About a month ago I did a little bit of landscaping at home. My dad insisted that we put landscape fabric down, even though I said I didn't care to use it.

The type of landscape fabric that was used seemed overly heavy to me. It looks something like this My parents have a weed barrier at their home, but its more of a cloth look, like this.

A few days after planting a few new plants, putting down the weed mat, and adding new mulch some of the new plants were looking a little weary. I at first thought it was maybe just a small shock. Three weeks later, here I am with the same weary looking plants, one plant has lost it's flower buds, and a rose bush that has been there from the beginning also lost all of it's flowers.

I've kept the plants watered and occasionally lift the weed barrier to make sure the soil is still moist, which it has been. The fact that the rose bush has died is what makes me wonder if it's the landscape fabric that is causing the problem. My rose bush thrived all last summer with zero problems, even with the amount of extreme heat we had.

My first thought was maybe the landscape barrier is too thick and is shedding most of the water away from the base of the plants.

So the question is, could it really be the landscape fabric that is causing my problems? If it is the cause of the problem, what are some other minimal effort ways to control weeds?

Japanese beetle pictures: image 1 image 2

1 Answer 1


Gro-Co mulchYou have only had it installed for a month? How big are the holes around your plants. You probably know how much I loathe this weed barrier practice. I am glad you sense that it is not a good thing for the soil ultimately for the plants and it does not stop weeds.

This fabric was designed to use as a barrier beneath gravel installations. Keeps the soil from coming up into the gravel essentially causing the gravel to disappear. Some marketing whiz kid thought of another use to be able to sell even more.

I have a hard time thinking that this has been there long enough to cause problems. It does shed the water and I am glad you were trying to lift it to water. I always insisted to a new client that they pay me to remove that stuff and the bark or they could find someone else. Never lost a new customer. I'd also insist on changing their mulch to Gro-Co (human poo and sawdust completely completely decomposed). Gorgeous and wow how the plants would go from anemic to green and vibrant...within one week. That stuff isn't available everywhere.

If you are watering by hand then it could very well be lack of water. Did you water the soil before installing that stuff? When soil becomes hydrophobic it is tough to get any water into the soil without constant water being applied regularly. You've probably seen this; water just runs off the soil leaving completely dry soil behind.

For now, I'd get an exacto knife or a box cutter with a new blade and make larger circles around my plants. Send pictures of your problems as I still have a hard time thinking the fabric is the cause since it has only been there a month. I would also consider removing that stuff but if it causes problems with parents...

This fabric also holds in moisture reducing evaporation. It also provides shelter for all kinds of insects, slugs, snails, snakes, mice. The best way I've found is using that Gro-Co mulch. A couple of inches and forget weeds. Smothers weed seeds and feeds the soil organisms. So much so it needs to be replaced every other year. This stuff was readily available to me in the Seattle area. Sawdust Supply, in Seattle. Gro-Co was their name for this stuff not a standard name. I would call your sewer waste utility to find out if they do this. If they don't would you please ask them how they do dispose of our poo? I am not liking what I am hearing. Please let me know.

When one can get past the original ingredients this is bar none the only way to deal with weeds. The federal government has strict rules and testing before this is allowed to be sold. Tested 5X for each batch! They give you a copy of the last test that shows what you are buying. And amazingly this is no more expensive than bark. And there is the option to have it delivered and blown onto your beds. It is the way to go. Amazing how neat they keep everything.

This mulch is a fine fine textured dark taupe color. It has zero weed seeds, zero pesticide residues, no sticks, rocks. Put a few inches on already growing weeds and they die. Weed seeds in the soil are unable to germinate. This is the best thing for our gardens since the shovel. Truly controls weeds and the most important part is that it feeds your soil.

Macro and micro soil organisms create a 'live' soil necessary for plants and uptake of chemicals/nutrients they need to survive. These little guys come up and eat anything that is decomposed. Non decomposed stuff like bark causes all the soil life to go dormant or die until the decomposers finish their job decomposing that bark. Then the life can wake up, start eating the decomposed stuff, reproduce and work symbiotically with the roots of plants.

Decomposers need nitrogen. During the time the soil life has gone dormant waiting for food the organisms tasked with decomposing anything that was once alive, now dead, use lots of nitrogen for energy. Robbing the soil of nitrogen meant for plants. Not a big deal but certainly doesn't make for healthy plants even by adding extra nitrogen.

The other cool thing the soil organisms do after eating the decomposed organic matter is go back into the soil and poop out this matter mixing this organic matter into the soil with no work on your part. Continually improving the texture and tilth of your soil. The only way any type of soil texture can be improved is by the addition of organic matter. Not sand, gypsum or any other substance added will improve the soil you need to grow plants in. And all one needs to do is put decomposed organic matter on the top of the soil. Smothers weeds, doesn't add weed seeds, no errant pesticide residues (this is becoming more and more of a big deal with other composts/mulches), gorgeous uniform texture, feeds your soil organisms who assist your plants with up take of chemicals they need for photosynthesis. This human poo mulch does have some nitrogen in the product. But I have to always say; mulch, compost is never to be considered fertilizer. Fertilizer should be a balanced mix, either synthetic or organic. You need to account for the extra nitrogen in whatever compost you use but compost is not a substitute for fertilizer. Nor is it meant as a soil substitute.

Please send pictures. That first roll of fabric almost looks like the stuff we use on plywood for the exterior of a building that goes beneath the siding. Does it have a name on the roll? Check on the availability of human poop compost/mulch. If you don't have a source for this stuff, use the finest ground pine bark available. Sprinkle with some nitrogen. Not a lot but should help mitigate the loss of nitrogen from use by your plants. Fertilizer is critical as is the amount applied. Too little and plants will limp along to eventually die. Too much and plants will die very quickly. Hope this helps.

  • Thanks for your excellent comment! I was going to cut bigger slits, completely remove the weed barrier, or remove the barrier for a plant and see what happens. I've been watering them with a hose 2-3 times per week. I usually water once it's late evening or dark out and use a steady shower of water for about 1 minute on each plant. I can get some pictures and other stuff later on. Overall I don't know if the barrier really is the problem, but the condition of the rose bush is strangely in line with the installation of the barrier. As I said, it thrived all of last year with zero problems.
    – DrZoo
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 19:43
  • Your watering should be done in the morning. Done too late in the day give fungus time to proliferate. Water in the morning and the rest of the daylight and sun energy will dry the leaves and remove some of the water in the soil. Part of drainage! Only water when the soil is dry. Always dig down into the soil to check at first until you get a better idea of when the soil is dry enough to water again. Water deeply and watch the soil profile, a new cut each time. The moisture dissipates from the surface first leaving lots of moisture below. When the soil is at least 1 to 2 inches...
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 21:26
  • ...dry from the surface down (for established plants not annuals for instance, the depth will be far less) and the moisture down 4 to 6 inches has begun to lighten in color you should water deeply again. Try to allow more time between waterings in an effort to train the roots of your plants. If your plant is used to lots of shallow watering then those roots will be shallow and need to be trained to grow deeper. Train until one inch of water per week applied once per week is all that is needed. Beneath that fabric is such a hotbed for fungus...watering 2 or 3 times per week is too much.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 21:31
  • ...unless you are in major heat conditions. Are you? Pull that dead rose up carefully and in the drive way or your garage I'd like you to examine the roots. Please take a picture. Using a razor blade slice some of the healthy roots at an angle not straight across to be able to see the vascular system. Healthy roots are bright white. Any discoloration tells a story. Take a picture of the cross section. Put all dirt and rose in a bag. Don't allow this soil to blow in the wind just yet. If it is more than root rot you do not want to spread the virus/spores around.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 21:35
  • I'd say yes, I'm in major heat conditions. The high temperature is 90-95 each day. I checked the soil moisture last night and it was still a bit damp at the top so I skipped the watering.
    – DrZoo
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 21:36

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