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Old 03-31-2007, 10:56 PM
jamesn162's Avatar
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Landscaping a hill

I have some questions about landscaping a sloped area or a "hill".

I have a client thats wasnt a low mait. landscape with perenials and flowering shrubs that require little or no mait.

They have requested that i lay landscape fabric before i mulch this way there wont be a problem with weed but now that i think about it water + slope+ rain = erosion. Will adding landscape fabrics make the water run down the slope faster thus causing the mulch to slide down with it?

Advice is greatly appreciated my design and proposal is due on Monday
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Old 04-01-2007, 12:30 AM
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yuck...landscape fabric....

Most of that fabric have holes in it, so water can go through it. The mulch will usually soak up the water before it becomes a problem. I would try to talk them out of using landscape fabric, that stuff is a pain. My guess though is that it wouldn't be a problem.

If you are still worried about it, an idea (might not be a good one) is if you use staples to hold down the fabric, don't pound them in all the way...leave a half a inch or so out of the ground (make sure they aren't visible through the mulch!!) and perhaps that would help hold the mulch in place.
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Old 04-01-2007, 11:33 AM
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There is no such thing as no maintenance. Even low maintenance is not really low maintenance until it fills in.

Tell them that fabric will prevent weeds for the first year or two and that after that it will do nothing but gradually stick more and more out of the hill becoming more and more of an eyesore until they end up payoing someone to come in five years from now to rip the entire thing out and start over which will cost more than just paying someone to put a pre- emergent down in the spring and come in a weed it once a month. If you'd like to hear more i know there are some lively discussions in the archives on the topic.

Making sure you have good soiul drainage will help prevent wash out of mulch. Plant it with fast spreading plants (but non-invasive) that will out compete most weeds. Mulch well. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide when finished and each spring for the next few years until the plants have filled in. Weed it periodically (once a month, every other month, whatever).
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Old 04-01-2007, 11:53 AM
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In my experience, fabric will prevent the perennials from expanding and filling in the 'bare' areas. I usually explain to the client that neat thing about perennials is that they fill in and expand so they are a great value for the investment and the fabric will prevent them from growing.
Clients usually understand the counter-productive nature of that situation.
Also, if the fabric has a slick sheen to it, the mulch will have a tendancy to slide down the hill.
Overall, most of the material you have mentioned will perform better without the fabric.
As the mulch decomposes and new mulch is added, any weeds that do grow will put roots into the fabric which makes then even harder to remove.
Have I made my case?
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Old 04-01-2007, 12:23 PM
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thank you very much guys im gonna have to tell them no fabric!
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Old 04-01-2007, 09:50 PM
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Fine Edge is just really nice Fine Edge is just really nice Fine Edge is just really nice Fine Edge is just really nice Fine Edge is just really nice
I vote: No Fabric.

For all the same reasons listed above. We try and talk all our clients out of using fabric if they request it.
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Old 04-02-2007, 07:29 AM
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I'll disagree here.
On large banks the goal is almost always VERY low maintenance. And since we all agree that weeds will be the major nemesis, I design with the idea that the plants will eventually fill in and shade out any weeds BUT in the interim, the fabric will significantly reduce the amount of weeds, especially in a sunny area. Perhaps in 3-4 years certain weeds will begin to infiltrate but by then the shrubs/ trees/ perennials will have begun to shade the area out. And with the plants, don't use any creeping varieties. They are not dense enough to shade out weeds. Use groupings of plants that get 2-4 feet high and spread out alot. And as for perennials, I generally advise that you keep most of them near the bottom of the bank because they require the most fussing. And it's fine to use the mat with the perennials that like to spread. We cut large holes around those plants with slits in the surrounding mat to allow for growth down the road.
Remember too that the mat also significantly slows down the decomposition of the mulch because it's not in contact with the soil. This is definately a maintenance (and money) saver.
I would say that if you definately knew the customer would be diligent the first few years with weeding/mulching etc., you could skip the fabric. But few are. Once you get past that stage, if the area was designed correctly, the plantings should take over and minimal weeding or mulching would be required.
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Old 04-02-2007, 08:21 AM
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Fabric sucks.
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Old 04-02-2007, 08:58 AM
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I'm voting with johnkeegan on this one. I am a staunch supporter of fabric, especially for those folks who request "low to no maintenance". When they say this it equals to me--I won't be out in my flower beds EVER. In my area, within 1 month of planting you can typically tell who has fabric and who doesn't unless the no fabric belongs to a very diligent homeowner who actually goes outside and tends to their flowerbeds.

Up North you may not have the weed problem we do, but even the heaviest, thickest plants have a tough time shading out many of our weeds down here (ie nut sedge, spurge, thistle, etc.) due to thier fast nature of growth and our prime conditions for weed growth.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:04 AM
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Invasive weeds eventually penetrate the toughest landscape fabrics, and knot into it...making them virtually impossible to rip out. If the mulch layer is thick enough, and pre-emergent has been applied (and reapp'ed if necess) before the plantings go into the bare formed beds, our experience is that any windborne weeds or hangers on can be easily pulled out. I'm with TrickyDick on this one for much the same reasons. And because...fabric sucks.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:21 AM
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Raj, the key term in your first sentence is "eventually" and the key terms in your second sentence are "if" and "if" and "can." Until you get to the "eventually" (3-4 years) the mat will help and if they don't do the "if" and "if" and "can" (which they usually don't), the mat will also help considerably.
Remember too we are specifically discussing a bank which invariably is harder to work on than a foundation bed, i.e. less likely the "ifs" and "cans" will be addressed.

Last edited by johnkeegan; 04-02-2007 at 09:24 AM..
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:28 AM
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Eventually always comes around pretty quickly, and in the end analysis, landscape fabric has always been more of a liability than an asset in my experience.

Given the choice between insufficient mulch plus fabric and just insufficient mulch, I'd take the latter. I've seen a few windswept hill bedding areas where mulch was thinned out over time and the fabric was incredibly choked up with grass. Fixing the problem would be a big and dirty job.
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Old 04-02-2007, 01:05 PM
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I think that fabric does make a longer term mess, especially in a mixed planting. Lanelle makes the best point on that matter.

But what about this, Sell the customer on the horticultural/ ecosystem advantages including their long term investment. Natural banks don't have fabric, they have succession. The process by which advantageous species spread, then when they have stabilized the soil, the mature plant communities can become established. That is the idea behind using things that will fill in. In our area you frequently see Staghorn Sumac filling that primary succession role. Did you know there are ornamental sumacs? Use them. Fabric won't let them fill. What ever you do over plant it.

And another thing, offer your services to keep the bank maintained for those critical 3 years. Pull the weeds, reapply the mulch, apply the preemergent, prune it, etc. You could make a good payday, and take care of your "baby".
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Old 04-02-2007, 03:01 PM
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"Natural" banks also have alot of weeds, invasives etc. Not exactly what Joe and Jane Suburbia want. They also don't want to pay me $55-$60/ hour to weed banks. And we all know they don't have the time and their kids won't do it.
The more I minimize the cost and effort of maintaining a newly planted area, the greater the odds that they will call me back within those 3 years for additional plantings. It's much harder to talk someone into a design for new plantings after you just handed them a large bill for maintaining the previous area.
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Old 04-02-2007, 03:10 PM
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guys thanks for all the great advice i used every bit in my decision. I have told the customers about all the downsides and they still want to go ahead and do it so i gonna go with the fabric becasue they want me to.
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