How to Replace Landscape Fabric

Lead Image
What You'll Need
9x9-foot tarpaulin
Point-end spade
Lightweight slim rake
Flat-edged shovel
Landscape fabric
Anchor pins for the fabric in metal or plastic
Weed killer

Professionally landscaped yards and gardens have a layer of landscape fabric, also known as weed-control fabric, under the plant growth. The fabric serves several purposes in support of growing healthy plants and vegetables. After a few years of exposure to rain and frost, the fabric will become compromised and not be as effective. When this occurs, the fabric lining will need to be replaced. While this task may take a considerable amount of time depending on the size of the area, the benefits to your garden and yard are well worth the investment in time and energy.

Step 1 - Measure the Area

Measure the area to be recovered. Once you have the precise measurements, visit a local garden supply store and purchase a sufficient amount of landscaping fabric to recover the affected area.

Step 2 - Clear the Protective Ground Cover and Old Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric with gravel on top

Place and unroll the tarp outside the area to be cleared. Shovel or gently rake the mulch or other ground cover from the existing area onto the tarp. Discard the ground cover off the tarp into the trash, as it should not be reused. Once debris is cleared away, start at one side/edge of the fabric and begin pulling up the old landscape fabric. As you encounter a plant, work the fabric upward in a gentle manner over the existing plant to avoid any damage. Tear the fabric away from the plant or tear it away at the hole around the base of the plant. Discard the old fabric.

Step 3 - Prepare the Garden Soil

Use a garden claw and rake to loosen and aerate the soil. Extract all remaining weeds, rocks, mulch bits and other plant debris, then smooth out the soil so it is as level as possible. Spray an effective and safe weed killer—such as Preen—over the entire area.

Step 4 - Lay Down the New Landscape Fabric

Landscape fabric around plants in a garden

Begin spreading the new fabric over the cleared area. When you come to plants, make a cut 6 inches in diameter over each plant you encounter. If you are laying landscape fabric pieces side by side, overlap the fabric edges by at least 6 inches.

Step 5 - Settle and Anchor the Landscape Fabric

Reach through the cuts and gently pull plants through the landscape fabric. If the plant is too big, increase the size of the cut and slide fabric over the plant. Patch a second layer of fabric over the enlarged slit. Secure the landscape fabric with the plastic or metal anchors all the way around the flowerbed, including across any overlapped panels.

Step 6 - Add Fresh Ground Cover

Pour a fresh layer of mulch or other ground cover onto the new landscape fabric. Cover to a depth of 1 inch so the landscape fabric is totally concealed. Taper the mulch layer near plant roots and tree trunks. Do not water if you have done so within 24 hours prior to replacing the fabric.

After replacing the landscape fabric, use a leaf blower frequently in autumn to clear away plant debris and fallen leaves from the mulch. Also keep lawn shavings cleared away from the mulch and landscape fabric on a regular basis as the debris is an ideal growth medium for weeds. Weeds will not penetrate the soil under the weed control fabric, but they will make your garden look untidy, and will provide homes for insect pests.

Landscape fabric has many other uses besides being a deterrent for weeds. Other uses include helping the soil around garden shrubs retain water, permit air in the soil, and allow nutrients to seep through and saturate the soil. If you choose to use organic mulch as a cover, the landscape fabric slows down the decomposition of the mulch, so it lasts longer. You can also use it when first transplanting cuttings. The fabric helps in supporting plants to grow strong and disease-free prior to planting in their designated flowerbed.