I got an email I’m going to share with you that gives me permission to finally put my opinion on “weed block fabrics” in written form. Here’s the email from Canyon Ken: “Randy, why is it I hear you talk about all kinds of weed control, and interestingly how much you “don’t mind pulling weeds” because you see it as some kind of therapy, but I never hear you recommend Weed Block Fabric, which I assume just keeps weeds away, and could keep you from your dirty-handed-therapy?”
Well, Ken… I’m going to explain to you in detail why I never recommend it. Conversely, if I did use it, my “therapy” might not just be in the garden but have to move to a room with padded walls, if you catch my drift?! I admit that the idea of weed block fabrics sounds great, and I really, really wished it worked here. But the reality is, it doesn’t work along the Gulf Coast, and sadly, they create more problems in the future.
Since doling out gardening advice starting in 1996, I’ve had a company or two come to our sales department with pockets full of money wanting to advertise their “weed blocking innovation.” Each time, I would tell the potential client; “You and I both know that this isn’t going to work here!” They knew exactly what I’m about to explain to you when it comes to Gulf Coast gardening. And they would simply leave, and not even try to defend it.
I’ll explain the details, on why it doesn’t work and what future problems it brings in a second. But anyone who has listened to GardenLine for any length of time should know three very basic things when it comes to giving my endorsement.
1. No matter how much money you have to advertise with, your product better do exactly what it advertises.
2. If it causes more problems that it supposedly prevents, I cannot endorse it.
3. It better be cost effective, too.
So, when it comes to supposed “weed blocking fabrics” not doing what’s intended and causing way more problems in the future, can you blame me for never endorsing one?
If you don’t already know it, my favorite way to control weeds is to be generous with the mulch. That’s because most low-growing broadleaf weeds can be eradicated with mulch. Once they have no sunshine, they simply do not germinate and grow. Ironically, if you do (for whatever reason) use a weed fabric, you still have to cover it with mulch for aesthetic purposes. And here’s the absolute irony – it really doesn’t take all that long for good mulch to decompose and turn into an enriched soil. That’s when the weed seeds start growing ON TOP OF the weed control fabric.
After that, it really doesn’t take too long for the roots of the weeds find their way through the fabric where they get firmly rooted into the soil. Then, guess what’s caught between the soil and the weeds? The weed control fabric! The weed control fabric becomes an innocent bystander and can’t get out of the way, nor can it be easily removed at this point.
The other evil-ironic-twist to this story is that when that frustration sets in, people cover it permanently with more dirt and more mulch and purposefully ignore it. Then they pass along that curse to the next homeowner. And when that homeowner wants to re-landscape, they are faced with the onerous task of removing that fabric, which is inextricably fused with the roots of the weeds from days gone by and the compacted clay soil. In essence, while it doesn’t work forever… it sure does last in the soil forever.
But, But, But, But, But! (I like Big Buts and I cannot lie!)……………..there is one situation in which I can defend its use. I have recommended such fabrics, but almost always when talking about working with river rock/bull rock for drainage patterns or for the swath between a landscape and the foundation. It’s also helpful where people are doing rock gardens in general. In both of those cases it’s an awesome product in how it keeps the stones from working their way into the soil.
BUT…it can still go so very, very wrong. All you have to do is visualize this reality – it only takes a little bit of dust blowing in amongst all those rocks and pretty soon there’s just enough soil on top of the fabric for weeds to set up shop. If you don’t stay on top of the situation, with consistent herbicide usage on those rocks, you will have a mess. I promise you will. In my humble opinion, and I have plenty of experience to back this up, weed barrier and weed blocking fabrics just don’t work for landscaping purposes.
You can write me, email me, Facebook me all your success stores in other states, but here along the Gulf Coast, where the weed seeds blow in from every direction and dust becomes the breeding ground of every weed seed’s dream, weed block fabrics don’t work! I really wished they did though!!!