Weed control fabric: what is it and does it work?
Weed control fabric is a low maintenance method of weed prevention. It’s a long-term solution, cheap and easy to install, and is widely available in most garden centres. But is it the most effective method of weed control, and would we recommend it?
How does weed control fabric work?
Weed control fabric is a membrane sheet that covers the soil. Essentially, it chokes the weeds and suppresses growth.
Weed control fabric is usually made from organic fibres – that means you don’t introduce any chemicals that could damage the surrounding soil and plants. High-quality fabrics can last for up to 10 years before needing to be replaced.
Does weed control fabric work?
Weed control fabric can be effective, particularly to prevent weaker weeds.
However, tougher weeds like horseradish or dandelion can still break through, particularly at the edges. Creeping weeds like bindweed or bramble can grow underneath and find their way to gaps. And some weed roots can still reach the soil through the holes in the fabric – though these are easy to pull out.
Weeds rooted through the fabric are easy to remove…(this video is only a demonstration)
The key disadvantage of weed control fabric is that it suppresses growth of all plants, not just weeds. The fabric covering means roots struggle to get sufficient air and nutrients. So once the soil is covered, you’ll struggle to plant anything at all. Some gardeners cut slits into the fabric to plant, but it’s more often covered in chippings or gravel.
If you choose to cover weed control fabric, it’s important to spread any topping in a thin, even layer. Weeds can still grow in thick layers of chippings or gravel and the roots can funnel through the weed control fabric to the soil underneath – especially in warm or humid weather.
Should I lay weed control fabric in my garden?
We wouldn’t recommend using weed control fabric in areas you want to plant. But it can work well underneath paths, gravel, and patios – anywhere you won’t be planting into the soil.