Landscaping fabric can be used for a variety of outdoor projects. It is suitable for rock gardens, flowerbeds, around trees and bushes and areas landscaped for ground cover and shrubbery. Landscaping fabric, also called geotextiles, is made from polypropylene, a synthetic plastic material. Unlike plastic sheeting, landscape fabric is a breathable material that allows air circulation between the soil and the mulch.
Landscape fabric can be perforated, woven, nonwoven or spun bonded. Perforated, or needle punched, has pin-size holes throughout, while woven employs a criss-cross weave. Spun bonded fabric patterns resemble webs, creating a strong resistance to tearing. Nonwoven landscape fabric is also spun, but the weave is denser and the fabric is thicker.
Landscape fabric is designed to act as a weed barrier without restricting air and water flow to the plants' roots. It helps to maintain a more even soil temperature and slows evaporation down without allowing moisture build-up, which can lead to molds or mildew.
Landscape fabric is not a weed killer. Placing landscape fabric over a weedy or grassy area will not prevent the weeds and grass from continuing to grow. Once an area has been cleared, and the seeds killed off, adding landscape fabric can provide protection against new weeds or grasses taking root in the area. However, if there are cuts in the fabric to allow for plants, seeds may take root there, close to the plants' base.
Landscape fabric has an average life span of five years. Exposure to the sun does cause deterioration. Landscape fabric is generally used with mulch, such as bark mulch, or a ground cover. Landscape fabric can be used beneath stone walkways or behind retaining walls, and will have a longer life span if kept completely covered.
Landscape fabric can be installed over any cleared ground area. Seams should overlap by 3 to 6 inches; this prevents unwanted weeds and grasses from sprouting along seam lines. Hold landscape fabric in place with landscape staples along the edges and seams. Make slits in the fabric where plants are to be placed; a razor knife can be used to make the slits. Cover the landscape fabric completely with mulch. If using a ground cover, add mulch until the ground cover fills in.
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