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Gravel - weed suppressing membrane or not?

Finally decided which bits of the garden will be gravelled. We have weed fabric but not enough for the areas being gravelled. Was going to order some more but while out walking the dog, passed a garden that had once been professionally landscaped but then left for at least 15 years. Anyway, local gardener was in sizing up the job & we said hello & then he said that he wished people wouldn't use weed control fabric as it made his job hell. I couldn't stop & chat but now I'm wondering whether to use the fabric or not. What are the pros/cons? Are any types better than others? What are the alternatives - just put the gravel on bare ground??


  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,409
    I think it makes sense under the deep gravel/hardcore of a path, where it can help keep the gravel getting incorporated into the soil and vice versa. Under a thin layer of gravel in planting beds, it can be a problem - always coming to the surface, and you still get weeds rooting through it. It's just that when you pull them up, you pull the fabric up with it. If you plant through slits in the membrane, eventually you may have to lift or divide the plants, and the membrane can make that difficult too.
  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,214
    Totally agree with the workman. Terrible stuff which should never be used under gravel. Weeds just grow in it and the roots spread through the fabric which makes them impossible to remove except with poison.
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,903
    Another vote for the local gardener's view. I've used it under gravel paths and sincerely wish I hadn't. The weeds just enmesh themselves and you can't get them out without ripping chunks out of the fabric. You end up with a twisted mess of holes and microplastics. It's then awful to get the wretched stuff up again.

    However, the heavy duty Terram stuff you can get to go under driveways and that nurseries often use uncovered as a floor in polytunnels etc is better, you can rip a dandelion off it without ripping the fabric, so if you can afford that, then possibly.

    Better really though to just make the path properly, with hardcore and top layers all properly compacted before the surface dressing goes on. It's a lot of work to make but it'll last and you can hoe the weeds out of the surface gravel without constantly snagging on ripped fabric.
    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 22,631
    edited July 2021
    It all depends on the quality of the fabric and the thickness of the gravel. I am glad there is fabric under my gravel, I rarely get weeds. I must add that my gravel is not a planting area, it's a walking on area.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • MaisieMMaisieM Posts: 100
    Thanks all!
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,194
    I really don't like membrane - weeds still self seed on the surface and if it eventually starts to fray you're forever finding bits of black thread round the edges. Shingle or gravel on top of membrane can also be slippery and move around - especially on a slope.

    My landscaper does hardcore - compressed with a whacker plate - followed by a layer of hoggin - also compressed. He then puts down a thin layer of shingle which is rolled to slightly embed it in the hoggin and (if necessary) topped off with a bit more shingle.

    The shingle doesn't move around too much and relatively few weeds self seed in it. 
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • MaisieMMaisieM Posts: 100
    Topbird - thank you, had to google hoggin. Seems it's common in the south but I've never heard of it before. Looks like really useful stuff!
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 1,460
    Whilst I've never put it to the test, I've always imagined the repeated passage of feet on a gravel path will gradually cut any plastic sheet to shreds in fairly quick time?  I did come across a website some time ago that includes a structure for gravel paths that would at least minimise that but, in any case, I think I'd prefer the economy of using builders membrane, possibly in double thickness, in preference to the more expensive weed control product?  Weeds won't root through that.  Have a look at:
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,496
    We had Terram put down under our gravelled areas over 4 years ago and there is no hint yet of any degradation. I’d use it every time over the black plastic weed suppressing membrane sold by the metre in garden centres up and down the country. That stuff does quickly break down, lose its efficacy and is a nightmare to remove.
    Rutland, England
  • CharlotteFCharlotteF Posts: 337
    I don't like it. Even if it's good stuff and doesn't disintegrate at all, you WILL end up with soil on top of it because organic matter that falls on your gravel will decompose and wash through. Then you end up with weeds seeding into the soil on top of the membrane, trying to root into the membrane and becoming a pain in the backside to weed out.

    We have a gravel patio as I wanted to be able to plant into it around the edges. In the areas with high footfall we dug down a little and put in some subbase (MOT2), jumped around on it a bit (hiring a whacker plate is probably advised, but...) and then added the gravel. It holds up well. Weeds and self seeders do seed into the gravel, but are very easily pulled.
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