If weeds are making gardening more of a chore than a pleasure, a garden mat might be what you need. What's that? A garden mat, sometimes called landscape fabric, is a sheet of organic or synthetic material that lies over the soil of your garden and acts as a barrier for weeds. A garden mat can also help your soil retain moisture and warmth, depending on your garden's needs. But there are a lot of products out there. How do you choose?
When selecting a garden mat for your garden or raised bed, you’ll need to take into consideration several things: where your garden is, your climate, and your garden's growing conditions. Your budget and what you want to grow will also influence your decision. Not sure how to get started? Why not have a look at some of our favorites?
Questions to Ask Before Buying a Garden Mat
There are many options for garden mats, but it’s important to choose the right one for your growing space. The wrong mat won’t stay in place. It may also trap water at your plant’s roots, or cause other problems. If you're looking for the best garden mat for your garden, you should consider a few crucial factors.
How much sun does your garden receive?
If your garden receives a lot of sunlight, a garden mat that offers UV-protection would be ideal. On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate, a garden mat might not be the right decision at all. Landscape fabric trap heats and, in a hot climate, this could harm your plants. If the soil reaches above 85 degrees, for example, peppers won’t set fruit, and tomato pollen becomes sterile.
What about soil quality?
The kind of soil you're using will affect your garden in some ways. One of the most important is drainage. Sand, gravel and rocky soils dry quickly and don’t hold moisture. If this sounds like your soil conditions, consider a garden mat that traps more water. On the other hand, loamy, clay-based soils typically have good drainage, so water is less of a consideration. Moist soils can have issues with standing water. If this is the case for your garden, choose landscape fabric that’s thinner and more permeable.
And if your garden sees a lot of wind, you should consider a heavier-duty garden mat that won't blow away. You might even have to secure it with garden stakes.
What are you growing?
If you're growing bush beans, peppers, or other plants that need adequate spacing, you'll need a mat with pre-cut holes. This will keep your plants from growing too closely together.
Garden Mats: The Basics
A garden mat, or landscape fabric, is a long roll of fabric, plastic, or polypropylene, which is laid over a garden or raised bed. It typically comes in a roll, so that you can customize it to fit your space.
How does a garden mat work?
A garden mat works by covering the ground so that new weeds can’t reach the surface. First, you’ll need to clear the ground of existing weeds. Then, roll out the fabric and cut it to fit your garden space. You'll also need to stake the mat to the soil to make sure it stays put. If your garden mat doesn't come with pre-cut holes for your plants, you'll have to cut them yourself.
Where can you buy a garden mat?
Numerous online retailers, including Amazon and Home Depot, sell garden mats. You can also find them at hardware stores and garden centers.
Our Top 10 Garden Mats
The best mat for your garden will depend upon your particular growing conditions. These are our favorites, in no particular order.
If you want true, one-stop easy planting with a garden mat, put this option at the top of your list. It doesn’t just block weeds; it makes it easy to plant with 3” perforated planting holes in the fabric. Gardeners can punch out up to one hundred twenty-five holes, as needed.
The black plastic mulch is 25 feet long and 4 feet wide. Installing a soaker hose under the plastic makes watering easy. It also blocks weeds and retains heat. You can purchase it at Amazon.
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An eco-friendly option, this landscape fabric combines woven and non-woven weed barrier fabrics in a two-layered, needle punched design. The woven portion gives the fabric superior strength while the non-woven fabric is great for moisture retention and weed control. It weighs roughly eleven pounds and is easy to carry and cut.
The standard garden mat is longer than the Easy-Plant Weed Block mulch, at one hundred feet, but narrower at just three feet. However, it's available in different lengths and widths.
- Sunbelt ground cover weed barrier
- UV stabilized and permeable to air and water and a low cost, ecology safe alternative to herbicide use
- Allows air and water to penetrate for worry-free irrigation
If you have a longer space to cover or want one mat to cut into smaller pieces for multiple beds, the DeWitt Sunbelt Ground Cover Weed Barrier will fill your needs. At a whopping three hundred feet long, one roll could do the trick.
It's sold in packs of one, two, three, and four mats. Unlike the EcoGardener Premium Pro Garden Weed Barrier Landscape Fabric it only has one layer of black woven polypropylene. It doesn’t have pre-cut holes, but it does have a pre-printed yellow guide strip every 12" to help you plant in rows.
This garden mat has a five-year guarantee, even in direct sunlight, and is approved for greenhouse and outdoor use. It’s UV stabilized and permeable, so air and moisture can reach your plants.
- HEAVY DUTY PRO SERIES* 33% HEAVIER COMPARED TO OTHERS
- Enviromentally Friendly Fabric in the 20 Plus Year Range
- Allows air and water to nourish the soils while keeping weeds out
Do you need a heavier-duty landscape fabric? The PRO Series Weed Control Landscape Fabric is 33 percent heavier compared to other landscape fabrics. It’s strong due to its three layers of laminated spun-bond fabric, which also blocks more light than other fabrics.
According to reviewers, it’s easy to install but difficult to tear. It has hydrophilic water permeability to allow air, water, and nutrients to pass through while still blocking weeds. If you install it properly, the manufacturer guarantees it for twenty years.
Unlike other garden mats on this list, it’s not UV-rated and must be covered with mulch or dirt, or it’ll degrade. If you live in a windy area dandelion and other weed seeds could blow into this covering. Consider this if weed control is your primary reason for buying a garden mat.
Only available in a width of 4 feet by two hundred twenty-five feet. You can get it on Amazon.
Ideal for smaller spaces, one roll of Scott Weedout Landscape Fabric is just 3 feet by 50 feet long. While it’s made of plastic, it’s biodegradable and UV-protected. Reviewers claim that it doesn’t allow a lot of water through so it would be ideal for moist soils.
This is non-woven landscape fabric. UV-resistant, and made of spun-bond material, reviewers note that it’s easy to cut. It does, however, tend to curl at the edges when you’re laying it out. Heavy stakes are a must.
One roll is 3 feet by 50 feet, like the Scotts Weedout above, so it’s better suited for small spaces. You can get it at Amazon.
This is a plastic landscape fabric with a 25-year guarantee. Like the Easy-Plant Weed Block Mulch, it’s four feet wide. It’s thicker and harder to cut than other fabrics, requiring a sharp knife and heavy-duty stakes. You can find it on Amazon.
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Many vegetable gardeners prefer their garden mat be chemical-free so that nothing seeps into the soil and reaches the plants, and this product is definitely that. Preen’s landscape fabric is 100 percent spun-bond polypropylene, chemical-free with no UV-protection. One roll measures 3 feet by 150 feet. Reviewers say that it’s strong and durable, stretching easily without tearing. The manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee, as long as their product is correctly installed.
This product has three-layer technology that optimizes air and water flow while blocking weeds. The layers consist of a non-woven layer, a matrix grid core, and another non-woven layer. The matrix core center improves cutting, measuring and stapling to the ground. This garden mat has UV-resistant properties and a lifetime warranty. Reviewers note that it doesn’t curl and is easy to install. It's best for rocky, hard soil.
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- Woven, needle–punched fabric for Weed Control and Soil Separation
This environmentally friendly landscape fabric is 100 percent recyclable. Its woven, needle-punched fabric is made of polypropylene and polyethylene. Reviewers like its thickness and budget-friendly price. This is the only landscape fabric available in both three and four-foot widths, though it only comes in a 50-foot length. Terra Home previously only sold to professional landscape architects and companies, this is one of their first direct-to-consumer products.
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Our Verdict: The Best Garden Mat
We tried to pick a garden mat that would work for urban gardeners who had a variety of soil and growing conditions. For that reason, we ruled out garden mats that were best for only one type of soil.
Preen Landscape Weed-Control Fabric is our top pick for the best garden mat. It’s priced at the lower end of the range and is strong and durable without being soil-specific. The manufacturer offers an excellent guarantee.
While it’s a smaller width, the fabric can be overlapped to cover more space. It’s longer than the Sta-Green, Easy Gardener, Scott’s Weedout, and Easy-Plant Weed Block Mulch garden mats, but not so long that an urban gardener might have a lot left over. You'll have to choose the best garden mat for your garden, but this is a great, all-purpose option.