Last Modified: March 3, 2024

Landscaping Fabric

A Beginner's Guide to Weed Membranes

A gravel blog page template

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


Landscaping fabrics play an important role in many garden and landscaping projects, helping to manage many common problems and reducing overall maintenance requirements. From keeping weeds at bay to ensuring that the ground beneath it breathes and drains efficiently, it is an essential tool for most professional landscapers. Also known as weed barrier or garden membrane, it is marketed under many names and comes in various types which are all specifically suited to different applications.

As always, the devil is in the details, so this article will teach you what you need to look for when purchasing the materials for your specific needs. In this article, we demystify and examine the various types available to homeowners and DIY-enthusiasts, including some natural alternatives and also guide you on how to choose the right type for your specific garden project. Let's lay it down!

Landscaped gravel garden with shrubs and hedgerow scaled. Jpg

Key Takeaways

  • Variety: Landscaping fabrics come in three types - non-woven, perforated, and woven - and many different names.
  • Chemical-free Weed Control: Weed fabrics are an alternative to chemical herbicides, suppressing weeds through sunlight blockage.
  • Durability: High-quality landscape fabrics provide long-term weed control and soil stabilisation, lasting many years.
  • Alternatives: Eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic fabrics, like jute and coir, offer sustainable but less durable solutions for environmentally conscious landscaping projects.
Weeds growing through black limestone chips edging

What is Landscape Fabric Called?

One of the confusing aspects, even for seasoned gardeners, is that 'landscape fabrics' are sold under many names, that also range from weed control fabric and soil membrane, weed membrane fabric and geo-textile fabric. However, the terminology usually changes based on the material's qualities; for instance, "weed block" might refer to a particularly dense type of woven fabric designed to suppress aggressive bamboo species, although it is not a rule.

Understanding Landscaping Fabrics

Landscaping fabrics are a permeable layer made from polypropylene that serves many purposes in landscaping and around the garden, primarily weed control. Just like clothing fabric, weed control membranes come as a roll that’s usually made from the perforated or non-woven polypropylene material. 

Beyond weed prevention, the woven and non-woven geotextile fabrics are widely used in construction projects, from stabilisation membranes under driveways to soakaway crate wraps in drainage applications. They work well beneath gravel paths and hardscaping areas. The black woven heavy duty weed membrane is excellent as a driveway fabric because it is specifically designed for these applications, which ensures the durability under extreme use.

Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of using a gardening membrane, along with the key properties.

Golden gravel driveway


Landscaping fabric offers numerous benefits:

  1. 1
    Weed Control: One of the primary benefits is its effectiveness in suppressing weeds without the need for chemical herbicides. By blocking sunlight, it also prevents weed seeds from germinating.
  2. 2
    Soil Moisture Retention: Landscape fabric helps in retaining soil moisture by reducing evaporation. This can be particularly beneficial during dry spells, reducing the need for frequent watering.
  3. 3
    Erosion Control: For sloped areas, it stabilises soil and prevents erosion by wind and water, while keeping your aggregate in place.
  4. 4
    Durability: High-quality landscape fabrics are durable and last for many years, providing long-term weed control.
  5. 5
    Permeability: They are designed to allow water and air to penetrate so plants can get the necessary nutrients and hydration for healthy growth.
  6. 6
    Cost-effective: When used correctly and chosen for the right application, a weed barrier can significantly reduce maintenance. For instance, a fabric 1m x 10m or a larger membrane 2m x 25m roll can cover significant portions of your garden for little expense.
Ice chippings use mulch around saplings. Jpg


Despite its benefits, it is not without it's disadvantages. Over time, organic matter can accumulate on top of the fabric, allowing weeds to grow, if not kept free from debris. Also, if not properly installed or of poor quality, the fabric can tear, leading to weeds growing through and a shabby appearance. Lastly, because most landscape fabrics are made from synthetic materials that do not decompose, they degrade over time which can contribute to plastic pollution if not properly managed towards the end of their life cycle.

Uncovering the Properties of Landscaping Fabrics

In order to perform the many roles it does, landscaping fabrics possess the following key properties:

  • Three Types: Weed fabrics come in three primary types: nonwoven, perforated and woven.
  • Textures: Non-woven types have a felt-like and flexible texture from the randomly oriented fibres, while woven geotextiles possess a smooth, grid-like texture from the woven threads.
  • Variability: Landscape fabric comes in various weights and thicknesses, tailored to different uses. Thicker fabrics are more durable and better suited for high-traffic areas or under rockeries, while the lighter types are suited to ground covers and flower beds.
  • Ease of Installation: It is generally easy to install, requiring the fabric membrane to be rolled out over the soil surface then you’ll need some pegs or staples to secure the sheet.
Poorly installed heavy duty weed membrane underneath pea shingle

Is Landscape Fabric Plastic?

Most landscape fabric is made from polypropylene, a type of plastic, which is why they are the most common and durable types. However, they are not jut sheets of plastic.

There are also alternatives made from natural materials like jute, coir, wool, and burlap which offer eco-friendly alternatives to synthetic fabrics, biodegrading over time to enrich the soil. These materials are less durable and require more frequent replacement. They are most suited for situations where environmental sustainability is a priority or in areas like vegetable gardens.

Understanding the Difference Between Filter Fabric and Landscape Fabric

The difference between filter fabric and landscape fabric lies in the use cases. While both filter fabric and landscape fabric permit the flow of water while keeping unwanted materials out, filter fabric is specifically designed for drainage projects such as French drains or retaining walls instead of preventing weed growth. Filter fabric is usually made from the perforated geotextile to better filter out sediment as water passes through.

Need to work out how much sub-base your foundations need? Try our free sub-base calculator.

The Three Main Types of Landscaping Fabrics

Weed fabrics come in three primary types: perforated, nonwoven and woven. Non-woven fabrics, suited for plant beds and gardens, provide excellent weed control, whereas perforated fabrics are pre-punched with holes to facilitate planting, weed suppression and water permeability. Woven fabrics are best for heavy-duty applications and are the least permeable. There are also some natural alternatives.

Perforated landscaping fabric. Non woven and woven

Perforated landscaping fabric, non-woven and woven geotextiles (from left to right).

Perforated Weed Barrier

Perforated weed barrier fabric is generally non-woven, with small holes punched into the surface or perforations throughout the material to allow for drainage and airflow. It still effectively blocks out sunlight and weeds while allowing water and nutrients to pass through. This is the most cost-effective and commonly used weed fabric in domestic settings to stop weeds from growing, usually under some kind of gravel mulch or decorative ground cover.

This type of fabric generally has the lowest density at around 50gsm or grams per square metre. This means it is the thinnest and, therefore, the least durable.

Close up of non woven geotextile landscaping fabric

Non-woven Geotextiles

Produced by bonding fibres together, non-woven geotextile fabric has a felt-like texture. They are permeable and designed for drainage and filtration applications, which is why they are typically used in projects that require effective drainage solutions, such as behind retaining walls, in French drains or around soakaway crates.

The non-woven types of fabric can range from 50gsm right up to 300gsm.

Non woven geotextile weed fabric

Woven Geotextiles

Woven geotextiles are made by weaving together synthetic fibres to create a strong and durable fabric suitable for applications requiring high tensile strength, such as pathways, drives, roadway stabilisation and erosion control. These fabrics are less permeable which makes them ideal for separation and stabilisation applications where water flow is not a primary issue. Their construction allows them to distribute loads evenly, preventing soil from sinking under the weight of heavy materials like gravel in driveways or parking lots.

The woven types of fabric can range from 80gsm to over 300gsm.

Laying woven geotextile weed membrane

Choosing the Right Weed Barrier

Choosing the correct type of landscaping fabric for your garden depends on the specifics of your project. Whether you're looking for a fleece to protect new seedlings or a woven landscaping fabric for gravel paths, there are specific types designed to suit every application. In the following section, we cover the key differences to help you make the best choice for your needs.

Perforated vs. Woven vs. Non-Woven Geotextile

Perforated weed fabric is primarily used for weed suppression in gardens and general landscaping. It's generally the most cost-effective and common type found on the market.

A woven geotextile will likely serve you best if your primary concern is stabilisation, separation, or erosion control. Its strength and durability is ideal for supporting the sub-base of driveways, walkways and other areas subject to heavy loads.

On the other hand, if drainage and filtration are your main goals, a non-woven geotextile is preferable. Its permeable nature makes it well-suited for managing water flow and preventing sediment buildup in drainage systems.

Flooding in a gravel garden. Jpg

Materials That Can be Used Instead of a Synthetic Landscaping Fabric

If you're looking for alternatives to landscaping fabric, there are several sustainable options available. Organic mulches, such as wood chips, bark mulch or straw, can suppress weeds while adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose. Other solutions, like putting newspaper or cardboard under a layer of mulch can also effectively block weeds, although they will usually decompose over a year and will need replacement. Another option is the use of burlap sacks as a fabric.

Can You Use Regular Fabric Instead of Landscape Fabric?

While it might be tempting to use regular fabric such as old sheets as a budget-friendly alternative to standard landscape fabric, it's important to consider the suitability for outdoor conditions. Most regular fabrics don't allow proper water and nutrient flow to the soil, nor are they designed to withstand outdoor extremes, so they will degrade quickly and become a home for pests.

Laying compost over brown packing paper. Jpg


In conclusion, landscaping fabric, also known by many other names, comes in three main synthetic types, each with their specific applications. Primarily, it provides an effective and efficient solution to weed control, reducing the need for regular and back-breaking manual weeding or the use of harmful chemical herbicides. This makes it a popular tool for any gardener, whether a seasoned professional or a DIY beginner.

However, it's worth remembering that there are alternative weed fabrics available on the market. Materials such as jute, burlap, and coir offer eco-friendly alternatives that are both biodegradable and sustainable. These alternatives may not offer the same longevity as synthetic weed membranes but they do provide a more natural approach to weed control.

Ultimately, the choice of weed fabric will depend on your specific gardening needs and personal preferences. Regardless of your choice, remember that proper installation and maintenance are key to maximising the effectiveness of any weed control fabric. Happy gardening!

Robin in a tree. Jpg


What's the difference between landscaping fabric and geotextile fabric?

The difference between landscaping fabric and geotextile fabric lies in their construction and primary use cases. Landscape fabric is usually designed for weed control, while geotextiles, whether woven or non-woven, are engineered to be more robust and also used in soil stabilisation, roadway underlayment, drainage systems and for erosion control.

Is landscape fabric the same as geotextile?

No, landscape fabric is not the same as geotextile fabric in a practical sense. Although often used interchangeably online, landscape fabric and geotextile differ in their intended applications.

Landscape fabric is primarily used to prevent weeds in gardens and landscapes, while geotextile fabrics are more versatile and can also be used for soil stabilisation, drainage, and filtration in landscaping and civil engineering projects. While both are part of the larger family of landscaping fabrics, their specifications and use cases can vary significantly.

Can you walk on landscape fabric?

Landscape fabric is durable and designed to withstand a certain amount of foot traffic, making it suitable for use under walkways, patios, and gravel driveways. However, it's imperative to choose a fabric that's appropriate for the level of use it will receive. A thicker, more durable fabric or a specific type of geotextile designed for such conditions is recommended for areas expected to endure heavy traffic.

Which landscape fabric lasts longest?

When it comes to longevity, polypropylene landscape fabrics are among the most durable options available. These fabrics are often UV stabilised to resist degradation from sunlight, making them suitable for long-term use in exposed areas. The density and weight of the fabric also play a significant role in its durability; heavier, thicker fabrics tend to last longer than the lighter, perforated alternatives. For projects requiring the utmost in long-term weed control and stability, selecting a high-quality heavy duty membrane designed for the specific application will yield the best results.

How much weight can landscape fabric hold?

The weight capacity of landscape fabric varies depending on its composition and weave. Woven geotextiles, in particular, are renowned for their ability to distribute and support weight, making them ideal for use in driveways, parking lots, and other high-load areas. The fabric's tensile strength determines how much weight it can support without tearing or deforming.

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About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.