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When I tried to plant some plants and dug up a hole in my front yard, it appeared that there is a waterproof, at least it appeared to me so, tarp under the soil and mulch mixture, and it extends to a very large area, probably as large as most of my yard. The material of the tarp looks similar to this.

enter image description here

Source

What is it called? What is its function/purpose? When planting perennial plants, should I dig through this tarp or not? If not, the depth of the soil/mulch does not seem deep enough for the plants to develop a large root system.

This yard is located in Pacific Northwest which alternates between a rainy fall-winter season and a dry summer season.

migrated from diy.stackexchange.com Apr 9 '17 at 0:41

This question came from our site for contractors and serious DIYers.

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    If its waterproof, remove it. If its permeable (test by pouring water onto the exposed material) then just cut through and plant as suggested below. – Bamboo Apr 9 '17 at 10:00
  • If this is truly waterproof YOU HAVE TO PULL IT UP. Too weird. Pictures would definitely help get a more definitive answer. 'rubber'...'weed' fabric...stupid media, that is what we gardeners have to deal with to unbrain wash people including ourselves. You guys spend major time wasting your life ripping this crap up, being allergic to bark, having to convince and educate to get paid to do this...you'd be passionate too. And not a single client ever regrets a single dollar they spent AND they all became gardeners to venture out to their yards and enjoy the plants and dirt and fresh air! – stormy Apr 9 '17 at 21:34
  • ...and I am from the Pacific North West...let me tell you about GRO CO if you truly want to deal with weeds and feed your soil at the same time. Seattle area is the only place where I know you can get Gro-Co... – stormy Apr 9 '17 at 21:36
  • @qazwsk This fabric looks like construction fabric wall. Never have seen these colors but it is specified for all construction to delineate the scope, prevent runoff and contaminating neighboring properties. This is NOT landscape fabric at all. Definitely wasn't meant for weeds. I think that someone got a great bunch of this stuff for free and decided to try to solarize that area, kill off weeds or start a little nursery for potted plants? Landscape fabric is much thinner, black/gray, allows water to go through (though not enough). You do not want this in your garden. – stormy Jul 8 '17 at 18:15
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That is most likely landscaping fabric designed to block or inhibit weed growth.

If the soil layer is too thin where you intend to plant perennials, feel free to cut out a circle of the fabric and plant appropriately.

  • Would you like to defend the point that the tarp is for blocking weed growth? – qazwsx Apr 9 '17 at 16:40
  • Exactly, I'd love to join in this debate! Weed fabric? I want to shake the CEO's and their marketers for labeling this fabric WEED stop, weed blocker, weed anything. Weed seeds are in that top layer of soil and they will continue to be blown in pooped out by birds and with no competition from other plants will go crazy. I'd rather see energy put into making proper beds out of the soil already there before planting...THAT makes a difference. You'll probably have plants grow just fine sorta kinda this season doing the hole thing. That stuff will have to come up SOON. – stormy Apr 9 '17 at 21:28
  • No need to defend my answer, the question was edited with the picture after my answer was posted. I still think it is probably "weed block" fabric as there is no reason I can think of for a large subsurface waterproof tarp (unless there is additional info OP did not reveal...) Never did I argue for or against the use of it. Perhaps its original placement was for exactly the purpose @Stormy claims it was made for? – Jimmy Fix-it Jul 8 '17 at 17:10
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Get rid of it! Talk about destroying even a tiny bit of a natural soil system...landscape fabric was made only to put below gravel on top of soil so that the large rocks don't sink and the soil come up causing your rock/gravel to disappear. It is not meant for weed control. Pull it up.

In no way does this fabric provide any benefits whatsoever. In fact it causes many problems...and I could go on. Don't run out and plant in that few inches of soil that is cut off from the entire body of your garden soil and ecosystem.

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    The writing style poised you as a professional in the field. But the content of the answer is not as informative as I would hope for, especially the opinion is so dramatic but there is little logical or factual substance/backing. – qazwsx Apr 9 '17 at 4:19
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    @qazwsx stormy can get into a "professional rage" once in a while, but you are indeed looking at decades of professional experience. – Stephie Apr 9 '17 at 17:01
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    I'll probably poke some holes with even spacing on the tarp, at least to the extent that I can tell there is a tarp underground. Completely removing it will require more effort than I can give to it now unfortunately. – qazwsx Apr 9 '17 at 17:05
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    Hi stormy, decades of experience doesn't justify this type of rant. In fact, professional experience and maturity level should cause you to control this type of behavior. Qazwsx pointed it out as unhelpful, so I removed some and left what seemed to directly answer the question. I don't think the community would accept this type of answer from anyone else. There should be no special treatment just because you're smart, which you certainly are!!! – Sue Apr 9 '17 at 19:19
  • Good grief! I am passionate about the idiotic use of landscape fabric for any other purpose than beneath gravel. Perhaps now someone will remember. Professional...welp, all though I am I am also one hell of an eccentric one that has gotten to the point of cutting through the 'politically correctness' and I am working on that as you well know. Where there are boundaries made I am the lucky idiot who gets to test those boundaries...communities are made from a huge spectrum of people types and oh so very much fun to see that I am at one end of the scale. Sigh. – stormy Apr 9 '17 at 21:08
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Apparently this may be a strategy to control local ground surface water. Are there water control or drainage issues on this property? In the PNW I can image either or both. Is there a french drain at the lowest point of the property?

Removing it without knowing more about the purpose and reasons may have unintended and possibly undesirable consequences. That doesn't look like landscape/weed control fabric to me.

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