Month 13: my allotment has expanded a bit this year as I’ve taken on some unused adjacent plot. This is thick with grass and other weeds so I’m using weed suppressant membrane to bring it under control with less effort. It may not look pretty, but it works.
Last year when I took on my new allotment I hand-weeded the entire plot using a hand fork. This was really enjoyable and worked wonders, removing many of the perennial weeds. However there were two problems: first, it did take quite a few days to do and second, in spring the bare soil was the perfect bed for sprouting weed seeds.
This year I have covered some of my existing beds and ‘beds to be’ on the new land with 2m wide weed suppressant matting (see photo above and below). The idea is that the membrane blocks light (although allows movement of water) which prevents the seeds germinating and will slowly kill any existing or germinating weeds while it’s in place. This is very effective.
I’ll remove the membrane when I am ready to plant in spring, so around March or April when the weather is warming up and frosts have passed. I’ll still have to hoe and hand weed of course, but I will have saved time prior to the growing season. Throughout the growing season, the membrane can be placed over beds waiting to be used.
Weed suppressant membrane is quite expensive at about £20 per 2m wide x 20m long pieces so I can’t afford too much and will need to look after it carefully for future years. I hope to get a good few years of use out of all of it.
Admittedly, it doesn’t look particularly good and is easily torn if you aren’t careful. I’ve placed some over my Dahlia bed and one of the short stems had ripped through it within a week, so watch out for sticks, stems or other sharp points. Our allotment has foxes running all over it too, so I just hope they don’t play havoc with it.
Apart from the cost and aesthetics, I can’t see any major drawbacks with using the membrane for controlling weeds. If you have lots of perennial weeds like bindweed and ground elder, you’ll of course still need to dig these out by hand, use a weed killer or leave the matting in place for at least 12 – 24 months to fully weaken and kill the plants beneath.