Will Landscape Fabric Kill Grass?

Of all the garden tasks that I dislike, weeding has to be the top of them. I try to avoid using weedkillers as much as possible, as chemical herbicides have a tendency to accumulate in the soil and harm beneficial plants and animals. Of the few effective chemical-less weed suppression techniques, landscape fabric is one I have tried to love. 

Although the effectiveness of landscape fabric is touted by the companies that sell them, I have yet to kill grass with only a single layer of landscape fabric. Weed fabric can kill grass and other invasive plants you want to remove from the lawn, but it is not as simple as the sales staff says and is never a permanent solution. If you want to know if landscape fabric will kill grass, read on. 

Will Landscape Fabric Kill My Grass?

Landscape fabric can kill your grass if the right conditions are met. While it is not the most effective weed removal method, weed fabric can be used in conjunction with inorganic mulches and multiple layers of fabric overlapping. If this is accomplished, it will easily suppress and kill grass in your lawn. 

In addition to the intentional suppression of invasive grasses and weed growth, you can also cause inadvertent grass death due to some of the negative effects of using landscape fabric over time. Some types of grass that we actually want in our yard could die due to being too near the edges of landscape fabric. The overhang of fabric can cause pale and weak grass around the barrier fabric. 

Permeable landscape fabric lets air and water through, but it also contributes to compaction since it will not allow a layer of organic mulch to break down into the soil. Thicker landscape fabrics can leech chemicals and break down badly, leading to the death of nearby plants and runoff contamination for desirable plant roots in your yard.

Layers of landscape fabric will break down and deteriorate and mix with the soil but not in a beneficial or easy-to-remove manner, and perforated holes could lead to renewed weed growth. 

Uses for Landscaping Fabrics

Landscaping Fabric Around Trees

Fabric over sod can have many uses that make a yard more decorative and easily manageable. Quality weed control fabric can help you establish pathways and planting areas without needing to use chemicals or hand-pull weeds. Fabric with just an inch or two of inorganic materials can retain moisture under the soil and prevent weed seeds from germinating.

Covering the entire surface of the turf and not letting any light through is the only way to quickly suppress unwanted lawn growth. 

The trade-off with using several feet of fabric over garden beds or near plants is that it locks nutrients out and can lead to undernourished and sickly plants. While getting rid of an invasive type of grass to put in a vegetable garden can be made easier with fabric over sod and a layer of mulch of pea gravel, unwanted weeds will make their way through, and excess fabric that breaks down into soil can be difficult to work with. Below are some common uses for quality weed-control fabric. 

Garden BedsAdd soil amendment, level the ground, and lay and staple the fabricPrevents weeds from growing between gardening rows and improves soil moisture during hot weather
OrchardsPlace compost and organic matter down, then lay fabric before cutting holes for saplings Keeps weed growth down and protects roots from trampling and compaction, as well as keeps fallen fruit safe on several inches of mulch and not on soil
Erosion ManagementLay landscape fabric down and cover it with rocks to slow erosion and protect hills from soil lossKeeps the edges of hills from washing away and removes spaces where gullies and dips will appear
LandscapingPlace where you will change the soil or rock type, stake with a landscape pin, and cover with wood chips or rocksThe option to separate areas of your lawn with rocks and mulch can keep your lawn clean and stop you from hitting rocks with your mower
Water RetentionSlow water by laying the fabric over areas that accumulate water and move it to a part of your lawn where the square foot of permeable soil can absorb the excess rainOnce water is trapped under the plastic a few feet wide, less water will be lost due to evaporation and other water-loss systems
Weed SuppressionPlace a square foot or more of fabric down to suppress weeds and eliminate stubborn grassesAn affordable quality weed-control fabric can make it easy to remove weeds especially if the fabric is laid and the edges of the fabric are tightly held to crush the weeds 

Around Plants

Biodegradable landscape fabrics are better to use around plants and trees but can be more expensive and will break down faster. Alternatives to landscape fabric, like cardboard and burlap, may have different advantages, but the availability and ease of application of landscaping fabric make it a common choice in most large-scale agriculture operations. If the overhang of fabric covers too much of the plant’s roots too tightly, it can lead to death and stunted growth. 

The main benefit of landscape fabric is it can hole moisture around plants and keep competition down while saplings and seedlings are starting to grow. Once the plants are established, it is wise to remove the plastic barrier and find more sustainable alternatives to landscape fabric. Fabric with mulch will not allow the organic materials or nutrients to make it to the plants below and can also kill worms that enrich the soil. 

Landscaping Uses

EXTRAEASY Garden Weed Barrier Landscape Fabric,Weed Block Fabric Heavy Duty 3.2OZ,Woven Mulch for Landscaping Ground Cover Weed Control Fabric, Black Garden Bed Liner (1.4ft x 50ft)

One of the best uses for high-quality landscape fabric is to section off areas of a yard for different uses. Walkways and paths that may accumulate mud or give way to weeds and subpar grass growth can be covered with fabric and then have a rock layer or lava rock design. Hardwood mulches and any other layer of wood mulch can be incorporated near play areas with a protective plant barrier underneath. 

Water features like bird paths, pools, and fountains are ideal structures to surround with permeable landscape fabric. Typically these areas would grow massive weeds and uneven turf, but the edges of landscape fabric will keep the weeds to a minimum. The water loss can also be reduced as it should sink into the fabric and make it to the soil below. 

Grass and Weed Removal

For the short-term quick fix, landscape fabric can suppress weed and errant turf growth. Using it to stop the spread of invasive species or to crush sod in preparation for replanting can all be accomplished with landscape fabric sheets. The fabric under gravel works better than a single layer of cloth alone. Laying 2 to 5 layers of landscaping fabric will block more sunlight and kill more weed seeds but can also compact the soil underneath. 

Compacted soil encourages weed growth, so removing landscaping fabric that suppresses weeds should only be done when you are ready to improve the soil with new sod, a garden, or a lawn feature. Once the material is removed, weeds will grow quickly if the ground is not broken up or covered. Gaps in landscape fabric will allow weeds through and could make weeding even harder than no cover at all.