Unless it’s the smoking variety (maybe), weed is not something you want in your garden. It’s a natural plant and crop killer that sucks away all the nutrients your garden needs in order to look its best. Weed barriers, also known as landscaping fabrics or covers, come in handy if you want to keep a great-looking garden.
But a lot of people buy them for all the wrong reasons. Weed barriers come in a variety of properties since they are designed for specific purposes. You can use just one for all your gardening needs, and you certainly can’t swap between thick and thin layered covers at will.
Best Weed Barriers You Can Install on Your Own
Take a look at my top picks to see what makes each one of them different from the next, aside from the pricing.
- Best Weed Barriers You Can Install on Your Own
- Most Common Uses for Weed Barriers
- The Pros and Cons of Using a Weed Barrier
- Which Material is Best?
One of the biggest concerns with plastic-like fabrics is pooling after heavy rain. DeWitt’s design seems to address this issue as the water seeps through the fabric at an efficient rate. For stoned landscaping, this is a big plus in my book.
I also appreciate the weight of the fabric as it puts it closer in line with commercial-grade ground covers. It doesn’t tear easy but you have to remember to not pull it too tight. Too much tension can still ruin it easily.
The SBLT4300 has enough permeability to allow both water and air to penetrate, thus keeping your soil healthy. The roll should provide you with enough fabric to cover up to 1200 sq. ft. which is really nice. For an average household, it should leave plenty of room for error.
The fabric is also supposed to be UV-stabilized which should make it just as useful for landscaping or for use in greenhouses. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to determine if the 5-year guarantee against direct sunlight damage is really true.
This weed barrier comes in rolls of nine different sizes. In terms of value for money, this is great because you’re not forced to buy more than you need, especially when you just want to run it around the house for stoned landscaping projects.
The fabric is woven in a row line design which makes it quite suitable if you also want to use plants. You can cut holes along the rows without ruining the fabric. As far as strength goes, the 3.2oz fabric is heavy even for a commercial-grade weed barrier. And, it is rated to withstand up to 20KN/square meter of pressure yet it retains decent elasticity when fully secured.
There don’t seem to be any issues with water pooling so it should help keep the soil at a constant pH level. The air and water permeability is good. However, although this is a solid weed stopper, it’s not the easiest cover to lay flat.
Sure, it has a high breaking strength, but it can take a long time or a lot of mulch to stop it from folding back into a roll. This is not a big issue but it does increase the installation time, so if you’re in a hurry, this may not be your first choice.
There are five roll sizes to choose from. All of them are kept to the same high standard of quality and are just as easy to unfold when it’s time to install. The fabric also features measuring lines on the top side in order to help with lining up plants, which is nice if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing.
Another cool feature is that the two sides are very different. The one facing up is a bit reflective which should help if you live in a very dry and sunny climate. The side that faces the soil almost has a felt-like quality to it. It’s definitely good enough to prevent weed sprouting.
I also enjoy the fact that this cover is not made of plastic. And that it comes as a very fine mesh which is enough to stop weeds and let enough water and air into the soil to keep it rich and healthy. Although it is a very strong cover, it’s surprisingly easy to cut and doesn’t seem to fray at the ends.
One minor downside is its low resistance to extreme heat. Don’t get me wrong, it does a good job of regulating soil temperature but only when covered with enough garden mulch. If you leave it in the sun for too long without covering it up, it will start to tighten up and degrade.
Ok. So, this cover is smaller than others. That being said, you can get it in value packs and it may just be what you need for small landscaping jobs. This is a long-lasting premium weed barrier that’s easy to unfold and cut, something that you almost set and forget.
The fabric is not woven. I was surprised at first but as it turns out it still has good permeability and prevents the soil from becoming unhealthy. It is truly a hydrophilic material that only kills unwanted weeds and not everything else living in your soil.
There’s also a high concentration of carbon black content. This works well in warm sunny climates because of its properties to block out harmful UV rays. At the same time, extra sun-blocking takes away the ability of some of the toughest weeds to grow at a normal rate.
With the 12-year guarantee and high-end hydrophilic treatment, this weed barrier seems very suitable for a lot of landscaping projects and maybe even for some greenhouse installations too. It’s not the cheapest solution but you’ll get what you pay for.
This landscape fabric is 100% polypropylene and although it’s not the thickest or the strongest, it has good permeability. Unlike most commercial-grade weed barriers, this one is not well-suited for stoned landscaping. It also seems to have a rather poor resistance to direct sunlight.
That being said, it comes with a bold 20-year guarantee which does say something about the quality of the fabric. Because it’s thin, the water manages to drain through it with ease. Therefore, it does a good job of keeping soil pH at a healthy level while still preventing weeds from sprouting.
What it doesn’t handle well is tearing. When it’s time to get rid of some of the weeds that do get through, and eventually some will, you can’t just rip them out of the ground. This will likely cause a big tear in the fabric. You’ll need a more delicate approach. But if you enjoy spending time in your garden, this shouldn’t be that big of an issue.
On the flip side, its thinness makes it easy to roll and stretch out which means the installation should take a lot less time than using heavy covers.
If you’re looking to tackle some advanced landscaping projects complete with big rocks and other complex arrangements, this 5oz weed barrier might just do the trick. Calling it heavy duty almost seems like an understatement given the tear resistance and strength.
The fabric has gone through a hydrophilic treatment at the factory which improved its permeability. But it doesn’t let as many nutrients into the soil as I would like for a greenhouse setup or for a garden setup with multiple rows of plants.
The polypropylene fabric looks woven, but due to its extra thickness, it naturally lacks permeability. The good news is that you can buy a roll in four different sizes. Although all of them come with a length of 250 feet, the width ranges from 3 to 6 feet which should help out during the prepping and installation stage.
Cutting it will take more time than usual. The multi-layer construction gives it a high tolerance to cuts and tears.
Most Common Uses for Weed Barriers
The main use of most weed barriers is to simply keep your lawn from being eaten away. They prevent weeds from growing by denying them sunlight, limiting the nutrient supply, and acting as an actual barrier that weeds can’t penetrate.
But these landscaping fabrics come in various shapes and sizes. And most importantly, in different levels of thickness. Lesser permeable weed barriers can also see a lot of use in a garden or on a driveway. The thicker models can be used underneath crushed rock paths or underneath stoned landscaping arrangements.
Because they are thicker and almost waterproof at times, they help prevent the rocks from sinking into the soil after heavy rains or extra harsh winters.
Other landscaping fabrics can be used at the bottom of ponds. When creating a new pond, a layer of high-quality landscaping fabric that has the right properties can do a good job of limiting soil movement or preventing punctures from roots. This can also help create clearer ponds as opposed to the cloudy water that’s the norm when using sand oil mixes on top of a pond rubber liner.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Weed Barrier
Depending on the design and composition of your fabric barrier, using it can be beneficial or actually harmful to your garden. What most gardeners and amateur gardeners should know by now is this. The benefits of the best weed barriers include preventing weed sprouting, limiting the use of herbicides, minor pest control, retaining soil moisture, and, in a few cases, providing erosion control.
That all sounds fine right? – Well, it doesn’t always work out that way. Here are some of the negative effects that can occur when using landscaping fabric – compacting the soil, sprouting weeds on top of the fabric, limiting the nutrients in the soil.
Although weed barriers are intended to stop weed from sprouting, they can also prevent earthworms from aerating the soil surface. It can also prevent the soil from getting the nutrients that it needs from falling leaves, mulch, worms, and other biodegradable organic matter.
But the good news is that not all fabrics are created equally. This means that some woven patterns and materials don’t interfere so much with the natural order of things. There is always going to be some risk involved.
So, if you really want your landscaping to look healthy and pristine for a long time, your weed barrier should be of the highest quality, even if it means spending more than originally planned.
Which Material is Best?
There isn’t always a right or wrong answer here. You might be able to achieve the same effect with both plastic or organic fabric. The main issue will be finding the right level of permeability and thickness to keep plenty of mulch on top but not enough to kill the soil underneath.
Weed Out the Number One Landscaping Nuisance
Even if you’re not an avid gardener, it wouldn’t hurt to put a bit of effort into maintaining your garden. If you use the proper weed barrier for your geographical location and your specific plant life, the maintenance becomes a lot easier. Just be wise about choosing the material to avoid making the covered soil inhospitable.
A hardcore woodworking and welding enthusiast, Russ is the editor-in-chief of TAH. In his spare time, Russ loves watching sports, and (binge) watching Netflix.