Landscape Fabric Alternatives

Landscape fabric is used to keep weeds from growing by depriving them of sunlight, while allowing moisture to reach landscaping plants. Some landscaping fabric is used as an under-layer to kill weeds, keep dirt and rocks from poking through, and to hold gravel in place over a large area. Landscaping fabric is not inexpensive and doesn't easily decompose. Depending on its purpose replace it with a less expensive biodegradable alternative.

Newspapers

Place layers of folded newspapers around plants and cover with mulch. If necessary hold the newspaper down with rocks. You won't see the paper. It will still do the job of smothering weeds. Slit the newspaper with a knife in an "X" to make a space for a new plant. Eventually newspaper will decompose and add organic matter to the soil. Shredded newspapers can be used but has a tendency to work its way up through the mulch and blow away. Shredded office paper works too but it takes longer to decompose and is a bright white color compared to newsprint which is a darker gray.

Black Plastic

Plastic garbage bags work in areas where there isn't much foot traffic. It tears and stretches rather easily. Heavier plastic will be required in that case. Black plastic does have a tendency to decompose and crack when exposed to sunlight and heat over a period of time. It works well at killing grass and weeds by depriving them of water and increasing the soil temperature. It doesn't work well close to shrubbery and plants because of the heat retaining quality.

Burlap

Buy burlap by the yard. It won't last as long as landscape fabric but will do the job of allowing moisture to reach the landscaping plants and smothering weeds while allowing the plants to grow. Since the burlap is brown it looks like dirt from a distance and may not need to be covered with mulch to disguise it. Like newspapers, burlap will eventually decompose.

Artificial Mulch

Consider whether you really need landscaping fabric at all. If what you're looking for is a long-lasting ground cover to prevent weeds from growing, use artificial mulch. Treat the ground first to get rid of weeds, either by spraying or smothering with plastic. Lay a 2- to 3-inch layer of artificial mulch around and between plants. There are a number of choices made from tires, decomposed rubber in several colors shaped like cedar mulch, smoothed recycled glass pebbles and decomposed granite. Shells and gravel does the job too.

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About this Author

Katie Rosehill holds an MBA from Arizona State University. She began her writing career soon after college and has written website content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on GardenGuides.com, eHow, and GolfLinks. Favorite topics include personal finance - that MBA does come in handy sometimes - weddings and gardening.