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How To Install Landscape Fabric Around Existing Trees And Shrubs

Are you thinking of using landscape fabric in your outdoor space? This is an effective strategy to control weeds, add mulch, and improve the look of the garden. But while installing landscape fabric is easy when the ground is level, how do you set it up around trees and shrubs? What are the essential factors to remember when installing landscape fabric in areas thick with plant growth? Here are some tips.

ecogardener landscape fabric

How to Lay Landscape Fabric Around Existing Plants

Step 1: Measure the outdoor space

To know how many materials - rolls of landscape fabric and staples - are needed to cover the entire space, measure carefully. The total should include extra materials because you’ll need more landscape fabric to cover gaps, around bed edges and underneath slits when installing the material around shrubs and trees.

The same thing goes for landscape staples; you’ll need extras depending on the number of existing plants in the area. To calculate how much you’ll need, get enough to cover the following:

  • Pins every foot along the seams of the landscape fabric
  • Enough pins for every square foot in the bed’s interior area
  • Enough pins for every foot of the slit you will make to cover the base of shrubs and trees
  • Extra pins for overlapping the landscape fabric and preventing gaps
  • 4 pins for every X-shape cut you will make (this depends on how big the plant being covered is)

Essentially, every time you overlap the fabric, make cuts or work on the seams of the material, you will need landscape staples. You don’t want to skimp on the staples because if you don’t have enough, the landscape fabric won’t stay put for long.

Step 2: Remove Weeds and Garden Debris

ecogardener landscape fabric

The area being covered should be free from weeds and garden debris because the material must lay as flat as possible and should be in contact with the soil. You can pull the weeds by hand, use a weeder, or other garden tools, like a sickle, a Hori-Hori knife, or a hoe, to eliminate weeds.

What you want to keep in mind is to be gentle when removing weeds, especially if you are using sharp garden tools. You don’t want to accidentally hit the shrub roots and cause damage to the plants and property.

Step 3: Level the Soil

ecogardener landscape fabric

Having a rake on hand is vital to clearing the garden of unwanted debris like twigs, fallen leaves, small rocks, dried roots, and pulled weeds. This tool is also helpful in leveling the ground so that the landscape fabric is lying as flat as possible on the ground and keeping the material in contact with the soil.

Use a rake to collect garden debris on the ground to keep the surface level and free from obstructions that could damage the material. Once the landscape fabric has been installed, it will be hard to remove anything on the surface.

Step 4: Amend the Soil

The soil has to be enriched with vital nutrients to support plant growth. Again, once the landscape fabric has been laid down and set in place with staples, it will be hard to access the soil, so do the amendments before installation. Organic compost is best for soil amendment, but you can also use whatever fertilizers you prefer.

Step 5: Install the Landscape Fabric

ecogardener landscape fabric

Once the surface being covered has been prepped, it’s time to roll the landscape fabric and cut it into sections. Start rolling out sections of the landscape fabric at one edge of the plant bed with the fuzzy side down. Be sure to leave some excess of the material around the edges to be stapled with landscape pins later on.

If you’ve reached a tree or shrub, cut the landscape fabric, so the material is laid near the base of the plant.

Shrub: Check the shrub's size and roll out the appropriate length of landscape fabric. Once you’re near the base of the plant, cut a slit on the landscape fabric using a utility knife so that the material can be easily slipped onto the bottom of the plant. The size of the slit will depend on the size of the plant. If the plant has a thick trunk, cut a larger slit, but if it’s small, you’ll only need to make a small slit. Roll the material, slip it around the base of the shrub, then continue until you reach another shrub.

Tree: Cut a slit from the closest edge of the landscape fabric toward the base of the tree. The slit should be big enough to fit the size of the tree trunk. Do not try to stretch or pull the landscape fabric; the material shouldn’t rest against the tree’s trunk or root flare, where the trunk meets the soil. Roll the material, slip it around the tree's base, then continue until you reach another tree.

You want to avoid gaps in between sections of landscape fabric. Maintain a 6 to 12-inch overlap between the sections of landscape fabric to be stapled in place later on.

Step 6: Set the Landscape Fabric in Place

ecogardener landscape fabric

Once you’ve laid out the landscape fabric, it’s time to pin the material in place. To speed things up, weigh the fabric down with stones or heavy objects so that the material won’t move around as you install the staples. Beginning from one edge to the other, the material should be taut and snug on the covered areas.

Get your hammer or rubber mallet and the garden staples. One by one, drive the pins along the edges of the landscape fabric to set the material in place. How many garden staples to use?

  • The general rule is to install a pin on every foot of the edges
  • Install every foot between overlapping sections of the landscape fabric
  • Install a pin to every hole or slit leading to a plant
  • Install a pin between the triangle-shaped X-shape slit
  • Install a pin for every square foot within the interior of the material

You don’t want to skimp landscape staples because the material might move around too much and shorten the life of the fabric.

Step 7: Finish Up with Mulch

ecogardener landscape fabric.

A nice layer of mulch helps insulate the soil, weigh the landscape fabric down, and improve the look of your garden. The mulch should be applied in an even layer because a thick, uneven layer might harm the trees and shrubs nearby.

Do not pile or pack the mulch at the trees’ base or trunk; keep the layers about 2 to 4 inches thick. Anything thicker than 4 inches will choke even the most established plant. Keep the root flare exposed, do not cover this with mulch to avoid suffocating the tree or shrub.

It’s inevitable for trees and shrubs to outgrow the landscape fabric, so always check the material. If the tree or shrub trunk is getting too big for the hole, just a few snips are enough to create a bigger hole for the plant.

Will landscape fabric hurt plants?

It won’t as long as the material is installed correctly. Again, you want to create a large enough hole to fit the trunk or base of the plant. Do not cover the root flare because the material could suffocate the plant - this applies to trees of all sizes too. Finally, when layered, the mulch should be the right thickness so it won’t suffocate the plant or trap the heat.

Why Choose ECOgardener Landscape Fabric?

Landscape fabric isn’t exactly cheap, so you need to choose a reasonably-priced product that will last you years, like the ECOgardener landscape fabric. Our needle-punched landscape fabric is made from durable yet breathable polypropylene material that keeps weeds out while letting air and water through.

Our landscape fabric is easy to install and provides years of premium weed protection without using toxic herbicides. If you need landscape fabric to control weeds, insulate your garden all winter long, or make your outdoor space look good, there’s no better product to get than the ECOgardener heavy-duty landscape fabric. But don’t take our word for it; try it today and start elevating the look of your garden.