Are there alternatives to using landscape cloth in gardens to reduce weeds?


I have been using landscape cloth to reduce the weeds in my garden. I have been reading that this material is not good and that there are better alternatives but I haven’t seen what the alternatives are. Are there better alternatives and if so, what do you recommend?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension has a great article on this topic that lays out (so to speak) the potential problems with landscape fabric. In short, it’s typically non-biodegradable (so it’s in your bed more or less for good once placed), the fabric’s permeability to air and water diminishes over time as it clogs with soil and organic matter, and it generally becomes tattered and inextricably twisted up in the roots of the plants you want to grow there and the weeds that work their way through. If you want to remove it in the future, it can be a dirty shredded mess that has to be pulled out in strips alongside a lot of plant material. I don’t mean to completely disregard the utility of landscape fabric–there are numerous situations where it’s a perfectly acceptable solution to a particular garden problem–but if these issues concern you, consider using cardboard or thick layers of old newspaper in its place. They will biodegrade over time, helping to build your soil, and will suppress weeds nicely until then.