking up tiny pieces all over the yard torn up by the lawnmower and the neighborhood’s rogue cats.
- Reseeding Issues – There are many plants and flowers that reseed themselves and spread naturally. A prime example is my morning glories, which drop seeds in my front flower bed last winter, which gave me new flowers this spring that I never even planted. Had I had landscape fabric in that bed, I never would’ve received my awesome volunteers. The seeds never would have penetrated through the material and into the soil.
- Removal Issues – Once installed, they are usually covered with mulch or rocks or other hardscape materials. This makes it difficult to remove because those materials have to be removed first. Plus, as I noted earlier, the stuff tends to tear and rip, so you may end up with tiny pieces of it all over the yard.
With that said, personally, I prefer to control weeds by putting down layers of cardboard. It suppresses weeds much better than the fabric. Plus, it’s organic matter and worms love it. The more they help break it down, the more it becomes compost for the soil, while killing off the weeds indefinitely.
4 Different Types of Hardscape Fabrics
The type of material you choose when buying landscape fabric matters. There are some very inexpensive plastic weed barriers on the market. But those are the ones that generally tear or simply don’t stop weeds from growing through the holes.
If you plan to use the fabric in your landscape, it’s best to go with a quality product. Here are four different types of landscape fabric to choose from:
1. Non-Woven Hardscape Fabric
Typically Made of: Polypropylene or Polyester
Best Uses: Suppressing weeds in garden beds or gravel and rock pathways. Often used as a barrier between the soil and other hardscaping materials, such as stone pavers.
Advantages: Non-woven landscape fabrics keep the soil stable, preventing things like erosion. They also keep stones, rocks and mulches from mixing in with the soil.
Disadvantages: The non-woven varieties don’t absorb water well. So, they stop water and important nutrients from working their way into the soil below them.
Costs: You can purchase non-woven hardscape fabric by the roll. For about $20, you’ll get a roll that’s 50-foot by 3-foot. A roll 300-foot by 10-foot roll will run you about $180.
2. Woven Landscape Fabric
Typically Made of: Linen or Polypropylene Fibers in natural burlap, green, brown or black colors.
Best Uses: To control weeds around shrubs, trees and inside garden beds containing perennials or other plants that won’t be moved or pulled often.
Advantages: Semi-absorbent, so both nutrients and water can be absorbed by the soil through the fabric’s tiny holes. Oftentimes, treated for UV – ultraviolet – resistance, so they can withstand the sun’s rays.
Disadvantages: None reported.
Costs: A roll of low-end woven landscape fabric that’s 100-foot by 3-foot will run you about $35. You can purchase a roll that’s 300-foot by 10-foot for around $280.
3. Perforated Hardscape Fabric
Typically Made of: Woven fibers
Best Uses: In garden and flower beds where the plants are planted evenly and often replaced or changed often.
Advantages: They are lightweight and inexpensive. This material is very manageable thanks to the pre-cut holes or perforations that allow you to plant without tearing the cloth.
Disadvantages: Too lightweight to use in locations that contain plants with large roots, or have a lot of animal or foot traffic.
Costs: A 8-foot by 4-foot sheet of perforated landscape fabric costs under $10. Or you can purchase a 300-foot by 3-foot roll for about $80.
4. Spun Landscape Fabric
Typically Made of: Polyester Fibers
Best Uses: The spun fabric is extremely thick, making it an outstanding product with many different uses.
Advantages: It’s the most heavy-duty kind of hardscaping fabric on the market, making it extremely hard to tear or rip. This versatile material can also be used to create borders while discouraging insects and pests from entering the area.
There are thinner versions that allow for air to reach the plants and water to get to their roots. Thicker versions help prevent leaks and keep roots in line when dealing with retaining walls, drainage and irrigation.
Disadvantages: None listed.
Costs: You can purchase a 1.5 ounce, 100-foot by 3-foot, thin roll of spun hardscape fabric for about $20. A 3-ounce, roll of the same quality and dimensions runs about $30 and up. And an 8-ounce, 100-foot by 6-foot heavy-duty industrial roll will run you up to $300.
About THE AUTHOR
Kiesha Joseph is an avid gardener dedicated to simple urban gardening on a budget. She enjoys sharing her Zone 9B Inland Empire, California experiences, as well as inexpensive DIY landscaping techniques. She loves experimenting in the garden, even if the project seems to be a failure. According to her, she does not learn from her successes. She learns from her failures. And that’s why she is determined to keep experimenting.Read more about Kiesha Joseph