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Do You Always Need Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks?

Do You Always Need Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks?

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

Creating and maintaining a visually appealing yard isn’t always easy. It requires a well-thought-out plan, regular maintenance, and sometimes a little bit of elbow grease. One common struggle most home and property owners face is whether or not to use landscaping fabric under rocks when starting a new project.

While landscaping fabric helps suppress weeds, regulates soil temperature, and prevents erosion by holding the soil in place, it’s not always necessary under rocks. Decomposing particles of mulch and soil can clog the fabric, which can lead to drainage issues and an unhealthy landscape.

The rest of the article will discuss in-depth other topics related to this. These include the benefits and drawbacks of using landscaping fabric and the different scenarios when you should use it.

What Is Landscaping Fabric?

Landscaping fabric is a type of material designed to form a barrier between the soil and mulch in your landscape. It’s typically made from a non-woven material, such as polypropylene, and comes in rolls (source).

Woven fabrics are made from interlocking fibers that create a stronger material, while non-woven fabrics are made from a spun-bond process that entangles the fibers to create a mat. Landscaping fabric limits weed growth by blocking sunlight and preventing weed seeds from germinating. It also stabilizes the ground and prevents the rocks from sinking into the soil.

Benefits of Using Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks

A beautiful yard adds a touch of elegance, improves curb appeal, and makes your outdoor space more enjoyable. But achieving that level of curb appeal takes work. You need to put in the time to weed, fertilize, and water your plants regularly.

Adding landscaping fabric can help you reduce the amount of time you spend on yard work, giving you more time to enjoy your outdoor space. The top benefits of adding landscaping fabric under your rocks include:

Weed Suppression

Like any flower on your property, weeds prefer ideal conditions to grow (though they are admittedly more persistent). They need sunlight and nutrient-rich soil to germinate and thrive. By placing landscaping fabric under your rocks, you prevent sunlight and water from reaching the weed seeds, reducing their chances of growth (source).

Soil Temperature Regulation

The fabric helps to regulate soil temperature by blocking the sun’s heat in the summer and trapping heat in the winter.

It also controls water evaporation, which helps keep the roots of your plants moist. This reduces the amount of time you take to water your plants and helps to prevent drought stress.

Soil Erosion Prevention

Whether you have a slope in your yard or experience heavy rains, landscaping fabric can help to prevent erosion by holding the soil in place. It traps sediment and prevents it from washing away, which can cause your rocks to become loose and shift.

Drawbacks of Using Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks

Here are a few drawbacks of using landscaping fabric:

Not Permanent

Landscaping fabric is not a permanent solution. Over time, it will degrade and break down which means you’ll need to replace it. The fabric’s lifespan will depend on the quality of the material and how well it’s installed (source).

Can Clog Drainage

If the fabric becomes clogged with decomposing mulch and soil particles, it can cause drainage issues. Water will pool on the fabric’s surface and not be able to seep through to the soil. This can lead to waterlogged soil, which can kill your plants.

Unhealthy for Plants

While the fabric can help regulate soil temperature and moisture, it can also create an unhealthy environment for your plants. The fabric can prevent air and water from reaching the roots of your plants, which can lead to root rot.

It’s important to note that while landscaping fabric can help prevent weed growth, it will not kill existing weeds. You’ll need to remove them by hand before adding the material to your landscape.

When To Use Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks

So, when is the appropriate time to use landscaping fabric? The answer will depend on the specific needs of your landscape. Here are a few situations when using landscaping fabric may be beneficial:

You Have a Sloped Yard

If you have a sloped yard, using landscaping fabric can help prevent erosion and soil loss. Soil erosion deprives your plants of the nutrients they need to grow, and it can cause your rocks to become loose and shift. It also leaves your yard vulnerable to mudslides after heavy rains, which can damage your landscaping and even cause injuries.

You Have Weeds

Weeds can quickly turn a well-manicured lawn into an overgrown mess. They steal nutrients from your plants, and can be challenging to get rid of. Placing landscaping fabric under your rocks helps prevent weed growth by blocking sunlight and water.

You Have Loose Soil

Instability is a common issue in landscapes with loose soil. If your soil is loose, it can be easily washed away by heavy rains or wind. This can cause your rocks to loosen and shift, leaving your plants vulnerable to root damage. Landscaping fabric can help hold the soil in place and prevent it from washing away (source).

Personally, despite any potential drawbacks, I favor using landscape fabric anytime I’m putting down rock for a flower bed or other landscaping projects. It is just too much of a hassle to weed, you can’t mow over it, and although it won’t stop all weed growth it can certainly help to keep weeds at bay.

Here are two pictures of the same type of rock, layered to the same thickness in two different parts of a yard. In the first picture, we used landscape fabric and in the second picture, we did not. Both were put down at the same time and this represents roughly two years:

This area has landscape fabric under the rock flower bed.
This is the same type of rock without landscape fabric.

Tips for Using Landscaping Fabric Under Rocks

If you’ve decided to use landscaping fabric in your landscape, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure it’s appropriately installed.

  • Choose the right fabric. Not all landscaping fabrics are created equal. It’s essential to choose a durable and breathable material to prevent problems with drainage and air circulation.
  • Install it properly. To get the most benefit from your landscaping fabric, it’s crucial to install it properly. Start by clearing the area of debris, rocks, and weeds, then level the soil and add a layer of mulch. Follow this by laying the fabric over the area and securing it with landscape staples or pins after which you can now add a layer of rocks.
  • Check it regularly. Even the best-installed landscaping fabric won’t last forever. Be sure to check it regularly for signs of wear and tear. If the fabric starts to break down, it will need to be replaced.

Final Thoughts

While it’s not mandatory to add landscaping fabric underneath rocks, it offers a slew of benefits that make your landscape easier to maintain. From preventing weed growth to controlling erosion, this versatile fabric can be a valuable addition to any yard. Ensure you choose the right fabric and install it properly to get the most benefit from it.

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