Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 18, 2007

From: Lubbock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch
Title: Advisability of landscape cloth in native gardens
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Is the use of landscape cloth healthy or unhealthy in native gardens?

ANSWER:

We are not going to turn up our noses and sniff at those who use landscape cloth in their gardens, but we believe its usefulness is limited. Landscape cloth, also known as landscape fabric or weed barrier, is a porous, woven or spun, man-made material. Most do their intended purpose of inhibiting weed growth in beds covered with the material. In general, they are not particularly unhealthy for native plants. However, there are any number of problems that they are prone to creating.

The first problem is that they don't stop all weeds. Any holes cut in the material to allow penetration of garden plants also allow penetration of weeds. Invariably, weeds take advantage of this opportunity.

Second, some weeds easily penetrate many weed barriers as if there was no barrier there at all. Then it's difficult to remove the weeds because you can't get at the roots. The needle-like leaves of emerging nutsedge (Cyperus spp.) plants are a good example of this.

Most landscape fabrics get clogged with fine dust particles, fertilizer salts and calcium from irrigation water over a period of time. This clogging makes the weed barrier an effective water and air barrier as well. This, of course, is then a serious issue.

Having to stop and cut holes in your landscape fabric every time you want to plant is a hassle. Also, many groundcovers need to be able to put down roots along their stems to spread. Beds with weed cloth in place do not allow for this.

Finally, many gardeners struggle with keeping mulch spread over their landscape cloth. Rain, wind, cats and dogs have a way of moving mulch off of the relatively smooth weed cloth surface leaving it exposed and unsightly. Sloping beds are especially susceptible to this problem.

It seems to us that a native garden should be as much like nature made it as possible. Nature does not utilize landscape fabric.

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Planting from pots in summer in Austin
July 01, 2009 - It's the last week in June and temperatures are going to be at 100 or more all week. I've some plants that I'm wondering about transplanting to an exposed site in this heat: muhlenbergeria lindheim...
view the full question and answer

Disappearance of leaves on desert willow in Tucson AZ
August 08, 2009 - We have a Lois Adams Desert Willow (Tucson, Az). The leaves will pump out and then a day or so later, all of the leaves are gone. The only bugs we've seen on it are very, very small ants. Could this ...
view the full question and answer

Malpighia glabra for Austin
October 14, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I am planting native Malpighia in a raised bed that was specially prepared for growing roses (soil and amendments). This bed has been left fallow for several years. Do I need t...
view the full question and answer

Disposal of Ashe juniper from Austin
March 07, 2013 - I am in western Travis County and we have been clearing our land of some of the Ashe Juniper. When there is not a burn ban, we burn them because there are just too many to shred. I was wondering if ...
view the full question and answer

Creating a bluebonnet patch between Brenham and Houston.
April 12, 2009 - I am creating a Bluebonnet patch in a well-drained section of my flowerbed. I just planted the plants (it is now early April and I'm between Houston and Brenham, TX). I plan to let them go to seed ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.