Landscape fabric helps to prevent weeds from growing through the soil. But if you decide to place rocks over the soil, should you still put landscape fabric underneath?
You don’t need landscape fabric under rocks, but you can use it if you want. Landscape fabric helps prevent weeds from growing, but rocks also help with that. It also prevents the rocks from getting mixed in with the soil, making them easy to remove later on.
The rest of this article will discuss why you may want to use landscape fabric under rocks in greater detail. It will also discuss how to do it and its main benefits.
Why Should You Use Landscape Fabric Under Rocks?
You should use landscape fabric under rocks because it acts as a separator between the rocks and soil. Some rocks will mix into the soil if you don’t use landscape fabric. This can become messy if you ever want to plant new plants, as some rocks might fall deep into the soil.
If that happens, the rocks may affect plant roots, hindering their roots.
Besides, there may be a point in the future when you want to remove the rocks from your garden. If there is landscape fabric under the rocks, all you need to do is remove the rocks from the fabric. But if there is no landscape fabric, you’ll need to search around the soil, which will be more time-consuming.
When it comes to weed control, landscape fabric works great. However, it can prevent plant roots from getting nutrients and sunlight, so it’s not always a good option. Although it can be highly effective at first, it can often be damaging in the long run.
Rocks are also good weed suppressors because they cover enough soil to prevent weed growth. However, there are always tiny gaps between rocks, and weeds will often be able to find their way through them.
How to Place Landscape Fabric Under Rocks
Placing landscape fabric under rocks isn’t a difficult task, so pretty much anyone can do it! The best way to do it is to clear the soil first. Then, you can place the fabric down. After the material is fully secured, you can put the rocks over it.
Below are some essential tips on how to place landscape fabric under rocks.
1. Clear the Soil
First, you want to clear the soil of everything. This includes any debris or small rocks/stones. You’ll also want to get rid of any weeds before going any further. Removing all these unwanted plants will make it easier to place the fabric evenly, making it an essential step.
2. Flatten the Soil
Next, you should flatten the soil so that it’s level. This is another critical step—the fabric will be more challenging to place down if the soil isn’t flat and level. You may need to dig and till the soil to get to your desired level. However, if the soil is already pretty level, you shouldn’t need to do much.
3. Improve the Soil By Adding an Amendment and Fertilizer
Soil amendments create a better environment for plant growth and health, so adding some to the soil is a good idea. On the other hand, fertilizer provides the soil with nutrients. You can use natural or chemical fertilizers. Once you’ve done this, the fabric is ready to be placed.
4. Put the Landscape Fabric Over the Soil and Secure It
Before placing the fabric, you may need to measure the area to see how much fabric you’ll need. You can roll the material across the soil until everything is covered. If there are some plants in the soil, you can cut the fabric around them so that they have space to grow.
To keep it in place, you can use garden stakes.
Pros and Cons of Using Landscape Fabric
While there are advantages to using landscape fabric, there are also a few downsides.
- Prevents weed growth
- Separates rocks from the soil
- It can help insulate the soil
- It’s easy to buy
- It can sometimes prevent the soil from getting the nutrients it needs
- It decreases in quality over the space of a few years
- It doesn’t always prevent weeds
- Can sometimes rip easily
- Weeds that grow through the fabric can be challenging to remove
Can You Put Rocks on Top of the Soil?
You can put rocks on top of the soil without causing any damage. Rocks act as a natural weed killer because they block them from growing. However, some rocks may get lost in the ground, which is why it’s sometimes a good idea to use a divider.
Can You Use Plastic Instead of Landscape Fabric?
You can’t use plastic instead of landscape fabric because the plastic prevents the soil from accessing the nutrients it needs. It can suffocate plants and cause them to die.
Plastic will make the soil retain heat too much during the summer, meaning many plants could become dehydrated. And during the winter, it might make the soil too cold.
If you have no plants in the soil and your primary goal is to kill weeds, you could use plastic as landscape fabric and place rocks on top. However, if you have plants that you don’t want to die or get damaged, it’s best to avoid using plastic. It will cause a lot of stress for the roots and soil.
Does Landscape Fabric Damage the Soil?
Landscape fabric does damage the soil if left for extended periods. This is particularly true for less porous materials. Landscape fabric can prevent water from penetrating the soil, which can be severely damaging if it’s left for a long time.
According to the University of Illinois, landscape fabric can collect dirt and trap it in the soil while keeping out essential nutrients like water and oxygen. Although this may not be the case initially, it’s more likely to occur the longer the fabric is kept over the soil.
Fabric that you have left over the soil for years is likely to negatively affect its overall quality and nutrition.
Eventually, the fabric won’t be able to control the weeds. The landscape fabric will naturally weaken and deteriorate as time goes by, making it easier for weeds to break through. It can be tricky to pull them out after this occurs because they get caught up in the fabric.
If you have a perennial garden, chances are you’ll be better off not using landscape fabric. Mulch will do a great job of controlling weeds and without all the negative effects of landscape fabric—besides, it will look much better!
Landscape Fabric Alternatives
There are alternatives if you want a divider between your rocks and soil but don’t want to risk the damage that landscape fabric can cause. If you want to prevent weeds, you can apply mulch to your soil. But if you want a divider, here are a couple of options that are less damaging than landscape fabric:
- Cardboard. Cardboard doesn’t harm the soil or plants, and it is environmentally friendly. Simply place the cardboard over the soil and put the rocks on top.
- Newspaper. Newspaper is another good option because, like cardboard, it won’t damage the soil. Since it’s thin, you may need to place a few layers on top of each other. Once that’s done, you can put the rocks down.
Newspaper and cardboard shouldn’t block any nutrients from getting into the soil, and they’re excellent for maintaining a barrier between soil and rocks.
Does Landscape Fabric Get Damaged Over Time?
Landscape fabric gets damaged over time, and it’s common for weeds to poke through. The deterioration will depend on the material used, but most will only be helpful for the first few months or years. As weeds begin to poke through the fabric, the fabric can be challenging to remove.
When people place landscape fabric down, they often don’t think about how easy (or difficult) it will be to remove it. And a lot of the time, it’s a nightmare to remove.
As the fabric deteriorates, holes appear, and plants and weeds get stuck in these holes. As you can imagine, removing it from the soil in this condition is troublesome and often takes a lot of time and effort.
Although some fabrics deteriorate naturally and may not need to be removed, some contain plastic elements. Because of that, you’ll need to remove them eventually. Plus, as holes begin to form, some smaller rocks may get through, defeating the fabric’s purpose.
You don’t need landscape fabric under rocks, but it’s helpful for keeping them separated. If you don’t keep rocks isolated from the soil, some of them may seep into the ground.
Although landscape fabric is highly useful in a rock garden, it has its downsides. One of the main ones is that it can block nutrients from the soil, which can be damaging to plants. Most fabrics will also deteriorate over time, meaning plants and weeds can poke through them.
You should consider all the pros and cons before using landscape fabric over rocks.