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Landscape fabric seems to be an item that many assume is required for landscaping... Wrong! It has limited use. When I drive by a new landscape installation in progress and see the fabric, I just want to scream! I learned the hard way to not use landscape fabric with my garden bed. You need to mulch directly over dead sod or amended soil in your plant bed/landscape; the sod and mulch will eventually breakdown into wonderful organic growing medium. The fabric prevents the great compost created from the decomposing mulch (on top) from working back into the soil.
Landscape Fabric Written 8/05 by Kass Johns, Xerivangelist and Sharer of Lessons Learned the Hard Way!
It's A BAD Thing!
(I wrote this article originally for Xeriscape Colorado! web site)
This great broken-down organic material sits on top of the fabric. Roots LIKE that -- in fact, they LOVE it! They don't have to go deep for that great "black gold" (organic material). This means that shallow roots are NOT waterwise (nor long-lived). Instead of growing deep to find the water and become drought resistant, the plant roots will actually grow UP to get to the that 'black gold' compost. The roots actually 'pancake' by growing out but not deep. This exposes them to the elements and weakens teh plant. In addition, the bad soil under the fabric remains bad -- no improvement, no drought tolerance.
I originally had put fabric into my Ornamental Grass Garden. My grasses were not flourishing as they should have. In the Spring of 2003, I attended a seminar at Colorado Springs Utilities' Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens and found out how bad landscape fabric was when used with planted material. I came home and began ripping out my fabric... Sure enough, there it was, beautiful organic decomposed material ON TOP of the fabric. The soil underneath was still nasty... clay, hardpan. On top of that, I had to use a linoleum knife to CUT AWAY THE ROOTS of some of my larger grasses! The roots had begun growing UP and into the weave of the fabric to get to that organic material. In cutting the roots away, I put one large Miscanthus grass into a severe shock that almost killed it. It continued to struggle two years later and has since died.
Fabric is great if you have no intention of growing plant material (I use it under my flagstone patio). It's also fine around a hillside of junipers and rock, but do yourself and your landscape a favor, do not subject your planting areas to landscape fabric.
Also, remember, even with fabric and "just" rock, topsoil blows in over time and seeds will get a foothold in that soil trapped on top of your fabric. Is it really worth the nightmare when you'll just have to rip it out eventually? I'd rather improve the soil as I go!
By the way, my grass garden has thrived since I removed the fabric and now the soil is becoming nice and "loamy" in organic material as the mulch breaks down.
The only thing I truly regret about my fabric removal fiasco was that I never took any pictures of those roots so that the world could see just how bad it was. Then you'd all know firsthand why you have been warned -- Landscape Fabric: Just Say No!
© Copyright 2004 v.9.10.04
designer & writer Garden Art & Design
Colorado Springs, CO 719/635-1306 (vc)
www.kassj.com/gardens gardens at kassj dot com