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WEED MEMBRANES FOR A LOW MAINTENANCE BORDER???

I've just been asked about this for about the millionth time by a prospective client today and I thought I should probably put something up about it....


Disclaimer 1. Before you read this I'm not pointing fingers at anyone and not suggesting the world is going to end if you've just stuck a load of it down, only to inform those that might be contemplating a bit of garden work for the following year....


Disclaimer 2. I freely admit that what I'm writing is a mix of industry recognised facts, professional experience and personal opinion.


Weed membranes/ permeable membrane/ landscaping fabric

As a professional designer and landscaper I come across these a lot, they have their uses but rarely are they warranted in our gardens. For simplicity I've divided them in to 3 types.

Non-woven geotextile

This is probably the one I use the most and it (generally) comes as a roll of white rough fleecy type material, it is the industry standard for laying beneath a type 1 MOT (hardcore) subbase for patios etc. water flows through it easily but weeds can penetrate it over time - it isn't designed as a weed or root barrier, but seen as its supposed to have subbase, some kind of mortar bed and paving material laid over the top weeds don't tend to be a problem.

Woven Landscaping Fabric/ geotextile

This is the heavy duty woven black plastic stuff that you'll see a lot of landscapers using, its frays horribly at the edges when it's been cut and it's often (and incorrectly) laid under paving, gravel, bark etc. Not a lot of people realise that this product is a geotextile designed for building roadways, it's extremely heavy duty and not that permeable. Despite that it almost always ends up with dandelions (not that I have a problem with them) growing through it.

Weed membrane

Thin, generally black and almost fabric like to the touch. This one is probably most frequently used by gardeners as a sort of barrier to stop weeds coming up in a border and mulch disappearing into soil.... the long a short of it is it doesn't work.... it degrades in sunlight and is nowhere near tough enough to prevent weeds from growing through after about 6 months. I've yet to work out what use this one actually is?



It is worth noting that a lot of the weeds that pop up in the borders are from seed come from other parts of your garden, neighbours gardens etc, when you lay a membrane down over time a thin layer of humus will build up on top of the membrane, underneath the mulch from leaves, and other organic material that lands on the mulch. This provides a lovely seedbed for all those windblown seeds.


There are a few cheap ways to keep on top of the weeds in your borders... I've put my favourites below:

Weeding... can't beat it and you can leave in the less pernicious natives like dandelions.


Repeat mulches... my preferred and proven option is a double layer of corrugated cardboard (usually free but you can buy it on a huge roll). On top of this you need to lay around 100mm or 4 inches thick of a biodegradable mulch such as garden compost, PAS 100 type compost or bark. The benefit of the latter two is they are weed free in the first instance. After 18 months your cardboard will have started to break down and your planting will have begun to establish itself AND there's no nasty plastics in added into the soil. On top of that, whereas the plastic type membranes reduce the microbial life in the soil underneath, organic mulches have the opposite effect.

I now open my rant up to discussion, criticism and questions😁




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