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Controlling weeds with "membrane"

I am taking over a garden plot that has not been tended properly for a year or two. Consequently it has a weed problem.

Part of it is covered in carpet and this has controlled the weeds.

I am looking to use some kind of membrane or covering to suppress the weeds in the same way as the carpet has.

Note: I want to cover the surface and be able to plant through it for at least a while.

Also I am NOT going to use any mulch or any other covering on top of any membrane substance.

So this must be a covering that blocks out all light itself without needing to be covered.

Can anyone please advise me as to a suitable material to use that will satisfy all these conditions.



  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,758

    Membrane doesn't look very decorative, and also tends to blow around unless anchored well (or covered with bark or other loose material), so you probably wouldn't be happy with it in an ornamental area.  However, I used the woven, black polypropylene sort in a fruit cage years ago, and planted currant bushes through it; that was quite successful without covering (but with plenty of tent pegs to secure it).  It was far enough away from the house that I didn't have to look at it.  It frays when cut though, so you need to turn the cut edges underneath before pegging.

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • Neil83Neil83 Posts: 4

    Ok Thanks for replying, but what precisely did you use?

    I am looking for some kind of specification, thickness, construction , type or even a brand.

  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,758

    Well...  woven polypropylene is made of... woven polypropylene, like the stuff they make coal sacks out of only black.  Not particularly thick, but effective if used correctly.  If you Google "woven polypropylene ground cover fabric" you'll find it's the sort used by commercial greenhouses, and is available in various widths.  When I used it, the brand was Mypex, but when I googled it just now, it just gave me the generic sort.  It's black or dark grey, usually, often with a stripe of blue or white (possibly to make it easier to plant in rows, or set pots out neatly).  The woven sort tends to be longer-lasting than the non-woven "weed barrier" sold in garden centres, though theirs is prettier, being brown or black.  I think the non-woven barriers aren't UV stabilised either, and need covering with bark etc to lengthen their life.  Even the woven sort will degrade eventually.

    You can't get away with laying any ground cover material on top of such things as brambles, obviously.  And tough weeds which grow from underground roots, like creeping thistle, will try to push up the ground cover.  You'll need to remove top growth of weeds - perhaps apply weedkiller first.  Where you make the holes for your plants, weeds will emerge - so starting by killing off the real nasties like bindweed makes sense.

    Hope this is helpful!

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,184

    Neil, forgive my bluntness, but I think your plan has little merit. 

    You plan to have a membrane with holes cut through for plants, but leave the membrane visible?

    Have I got that bit right?

    It sounds hideous IMHO.

  • hi neil83    that sounds a bit like my ways  firstly you will get some gardeners saying you are wrong   but in my own humble opinion do what is best for you I use membrane all the time I have a piece in garden now with 100 garlic in .. last year I had 3 lenths in garden with over 600 onions and the spare bit at the end    18 sprouts and all with battons on edges and 2x1 cut  flags around edges or dig ends in and cover with soil .. (  now that I have said the good thing is you don't get many weeds and that has to be a bonus )    you will get a few that think it is wrong (BUT GOOD AND BAD ANSWERS ARE ALL MEANT WELL)     neil   one thing I would do is try and get most of weeds off or spray with a good weed killer first                      Michael   

  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 7,305

    I agree with michael, do what you want to do as far as weed suppressing is concerned.  If half the area already uses old carpet for the job, membrane over the rest will probably improve the appearance image

    Regarding the membrane itself, the woven polypropylene is the way to go.  I have used fairly heavy duty non-woven membrane but that needs two layers to be effective and really only lasts for about 12 months before deteriorating.  I bought it because I thought it would be a cheaper and effective weed barrier.  It turned out to be neither.  I'm planning to invest in the polypropylene stuff in future.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,054

    I'd agree with Liri and KT53 re the stuff you should use, and it's readily available, but I'd also agree with Hosta that it will be very ugly. If it's an area you're looking at every day, a layer of bark or gravel on top will vastly improve it. Liri's probably right about it breaking down in the light too, so it would help it's longevity.

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Bee witchedBee witched Scottish BordersPosts: 1,052

    Just a thought Neil ...

    If this is an area which has been a garden in the past, it could contain some nice bulbs  / perennials which you don't yet know are there.

    In your shoes I would wait until mid-spring and see if anything lovely appears amongst the weeds that is worth saving. By then it will also be the right temperature to spray off the weeds before covering up with the membrane.

    Good luck with it all.



    Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey   
  • Joy46Joy46 Posts: 1

    Hi Neil, I have used weeding suppressing membrane in a garden that was very overgrown, (not been cultivated for 50 years) with excellent results.As others have said the woven one is best the non woven one in, my experience, does not work. I have just seen some on ebay, one from QVS shop looked good, it is best to get the heaviest weight you can afford, about 100 grms per sq m, and use the large staples to hold it in place. I have used staples on banks and uneven ground, but the peg type fixings would probably be ok on flat ground. I have also not used a mulch, as the mulch then needs weeding. It does look a bit bare at first, but if you plant closely the plants soon cover it. Others have said it will look ugly, but sometimes 'needs must' to get things under control, and if you like informal planting, it's fine. You may need to keeps an eye on planting holes to make sure weeds do not come through and overwhelm the plants. If you ever travel to France the selection of membrane there is huge. I would recommend Leroy Merlon Jardin. Good luck.

  • Neil83Neil83 Posts: 4

    Thanks everyone for your advice. I am aware that it is not the most aesthetic approach but it really is a needs must situation. As for watching for any existing plants I don't need to do that. This is the house where I grew up and it was always used for vegetables until very recently. I have some lovely fruit trees and bushes. It is a fair sized plot and having been involved in looking after it before I know the effort required.This is the only method I can see having the desired effect quickly enough for me to get going.Especially as there are going to be a few periods when weeding won't be possible for me.

    When we moved there when I was a child this garden had gone even wilder than it is now. It took several years to get it back into condition. At the moment it is mainly uncut grass and associated weeds.

    I plan to take the carpet up and dig a pit. I will pull up or strim and collect the bulk of the weeds and bury them. This area will then be used for runner beans or something.

    Nobody but myself and the immediate neighbours will be able to see this. There is a front garden but it looks reasonable. I need to clear a bit of grass there and I already have the some seeds of the unusual plants I plan to add. They will look lovely. Some of them need special treatment to germinate so I am working on that already.

    One of the really strange things is that I have looked at the satellite images on Google and nobody else in the whole street seems to have anything but lawns.

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