Landscape fabric designed from woven material allows water and gases to exchange through the surface while inhibiting light. This creates a weed barrier and assists in maintaining moisture in the soil. For temporary use, landscape fabric reduces the time and energy required to curtail weeds and provides an esthetically pleasing appearance to your garden. If used for more than one season, the fabric begins to deteriorate and weeds do permeate the fabric. Adding gravel or mulch on top of landscape fabric extends the life of the fabric and prevents the invasion of weeds in permanent plantings.
Prepare the soil in a sunny location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches and perform a soil to test to determine the condition of your soil. You can buy and inexpensive soil test kit at your local hardware store, but if you intend to apply permanent landscape fabric, consider getting your soil tested and analyzed by your local cooperative extension office. Follow the recommendations for amending your soil as outlined in the written summary. Keep in mind that once the fabric is installed, you cannot add amendments to the soil.
Measure the area to determine the amount of landscape fabric required. Allow for overlapping of 2 to 3 inches along seams.
Cut the fabric to the appropriate dimensions and spread it over the area. Anchor edges with landscape pins or weigh down with rocks, bricks or wood.
Cut a large Xs in the area you wish to plant. This allows you to fold the fabric back while transplanting seedlings and then fold it back over the soil to keep the area beneath the plants weed free.
Cover the fabric with mulch, if preferred. Organic mulch, like grass clippings or wood chips provides a natural appearance to your garden and breaks down slowly over the course of the year. Organic mulches do, however, encourage weed growth over time. Seeds scattered from wind or dropped by birds easily take root in the decaying mulch. Inorganic mulch is more effective in weed control, but is difficult to remove if you decide to change your bed.