Sick of your lovely garden being taken over by unruly weeds? Fed up of spending more time pulling up weeds than actually tending to the plants that you want in your garden? Wanting to avoid potentially harmful weed-killers? Then weed membrane could be for you! Weed membrane is a type of fabric that can be laid between plants in your garden to help prevent weed growth.
Weed membrane has caused a lot of debate in the gardening world as to its pros and cons. It also has a number of names, which can add to the confusion – such as weed membrane, weed barrier, landscape fabric, membrane and weed fabric. For the sake of this article, we will stick to weed membrane, to keep things nice and simple!
This article aims to provide you with all the information you need about this weed deterrent so that you can make an informed decision about whether it is right for your garden, or not.
What Actually Is Weed Membrane?
Weed membrane is a material made of either bonded plastic (polypropylene) or textiles, that is placed on the ground to prevent weeds from growing. There are two main ways in which weed membrane is created – through woven fabrics or non-woven membranes. Woven fabric weed membranes usually involve plastic fibres that have been woven together to make a durable and strong material. Whereas non-woven membranes involve bonding these plastics together.
The idea is to place the membrane in places where you DON’T want weeds to grow, so that plants that you DO want to grow, have a better chance of surviving. The way this is done is by preventing sunlight from getting to the ground where the weeds are trying to grow, and also stops weed seeds from getting to the soil in the first place! But it does have more uses than just this!
Where Can I Use My Weed Membrane?
In a perfect world, you would be able to fill all the little corners of your garden with weed membrane, so that you never have to pick a weed again! However, it isn’t quite as simple as this! The more holes that you have to create in the membrane for established plants, the more space there is for weeds to grow. Therefore, the best place to use weed membrane is where you have no plants growing (for example under raised decking or around water features).
We do understand though, that this leaves vast areas of your garden uncovered by the weed membrane and therefore at risk of becoming a home for weeds! Areas where you have bigger spacing between plants, such as shrubberies, may be appropriate for weed membrane as you will be able to have bigger spaces covered by the membrane with fewer holes for the weeds to access.
Basically, the main thing that anyone needs to remember when using weed membrane is that the more holes that are cut into the fabric to allow space for plants, the less effective it will be at doing its job!
What Do I Want From a Weed Membrane Product?
- The first thing to mention is that it is always better to purchase a good quality product instead of a cheaper option! They will last much longer than their cheaper counterparts, which is important when it is so difficult to remove and replace! As soon as the membrane starts to break down, your garden is back to being a target for unwanted weeds!
- Permeability – This really depends on whereabouts in your garden you are using your weed membrane. If being used for paths or drives then you will want a less porous, woven membrane that will not allow water through. However, for bedding areas, a non-woven, more porous option is important so that your other plants can still get the water and nutrients that they need.
Pros and Cons of Weed Membrane
- Stops the need for weed killers, which can not only be harmful to your established plants but also to animals in your garden.
- Good fabric will last around 10 years – so a lot more cost-effective than weed killers
- Replacing the fabric when it does need replacing will be a time-consuming job!
- Some people claim that it doesn’t always stop the weeds from growing, they just grow underneath the fabric! So the weeds are still taking the nutrients out of the soil and away from your precious plants.
- Stops some goodness from getting to the soil, so can then reduce the nutrients available for your other plants.
- Can greatly reduce the number of earthworms and other critters in your soil, which plays an important role in the natural process of keeping your soil healthy.
Preparing To Lay Weed Membrane
By now you should have enough information to decide whether weed membrane is right for your garden. So here are some tips to prepare your garden for the fitting of your membrane:
- Always ensure to remove ALL weeds from the ground first – otherwise, these could still grow underneath your membrane for some time.
- Add other types of fertiliser such as manure or organic matter before laying the membrane so that your established plants have good quality soil to grow in.
- When cutting the fabric make sure to overlap the edges by at least 8 inches or 2 inches at the border to ensure no spaces for those determined weeds!
- Cover with 2 – 3 inches of mulch to help secure the membrane, protect it, and provide moisture to the ground underneath.
- When planting weed membrane around plants (or adding plants at a later stage) make sure to cut a space that is just large enough for the plant, bringing the membrane as close to the base of the plant as possible (without limiting the plant growth). This will help to avoid any weed growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Some weed membranes come with copper built into the fabric which will prevent these slimy nuisances from getting to your plants!
Yes! You will need landscape pins of some type to secure the fabric down – if it is not secure then you risk weed seeds getting underneath. You will also need some type of mulch, or material to put on top of the landscape fabric, such as wood chips or gravel.