Using Landscape Fabric for Gravel and Pathways

This guide will discuss how landscape fabric protects your soil from drying out, plus some tips on using landscape fabric effectively.

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What Is Landscape Fabric?

Landscape fabric is a woven fabric that is sold as a solid sheet full of perforated holes. The weaving, or the holes, allows water to soak through.

Select brands of landscape fabric provide UV protection to keep the material in good condition for longer. You can purchase landscape fabric in rolls. They typically measure three feet in width and between 50 feet and 200 feet in length. You should expect to pay between $0.45 to $0.80 for each square foot, depending on the name brand you purchase and how thick it is. The thicker the fabric, the more it costs.

When you use landscape fabric, you will need to purchase landscape pins, which you can typically buy for around $0.10 each. These secure the fabric. You will need around five for every square foot.

What Are the Advantages of Landscape Fabric?

Weed Control

Weeding a garden can feel like a never ending job. You pick the weeds out of your garden only to turn around and see that more have sprouted in their place. These weeds disrupt your carefully planted flowers and herbs. If you are a busy homeowner, daily weeding is all but impossible. And it makes it difficult for your yard to look its best. Landscape fabric is a great tool to control weeds. It can minimize or completely prevent weed growth.

Erosion Control

Landscape fabric is porous. Still, it does a great job at erosion control. For example, when there is heavy rain in areas with many hills, gardens can just wash away. To combat that, gardeners will lay down gardening fabric and then put a layer of mulch on top of it. Your plant's roots can extend under the soil and get the nutrients they need, whereas the fabric protects the dirt from the flowing rainwater. It also helps minimize soil washout, which is the cause of many diseases that affect gardens.

Protect Your Soil From Inorganic Mulches

Mulch, like shredded recycled rubber mulch, looks nice. When laid at the base of your shrubs and trees, it gives them a neat and uniform appearance. However, these non-organic materials do not decompose. If you lay them on top of landscape fabric, you prevent them from sinking into the soil where they become hard to remove and where they could stay for centuries.

Retain Soil Moisture by Minimizing Evaporation

Wind and the sun cause evaporation, which can leave your soil dry. However, if you use landscape fabric, you can keep a lot of that valuable moisture trapped in the ground.

Reduce the Need for Herbicides

Many gardeners are reluctant to use herbicides for weed control, especially if they have pets or children. Landscape fabric can minimize or even eliminate the need for chemical herbicides.

When Should You Use Landscape Fabric?

Use It When You’re Tired of Weeding

Weeds are the bane of a gardener’s existence. Stopping weed growth is one of the biggest reasons why people use landscape fabric. To be fair, even the thickest and most expensive landscape fabric will not prevent weeds 100 percent of the time. Weeds are relentless, so they will eventually and inevitably sprout. That being said, the landscape fabric serves as a barrier that will make it difficult for roots to get a foothold in the soil. Weeds that don’t have deep roots are easier to pull out and won’t likely spread further.

Use It to Stabilize the Soil

Landscape fabric can help to stabilize soil directly beneath the gravel in areas where erosion is an issue. A landscape barrier under the gravel will reduce running water’s effect and help keep gravel in its place.

If your gravel path is on a slope or has contoured, laying down fabric between the soil and the gravel can minimize some soil movement. Adding material underneath pathways and flowerbeds can also mitigate the upward movement of soil and rock, keeping your landscape and gravel paths looking great.

Use It To Save Money by Using Less Material

Typically, a landscaper will apply gravel to a depth of between four and six inches for gravel paths. If gravel is used as mulch around a plant, it’s more like four inches deep. However, if you first lay down a piece of high-quality, thick landscape fabric, you can cut the depth of the gravel in half. Landscape fabric gives the area a uniform appearance because less rock material gets lost to the soil underneath. You save money because you only need to use about 50 percent of the rock aggregate material.

Use It When You Need More Strength

Landscape fabric is an excellent application for gravel paths. By installing fabric on the graded ground underneath the aggregate, you make the path stronger. In addition to adding support underneath the aggregate rock, the landscape fabric serves as a stabilizer that separates the soil underneath from the aggregate rock above.

Types of Landscape Fabrics

Landscape fabrics come in two primary types. They can be woven or nonwoven. The style of landscape fabric will impact its strength, life expectancy, permeability, weight, and durability. Modern landscape fabrics use long-lasting materials, are strong, and are often UV resistant.

Nonwoven Fabrics

Also known as spun-bonded or needle punched fabric, nonwoven fabrics are constructed from polyester or polypropylene and act as a long-term weed control solution and are the most common type of landscape fabrics.

Spun-bonded fabrics are great for rock or gravel landscapes. They are a great weed barrier. They can help maintain the uniformity of a gravel path by preventing the gravel from settling into the soil.

Woven Fabrics

Woven fabrics are made from polypropylene. These fabrics have a higher tensile strength and depending on the construction can have a higher water flow rate. It is difficult to puncture or to tear. However, it allows water and air to filter to the soil uniformly. Woven landscape fabric has a pattern that is specifically designed for maximum nutrient and water exchange. It is recommended for trees, shrubbery, and garden beds. You will need to cut holes into the fabric to allow space for the existing plants.

Is Geotextile Fabric The Same As Landscape Fabric?

Geotextile fabrics would include landscape fabrics as they are all permeable fabrics that allow fluids and gas to pass through it. Landscape fabrics are generally light weight and are used as weed barriers and can be used for lighter weight separation or reinforcement applications. Geotextile fabrics included extremely heavy non woven and woven fabrics that are used in civil construction applications including drainage behind retaining walls, rip rap underlayment, and highway and parking lot underlayment.

Is Landscape Fabric Better Than Plastic?

Plastic is less expensive than landscape fabric and can be easier to handle. But plastic cannot compete with landscape fabric’s longevity and reusability as well as its ability to allow water flow.

Should I Put Landscape Fabric under Rocks?

If you are considering rock-based landscaping, it can be beneficial to apply fabric landscaping at the base of your rocks. This makes it easier for you to clean your rocks and makes it less likely that soil and smaller non-ornamental rocks will get mixed up in your bigger rocks, affecting the appearance of your landscaping.

How to Lay Landscape Fabric under Gravel

Here are some of the basic steps you will need to follow to lay landscape fabric under gravel.

  1. Change or remove the top level of the soil. Make everything level.
  2. Tamp the soil. Use a compactor to accomplish this.
  3. Lay the barrier. After the surfaces have been compacted, you can lay down the landscape fabric. Ensure that the entire area that will be covered by gravel has landscape fabric.
  4. Cover the walkway or path with gravel once again.

Landscape fabric is versatile. It can help protect against weed growth, make your garden and landscaping look attractive, and serve as a solid base for a gravel path or walkway.

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