January 18, 2018

Which ground cover is best for weed control?

Ground Cover Weed Control

The bane of every gardener is how to control the weeds that keep springing up [from nowhere] on the allotment. The question we are always pondering is , which is the worse offender, the weeds or the pests? But even if the weed crisis only comes second place it needs addressing [annually]. If there are no crops growing on the ground at the moment we have the option of totally covering the ground which should banish the weeds. Over the past few weeks I decided to put various ground cover materials to test. I assume that even if new weeds were to germinate they would have little chance of survival under any ground cover, what I was trying to test, was which ground cover would be strong enough that it could even banish existing weeds.

My Ground Cover Weed Control Experiment

I took an assortment of equal sized materials and covered a spare piece of land on my allotment that had quite a variety of weed vegetation growing.

ground-cover-weed-control-experimentAs the picture shows the strips were covered with different material in the following  order from left to right;

An old carpet, a black felt type material sold specifically for weed control, a black woven polypropylene also sold specifically for weed control, a white woven polypropylene fabric, a black dustbin bag, and a mulch of bark chips.

The results of my ground cover weed experiment

After a few weeks I checked the progress of my experiment, I folded over the ground covers and the second photo illustrates  the outcome.

ground cover weed control
note the bare patches on the right

The first square, the carpet, definitely outdid all the other treatments and starved the weeds from all their needs, upon removing the carpet the ground underneath was practically bare of weeds, the bark mulch on the other side was also bare after just a few weeks. The felt type weed protector also did quite well , but I was surprised that the woven polypropylene covers had very little effect on the weeds. The black dustbin bag and the white woven polypropelyne seemed to actually protect the weeds from the elements and helped them grow!

The outcome can be explained with the fact  that since the squares were around a metre2, they could have allowed water to reach the weeds and therefore they continued to grow, unless they were totally darkened by a thick cover like a carpet or a deep mulch. If the covers would have been larger the outcome may have been different, but this experiment was to determine how to get rid of the weeds of just a small area of land,  larger areas might benefit from different treatments.

After ground treatment perennial weeds will still need digging out by the roots

Remember though, that perennial weeds have strong roots, and even if the top growth has been removed with a ground cover, this is just to make it easier to deal with the roots, but unless the roots are covered for at least a whole season they will just regrow within a short time. There is only one real solution to the weed problem on allotments, and that is the hard work of digging them out.

In order to ensure that no corner of my allotment will ever become a bed of weeds again – I have just made a new year resolution, in the coming year I will literally turn over every new leaf!  This year as soon as I see a weed seedling I will immediately remove it without allowing it to grow into a whole mass of weeds with strong roots. (I know I am going to keep this resolution as well as I have kept all the others in the past!).

Good gardening in the New Year,


Boris Legarni .

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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  1. Profile photo of Boris Legarni
    Boris Legarni

    Sorry daitheplant, with the new year and everything, I must have missed this. Please accept my apologies. Thanks for your comment and as you correctly point out, the best weed control is digging them out. However for those of us getting on in years with our back joints starting to creak we do sometimes look for shortcuts! The truth is all other types of weed control such as suppressants do weaken the weeds and make it easier to dig them out. I was mainly experimenting to see which suppressants work best, and save our readers some money!
    Looking forwards to more comments from you which I will do my best to respond to
    All the best

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