Your yard landscaping sets your home’s first impression for your guests. A well-maintained façade doesn’t just boost curb appeal, it can make your home the envy of the entire neighborhood. If you’re planning a landscaping project and are worried about the growth of weeds in your yard, you can make use of either landscape plastic or landscape fabric aka geotextiles as a base. 

These are two of the most popular ways of mulching that ensure weed control. The materials are laid over garden beds or land – leaving a few openings to let the good crops or flowers grow. Both methods prevent the weed seeds from germinating – smothering them as soon as they crop up.

The bottom line is, that homeowners need to decide which inorganic mulch they’d like to use: landscape plastic or fabric. Each one has its own benefits as well as drawbacks. Let’s explore both types of materials in terms of some common factors.

Read more: Evergreen bushes for the front of your house

Permeability

When it comes to being porous, landscape plastic is a little less permeable than landscape fabric. So that means that plastic prevents the loss of moisture and exchange of environmental gases. 

This property is beneficial for a vegetable garden or a flower bed. A plastic mulch helps to smother weeds and warm the soil quicker than the time taken by landscape fabric. However, keep in mind that with plastic it’s difficult to dry out wet soil. And, too much moisture may lead to the growth of fungal pathogens.

Lifespan

Landscape fabric has a longer lifespan as it’s usually a treated, synthetic material made from polyester or polypropylene. Its composition makes it resist degradation. Black plastic mulch, on the other hand, easily breaks down when exposed to direct heat or sunlight. That’s the reason well-installed landscape fabric can last many years while black plastic is only good for short-term weed eradication.

Keep in mind that it’s best to use thicker plastic if you want to increase its longevity. A plastic sheet that’s more than 1-1.5 millimeters thick is best when buried under mulch, gravel, or a layer of soil. Always remember that with plastic, you’ll need periodic replacement to keep your garden weed-free. 

Look

The final look you want for your yard will depend on the location of your garden and what you plan to grow. While landscape fabric may last long enough for you to add a layer of decorative mulch, plastic may break down – making any addition of decorative mulch a hassle. That’s why plastic landscaping is best suited for temporary plantings and smaller spots.

Cost

Landscape plastic or tarp is cheaper than landscape fabric. Moreover, it’s a little easier to lay out in the field. Using landscape fabric involves more labor and ingenuity. You may need to hire a landscape contractor for the task. 

Read more: Budget friendly landscaping projects

Weed suppression

landscape plastic vs fabric

When it comes to using plastic weed barriers, you can either opt for woven landscaping plastic sheeting or standard black plastic sheeting. The latter creates a more solid barrier, completely blocking weeds, air, and water. 

However, keep in mind that while black plastic smothers weed, it may harm desirable plants too – limiting their photosynthesis and gas exchange. Landscape fabric, when used without any organic mulch, is less effective at weed control but creates a root-friendly environment that allows good plants to thrive while destroying the weeds.

Last thoughts

When it comes to mulching garden beds, homeowners can opt for inorganic weed barriers such as landscape plastic and fabric. Both landscaping materials aim at smothering weeds while keeping the soil warm. Plastic is almost impermeable as compared to landscape fabric. And hence, almost completely deprives weeds of any light and moisture. Moreover, it’s cheaper. However, it comes with a shorter lifespan and needs to be replaced regularly. 

Whether you want to use landscape fabric or plastic will depend on the area you want to cover, the local weather conditions, and the type of plants you want to grow.

Read more: Landscape design principles

How to choose between landscape plastic and landscape fabric was last modified: July 18th, 2022 by Ramona Sinha
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