No doubt this has been addressed before, but I haven't been on for a while. I would like to know how many of you use a fabric or a liner before you put down mulch or rock, etc. Those of you who don't, do you steralize the soil or do anything to prevent weeds? Thanks!
Mulching a landscape bed: Hate fabric. Becomes worthless as the mulch decomposes and its difficult to plant through if you need to add more plants or annual color. It can be ok under rock beds since it holds the rock up out of the soil and doesn't let it sink into the mud. Regarding weeds: If it is a new bed, you might spray with Roundup a week before prepping and then use a pre-emergent after mulching. A good 2-3" of shredded hardwood mulch will discourage the weeds.
From the perspective of long term maintenance, fabrics are an absolute no-no except under rock or gravel. They are just for the lazy landscaper who cannot clean the bed properly before planting. For weed control, they only help to control what is already growing, or weed seeds already present on the site. Mother nature will dump millions of weed seeds on top of the bed every year, and the fabric will do nothing to help you with that.
The worst jobs I have had involve cleaning up beds with fabric that have not been maintained properly in the past. You cannot pull weeds very successfully, because the established weeds are rooted through the fabric, so you must use chemical control. In most cases, I have removed as much of the fabric as possible, and the weeds come right out with the fabric because they are so well rooted thru it.
In a decorative rock or gravel bed or behind a fieldstone wall, fabric is very functional. As Lanelle said it keeps the stone from mixing with the underlaying soil due to the mobility of nature.
There was a long recent discussion on this. Just use the search function above, or change your default display above to "show all threads."
I don't know if anyone else does this, but, we use newspaper as a weed barrier. Works great, decomposes naturally after a few years (which is about the same time that fabric becomes crappy), is easy to apply and is easy to put in additional plants. There will still be some weeds from seeds flying all around, but chemicals can take care of those. If we don't use newspaper, weeds run rampant through the beds and then when the customer wants a refresher later in the season, the weeds are hell. Whenever we've used the newspaper, we've seen very little weed growth.