There are many reasons why weeds become an issue on an allotment and as many ways to get rid of the weeds. A weed is any plant that is becoming a problem, be it visually in your garden or allotment; or perhaps the weed is overwhelming your allotment plot and preventing the growth of the plant you do want to grow. Sometimes it is not possible to spend hours in the garden or at the allotment, hoeing or digging out the weeds so using weed suppressant can be a quick-fix to the weed problem and even a long-term solution to reducing amount of time spent doing the back-breaking work.
In this article, you will learn about the best weed suppressant materials that are available to purchase and tips and hints on how to use them effectively.
The best: black plastic weed membrane
What is it?
The membrane that we consider to be the best at suppressing weeds has many names including:
- Weed suppressant
- Weed membrane
- Landscape fabric
- Heavy duty sheets
- Ground cover material
- Suppressant barrier
- Driveway/garden membrane
It is actually a material made of polypropylene. Polypropylene is a non-toxic plastic which means it is safe to use in the garden and allotment and it is extremely hardy. It is able to withstand many seasons of use in the garden in damp, cold and hot and dry conditions. It can be washed, brushed and dried to clean it too. In many cases, polypropylene can be recycled so when you are finished with the weed suppressant after many years of use, you can recycle it in the usual way.
How does weed suppressant material work?
There are many natural ways of preventing the growth of weeds or getting rid of weeds in your garden or allotment plot. For example, using manure scattered thickly over the soil, or using a green manure, which is a specific plant which is grown in the soil and can be dug back into the soil in the spring. These naturally suppress weeds by removing the space required to grow and in the case of manure, preventing light reaching the soil. However both of these require work from the gardener or allotmenteer which is not always possible. A relatively ‘quick-fix’ is to use weed suppressant material. It does several things to help suppress weeds and get rid of weeds from a particular area. The dense weave of the material prevents light reaching the soil which suppresses the growth of the weeds and eventually kill a lot of the weeds. It provides a physical barrier to seeds being carried by wildlife or the wind from landing on the soil. In the case of weeds like dandelions, this is a great defence! The membrane can also be used to warm the soil in the spring ready for planting. The heating effect will also cause the weeds that have died to break down and mulch down into the soil, adding nutrients to the soil. The membrane is permeable which means it allows moisture to pass through; this is vital for the soil to sustain life, including the population of the important earthworm.
Why is woven membrane so important?
The tight weave of the membrane is a really important feature of the weed suppressant. It makes the membrane significantly stronger. Although strength might not seem the most obvious advantage of a weed suppressant material, actually using it, positioning it across a large area which might be rocky, with sharp, spiky plants or a gradient would soon teach you to buy a membrane that is strong. Heavy duty weed suppressant that is not woven tends to tear much more often when rolling it out, pinning it down and moving it about. The unwoven membrane is much less durable and might not even last a month or two. In our experience, the wind will easily tear this inferior membrane. We are all well-aware of the issues regarding the production of plastic materials so why not buy a weed suppressant which will stand the test of time and not tear every time you happen to stand on it (as we have found with the non-woven membrane).
The best thickness of weed suppressant to buy
Typically, there are two main thicknesses of the woven style material that are available to purchase. There is also the thinner 70gsm which is typically not well woven (or not at all) available, we do not recommend this particular thickness. However the 100gsm and 125gsm weed suppressant thicknesses are perfect. Unless you are covering seriously rocky terrain, the 100gsm is thick enough for use and is very robust and reusable year on year, so this is one way of reducing the cost of buying the weed suppressant.
The best size weed suppressant to buy
There are multiple factors involved in deciding what size area you will need when covering an area with weed suppressant. The rolls of weed suppressant are typically available in widths of 1m, 1.5m, 2m, 4m and 5m. The lengths available can vary hugely, from 8m to 50m. It is best to buy an area larger than the specific size you are looking for. There needs to be extra to go around the edges as it is best to double up around the edges so there’s no chance of a too-tight membrane pulling out of place and giving weeds a chance to grow. Most importantly, if your area needs multiple rows of weed suppressant next to each other, then you need a certain amount of cross over, we suggest around 0.2m (20 cm) from each row to double over. This is to allow the edges to be secured properly with no chance of light entering and for weeds to grow.
What size roll of weed suppressant to buy
If you have a garden or plot that needs weed suppressant that is 10m x 5m, that would give you a total area of 50m2. There are so many options of which size roll to buy. For example, you could purchase a 1m wide roll, length of 50m. But as you would need lots of rows next to each other, you would require more crossover material wasted between rows. So it might be more economical to purchase a more expensive roll such as the 5m width.
We have always found that buying the biggest width we could afford was the best. There are fewer difficulties securing it to the ground, less wasted material, thus reducing the cost, and they provide the best coverage for suppressing the growth of garden weeds or weeds in the allotment.
How to secure the weed suppressant to the ground
It is possible to use many methods to secure the weed suppressant to the ground. Metal pegs are really good at making sure the weed suppressant is tight to the ground and thus ensuring it works as a weed suppressant across the whole area. However, the holes will allow a small amount of light through to the soil also, if you want to use the material again somewhere else with different hole positions, then you will have small holes allowing light to hit the soil. Plastic pegs are a no in our opinion. They often break and require a much larger hole in the weed suppressant.
The best way we have found is using bricks. These can easily be positioned and repositioned around the weed suppressant to weigh the material down. They do not cause damage to the membrane and allow it to be used again and again. Often you can find old bricks on websites for free such as freecycle to use.
The best place to purchase weed suppressant
Many builders suppliers sell this thick polypropylene weed suppressant however they can be overpriced. There are many sellers on eBay who sell the weed suppressant at very reasonable prices although the prices vary hugely depending on the size of the roll, so look carefully at the specific size and price. Amazon also have some excellent value rolls of weed suppressant. When purchasing online also be aware of the additional costs of delivery that can be added to the price.