Pulling Up Landscape Fabric: How To Get Rid Of Landscape Fabric In Gardens

By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

You’ve just finished weeding your garden bed and are planning to order mulch, but you look back at the wake of your weeding in horror. Little black tufts of landscape fabric stick out of the ground everywhere. The score is: weeds 10 pts, weed block fabric 0. Now you’re faced with the question, “Should I remove landscape fabric?” Continue reading for tips on removing old landscape fabric.

Why Should I Remove Landscape Fabric?

There are valid reasons for getting rid of landscape fabric, or avoiding its use altogether. First off, does landscape fabric degrade? Yes! Over time, landscape fabric can deteriorate, leaving holes that weeds grow through. Torn bits and wrinkles of degraded landscape fabric can make even a newly mulched bed look shabby.

In addition to deterioration, the breakdown of mulch, plant debris and other materials that blow into landscape beds can form a layer of compost on top of the weed block fabric. Weeds can take root in this layer of compost and, as they grow, these roots can poke down through the fabric to reach the soil below.

Cheap landscape fabric can tear when first installing. As you can imagine, if it tears easily, it’s not very effective against strong weeds that poke up through the soil and then the fabric. Thick landscape contractor weed block fabric is much more effective at keeping weeds from poking through. However, this high quality landscape fabric is costly and sediment still develops on top of it after a while.

If you have plastic landscape weed block, it should be removed as soon as possible. While plastic landscape fabric does kill the weeds below, it also kills the soil and any beneficial insects or worms by literally suffocating them. Soil needs oxygen to properly absorb and drain water. What little water is able to make it under the plastic weed block will generally just pool up from the lack of air pockets in the compacted soil below. Most landscapes do not have plastic weed block anymore, but you may come across it in old landscapes.

How to Get Rid of Landscape Fabric

Removing old landscape fabric is no easy task. Rock or mulch must be moved away to get to the fabric below it. I find it is easiest to do this is sections. Clear a section of rock or mulch, then pull up landscape fabric and cut it off with scissors or a utility knife.

If you choose to lay new fabric, use only top quality landscape fabric. Pin down the new fabric tightly, with no wrinkles, and then recover the area with rock or mulch. Continue removing rock or mulch, tearing out fabric, relaying fabric (if you choose to) and covering it back up with rock or mulch until all the sections of your landscape beds are done.

Be especially careful when pulling up landscape fabric around existing plants. Plant roots may have grown through the old landscape fabric. Without harming these roots, do your best to carefully cut away any bits of fabric around the plants.

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