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pinksand
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Helping a friend with landscape fabric

I'm supposed to be planting a friend's garden tomorrow. They have a nice deep foundation bed already edged with stone but they've always just mulched the empty bed and aren't "garden people." They'd really like NO maintenance but want to add some curb appeal with plants. I have a sketch drawn out and will be planting shrubs that will require little to no pruning and will mature to an appropriate size for the space plus some low maintenance perennials.

Here's the catch... the other night they called to ask about how much compost to have delivered (I figured this would be a good idea to build up the soil quality). Now they tell me that there's landscape fabric under the mulch! They also wanted to just cut holes in the fabric to plant the plants because they don't want to weed. I explained why landscape fabric really isn't all that helpful in weed prevention, kills the soil quality, doesn't allow for rhizomatus plants to spread, and really just all around isn't helpful for building a healthy planted foundation garden. I think I convinced them that the fabric needs to come out, but this does change things a bit.

I've heard the stuff is a nightmare to remove! Any tips for removal? Also, how worried should I be about the quality of the soil. Will the compost we're adding be enough to get it thriving again?
USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32
"The earth laughs in flowers" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ohio Tiller
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Re: Helping a friend with landscape fabric

I really like the stuff for my row plants and I have never had an issue with it where I use it has worked really well. It is great along the strawberries. The runners will grow right down through the stuff and if I need to move a runner I just cut a hole and relocate it. It sure does make weeding the beans a NON chore cause I don't have to weed hardly at all.

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pinksand
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Re: Helping a friend with landscape fabric

Interesting! I've never personally used landscape fabric before so I'm going off information I've read, not personal experience. Do you cover your fabric with a layer of mulch? What do you do as the mulch breaks down? I'd imagine with a mulched garden it would have to be removed and replaced annually since it isn't getting mixed into the soil, right? As plants like coral bells and hostas spread out will they have to continually monitor them and cut the fabric to accommodate their growth?

I definitely don't want to steer them in the wrong direction if this is something that would be beneficial to them. It's just that most of what I've read has made me believe otherwise.
USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32
"The earth laughs in flowers" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Helping a friend with landscape fabric

I personally hate the stuff. IME it works well the first year or so, then as it ages, I guess the pores expand or something, anyway weeds start growing right through it. But then they are a huge pain, because they are all tangled in it and can't just be pulled. You are right that you can't really add anything to the soil with the fabric covering it.

If you take it off, the soil under it should be pretty OK. Perhaps a little compacted, but if you add your compost and turn it in, that will fluff it up again.
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imafan26
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Re: Helping a friend with landscape fabric

It depends on the landscape fabric. Some are perforated plastic sheets some are woven fiber. The cheap ones work for about 5 years and then they will break down, roots go through them and weeds come through the seams or wherever there are holes in them. Woven fabric is better at stopping weeds especially the dreaded nut sedge which has no problem poking through plastic weed cloth. It does break down in about 15 years and weeds will poke through any holes made in it.

If there is landscape fabric under the mulch now, then yes you can cut holes and plant your plants, but be aware that any holes in the fabric let the weeds up too.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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pinksand
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Re: Helping a friend with landscape fabric

So by the time I got to their house they'd already removed all the landscape fabric! We got everything planted and I think it is going to be beautiful!

We ended up with the following plants:

Aucuba Gold Dust (1)
Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Snow Queen' (1)
Hydrangea 'Annabelle' (1)
Mountain Laurel 'Sarah' (2)
Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' (3)
Coral Bells 'Palace Purple' (3)
Ostrich Ferns (3)
Hosta - Blue (3)
Hosta - Green with lighter green edges (3)
Astilbe (3)
Jacobs Ladder (3)
Perennial Salvia (3)
Geum (1)

The far right side of the garden gets full sun, fading to full shade on the left half where it also gets a bit boggy at the far edge (the ostrich ferns are planted in the moist zone). The soil wasn't too bad, although it was a bit compacted and is a heavier clay soil than what I'm used to working with at my house. The hostas and ferns will get quite large so right now there is a lot of empty space between plants to accommodate their full growing potential. The shrubs are all decent sizes already. The sunnier side of the garden has some extra space so I'm planning to divide some of my coral bells (a green variety with pink flowers) to contrast the 'Palace Purple.'

I told her to water deeply every other day in the morning. Since their soil is clay I figured every other day would be okay, does that sound about right?
USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32
"The earth laughs in flowers" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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