Landscape fabric, also called geotextiles, was developed to control weeds in agricultural fields. Professional landscapers brought landscape fabric to home gardens where it quickly gained favor as a means of organic (chemical free) weed control. While landscape fabric prevents most weed seeds from sprouting, it is not maintenance free. You will still have to weed, as aggressive weeds can and will sprout underneath the fabric (emerging from planting holes) and from the mulch on top of the fabric. Landscape fabric does not last forever. You will have to replace it sometimes depending on the the quality of the fabric and the amount of care and maintenance you give it.
Handle landscape fabric before buying it. Good landscape fabric cannot be torn with bare hands. It should not stretch or expand when pulled. It should be fairly stiff and should not droop or move like cloth when handled.
Remove weeds, rocks, roots, branches, and sticks in the area where you want to lay the landscape fabric. If you are installing landscape fabric in an existing bed, remove as many plants as possible. Cut and fit the fabric around large perennials, shrubs, and trees.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost and work it into the top 6 inches of soil.
Rake the area smooth. Break up dirt clods and remove rocks, roots, and sticks that have been brought to the surface.
Unroll the landscape fabric over the area you wish to cover. Allow a 6-inch overlap (think seam allowance) along edges and where two sheets overlap. Temporarily secure the landscape fabric with bricks, rocks, concrete blocks, or 2x4s.
Use sharp scissors to cut the landscape fabric to fit the area you want to cover. Make sure you leave the 6-inch overlap on all sides.
Dig a 3- to 4-inch trench (or use a spade to make vertical cuts) along the edges of the bed. Tuck the excess fabric into the trench (or cuts" and back-fill with soil.
Secure the fabric by measuring 2 to 3 feet in from the edge of the flowerbed and pinning the fabric with landscape staples spaced 5 to 10 feet apart.
Remove the temporary weights from the landscape fabric.
Arrange the plants on the fabric before planting. Make sure you leave enough space between plants to accommodate their mature size.
Make an X in the fabric large enough to accommodate the root ball where you wish to place a plant. Fold the fabric back to dig the planting hole.
Dig a hole according to species preference (twice as deep or just large enough). Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil. Replace (unfold) the landscape fabric around the plant.
Cover the landscape fabric with 2 to 3 inches of mulch after planting all of the plants. Rake the mulch smooth. You want every inch of the landscape fabric covered with an even layer of mulch.