This article was co-authored by Benjamin Hansen and by wikiHow staff writer, Glenn Carreau. Benjamin Hansen is a Landscape Contractor and the Owner of Artscape Gardens, a boutique landscaping company in Los Angeles, California. With over 12 years of experience, Benjamin specializes in transforming properties into aesthetic, functional, and drought-tolerant oases. Benjamin uses color scheme, dimension, and water conscious spaces to inspire the design and installation of soft scape, hardscape, patios, pathways, irrigation, drainage, fencing, concrete, lighting, and electrical work. Artscape Gardens covers all areas of the C-27 landscape contractor classification.
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Landscape fabric is a great way to prevent weeds from growing up around your rock garden and keep it looking neat. Installing the fabric under rocks and over plants may seem like a tough chore to tackle all by yourself, but by the end of this guide, you'll discover that it's highly doable! With just a few tools and a little know-how, you can design the perfect garden, yard, or pathway. Keep reading, and we'll show you how to install landscape fabric under rocks easily with no fuss.
Part 1Part 1 of 3:Preparing the Area
- 1Measure the landscape you'll be covering in fabric. Grab a tape measure and write down the exact measurements of the area to refer to them as you gather supplies.XResearch source You'll need to know how much fabric you should cut for the job and how many garden staples you'll need to secure the fabric later.
- Keep in mind that you need enough fabric to cover the entire area, plus a little extra to make sure the edges of the space are covered. A garden only needs 1 layer of landscape fabric at a time.
- 2Weed the area thoroughly. You can pull the weeds up by hand or use a hoe, trowel, or shovel to remove them by their roots, so they won't grow back. Loosen the soil where the weed's stem meets the soil until you can see its main root; then, grasp the root with your hand or a weeding tool and pull it up. Alternatively, hoe weeds by cutting them off with a sweeping motion of the hoe just below the soil's surface.XResearch source
- Since landscape fabric is designed to stop weeds from growing in your garden, it's important to first remove the existing weeds to ensure no more can grow.
- If you have a lot of weeds to deal with, consider spraying them with a nonselective herbicide. Be careful and only spray the herbicide when there's low wind, as it can kill other plants, too.XResearch source
- 3Rake the soil to clear any rocks, bark, sticks, or other debris. Any sharp objects sticking out of the soil can damage the landscape fabric, eventually leaving holes. Clear away all debris to ensure that the fabric lasts as long as possible. Do this using a steel garden rake (alternatively called a bow rake), and throw away the debris that you unearth.XResearch source
- Doing this will make your landscape fabric last longer and look even once laid down and covered in rocks.
- 4Level out the surface soil with your rake until it's flat. Scrape away any hills in the soil and fill up dips so the landscape fabric can lay tight and flat across the ground, covering as much area as possible. This will allow you to create a uniform layer over the top of the fabric as well.XResearch source
- Even out the soil with a hand tamper if you're installing a pathway; this will help to stabilize the rocks once you lay them down.
- Alternatively compact road base or granite can be used to stabilize the area before laying out the fabric.
- 5Fertilize the soil or add compost as needed. If your soil needs any extra care, including compost and fertilizer for plant nutrients, be sure to add that before laying down the landscape fabric. You won't be able to add any once the material is fully installed!XResearch sourceXResearch source
- Do some research and figure out how much is typically healthy for the type of plant you're growing, and mix in as much compost or fertilizer as they need.
Part 2Part 2 of 3:Laying Out the Landscape Fabric
- 1Choose a landscape fabric that best suits your needs. If the fabric is going under rocks alone, a non-woven cloth is acceptable—it's thicker and doesn't let as much water through, but that works because you have no plants to water. On the other hand, if the fabric is going underneath rocks and plants (in a rock garden, for instance), you'll want to pick a lighter woven landscape fabric, which lets water flow more easily to keep your plants healthy.XResearch source
- 2Unroll your fabric across the landscaping area. Start at one end of the garden and lay out the fabric to double-check that it'll cover the whole space before cutting any pieces off the roll. Make sure there are a few inches of extra material around your garden's borders, so you can tuck the fabric later if you lay down edging material.
- Read the instructions to learn which side of the fabric should face down—usually the fuzzy side for woven fabric. The weave on that side is designed to help water flow down toward the roots of plants.XResearch source
- 3Cut the landscape fabric with a utility knife. Remove excess fabric if you're using one piece to cover the area, or cut multiple pieces of fabric from the roll if needed. Make sure that each piece of fabric you cut is a few extra inches wider and longer than the area it needs to cover. This will ensure that the entire area is covered with no gaps or soil exposed.
- Wear cut-resistant work gloves to protect yourself.XResearch source
- Weigh down the edges of the fabric with a large rock (or several smaller ones) to keep it in place while you cut away excess fabric.
- 4Overlap each piece of fabric by 6 inches (15 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm). If your landscape needs more than one piece of fabric to cover it, ensure every adjoining side overlaps so that no weeds can poke up through the seams. You'll most likely cut multiple pieces if your garden is wider than the roll of fabric or you're covering a path that has curves and corners.XResearch source
- 5Cut an "X" into the fabric for any existing plants in the area. Use the utility knife to make your cuts, slicing from the outside towards the center, and be generous with the amount of space you give yourself. Then, gently guide plants through the hole that you've made in the fabric.XResearch source
- Remember to keep an eye on any plants buried under landscape fabric. Even when using material that allows for water flow, your plants may not naturally get enough water.
Part 3Part 3 of 3:Securing the Fabric and Adding Rocks
- 1Use garden staples to fix the fabric to the ground. Drive the staples into the ground every 8 inches (20 cm) to 12 inches (30 cm) along every edge of the fabric, using a hammer or mallet. Also, use staples along seams where two pieces of landscape fabric meet. This allows you to lay the fabric flat and tight against the surface of the soil and make sure it doesn't move as you continue to roll out the fabric.XResearch sourceXResearch source
- Alternatively you could use nails to secure the fabric to the ground before landscaping.
- After the fabric is secured, you can plant any flora that isn't already in your garden. Using the same technique as above, cut an "X" into the fabric and plant your flowers inside that space.
- At this time, install any edging you plan to use if you're laying down fabric for a pathway, and tuck the landscape fabric underneath the edging to stop weeds from growing.
- 2Spread a layer of gravel over the fabric for protection. If you're putting larger rocks over top of this, use a small amount of gravel, so the layer stays thin. However, if your main layer of rocks is gravel, make the layer thicker—roughly 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 3 inches (7.6 cm). A layer of gravel serves as padding for the landscape fabric and stops larger rocks you place on top from sinking into the soil.XResearch source
- 3Layer rocks over the top of the landscape fabric. Stick to rounded rocks since sharp edges can dig into the fabric and rip it apart in time. You can spread smaller rocks by hand or by using a rake and place large rocks by hand as desired. Once you're done, make sure there are no spots where landscape fabric is visible.
- Limit your rock layer to about 2 inches (5.1 cm) thick across the entire length of the landscape fabric.XResearch source