Rock gardens can make any yard look great. Homeowners love them because they’re an excellent way to add depth and dimension, they’re low maintenance, and they save a lot of water. Yet, when weeds grow between the rocks and make them look less attractive, can you throw landscape fabric over the rocks to keep out weeds?
You can lay landscape fabric over rocks. However, the appearance of the finished areas may reduce the aesthetic appeal of your landscaping. Any rocks with landscape fabric laid over them can’t be part of the landscaping design anymore. You also have to consider the best way to cover the fabric.
The rest of the article will cover all you need to know about laying landscape fabric over rocks with tips on the best ways to prevent weed growth between rocks.
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Reasons for Using Landscape Fabrics Over Rocks
The best approach for using landscaping fabric over rocks is to first decide on the reasons for your desire to use the fabric and your vision for the landscaping.
If you intend to plant some crops around the area, it’s best to get rid of the rocks first. If you don’t have the tools to dig up the rocks, consider hiring a landscaping company for the job. They will analyze your landscape and let you know if digging out the rocks is a good idea or not. For example, removing rocks around retaining walls may upset the balance of the wall.
With the rocks removed, you’ll have flat, compact ground to lay the landscaping fabric and raise your desired plants.
On the other hand, if you have beautiful rocks that you intend to keep a part of your landscaping, covering them up with landscaping fabric isn’t the best approach. You should consider alternative methods of keeping weeds away from the rock area.
Professional landscapers and gardeners use landscape over rocks for two reasons:
Landscape fabrics are also known as weed barriers because their primary purpose is to keep weeds from growing around a specific area (source).
Laying some landscape fabric over the rocks helps keep the area weed-free. The sprouting weeds die off when they fail to get adequate sunlight for prolonged periods.
Cover for Settled Rock
If you have some settled rocks across your landscape, it might be too difficult to dig them up with standard gardening tools. Throwing some landscape fabric over the rocks is the easier thing to do—as long as these rocks don’t factor in your landscaping design.
With the rocks covered, you can either grow new plants on the fabric or just cover up the fabric with decorative mulch.
Why Using Landscape Fabrics Over Rocks Isn’t Ideal
Many gardening experts agree that while it’s certainly possible to lay landscape fabric over rocks, you should avoid it. Some of the reasons for that assertion include the following:
Weeds Can Still Grow Around the Fabric
Depending on the rocks’ size and the fabric’s quality, some tough perennial weeds can still grow around the rocks even with the landscape fabric laid out. If the seeds fall onto fabric with favorable landscaping material, the roots of these plants can pierce through the fabric.
Once in the soil around the rocks, they can thrive better than most desired plants, defeating the purpose of laying down the fabrics in the first place.
Desired Plants on the Fabric May Struggle
If you intend to grow some plants on the landscaping fabric, they probably won’t last long. Even with favorable placement between the rocks, the roots of the plants will struggle to spread out as the plants get bigger.
Also, the rocks may cut off some of the roots as they shift and settle deeper into the soil. So, you need to consider how the rocks will affect your plants before you choose to ignore them.
The Appearance Is Rarely Uniform
Rocks are not uniform in shape. Therefore, landscaping fabric over rocks will give an irregular appearance. It sounds like an aesthetic problem, but it’s more than that. Lack of uniformity makes growing plants on or around the fabric more complicated.
Some people navigate this problem by pouring layers of gravel or sand over the rocks first. Unfortunately, sand will compact over time, while gravel introduces new headaches if you intend to grow some plants around the area.
How To Prevent Weed Growth Between Rocks
There are a few ways to prevent or tackle weed growth between rocks. They include the following:
Remove Weeds by Hand
Pulling out weeds by hand is an eco-friendly way to remove weeds growing between rocks. Pull and discard the weeds before they drop seeds. You also need to reach the roots when pulling out weeds. Otherwise, they will grow back later. Wet the weeds first to make them easier to pull from the soil.
Use a Long-Lasting Weed Killer
If weed growth has gone out of control, you should consider using a strong weed killer to keep new weeds from sprouting for up to a year. Using long-lasting weed killers is best because they eliminate the need for multiple applications, which is bad for the environment.
Control Solutions Herbicide Concentrate (link to Amazon) is an excellent choice here. It’s effective against annual and perennial weeds as well as grasses and broadleaf weeds.
Burn the Weeds With a Flame Torch
Flame torches are a great way to get rid of weeds without using chemicals. A weed torch works well because rocks are not flammable, while weeds die quickly after exposure to the heat. However, you need to keep the flame from the torch away from any flammable materials such as dry wood mulch.
A good example of a weed torch is the Bluefire Propane Weed Torch (link to Amazon). It has a 32-inch (81.28-cm) long arm that allows you to torch weeds without having to bend your waist.
You can lay landscape fabric over rocks, but it’s rarely a good idea. Removing the rocks and placing the fabric between the soil and the rocks is a better way to stop weed growth.
Where removing the rocks isn’t practical, you should explore other weed removal options.
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