Weed control fabric can stop gooseberry bushes looking like the ones below. At least I hope this to be true, as I want last weekend to be the last time I will need to rescue my gooseberry plants from couch grass and other weeds.
This article looks at the merits of investing in weed control fabric, including a video of how I fitted the fabric around the gooseberry bushes shown.
The Case For Weed Control Fabric
I don’t like weeding. I don’t know anyone who likes weeding. Judging by the posture of my fellow allotmenters, my suspicion is that weeding is very bad for our hips and backs. Unfortunately, nature seems to like weeds very much.
There are some plants that are simply not enjoyable to weed around. Gooseberries are an excellent example. At the time of writing this article, I can admire the scratches over my hands and arms that were made weeding my gooseberry bushes. From a plant’s perspective, constantly digging up the soil around it’s roots can significantly hinder its growth.
Weed Control Fabric
There are three main types of weed control fabric:
- Fabric designed to be used with a mulch
This fabric is a very effective barrier to weed growth, but is not UV sensitive (the fabric degrades when exposed to the sunlight). The fabric can be covered with paving, or with a weed free mulch like wood chips.
- Ground cover fabric
As the name suggests, the fabric has UV protection and can be used without a mulch (although it will last even longer with one). Importantly, the woven nature of the fabric allows rain water to pass through into the ground below (unlike a tarpaulin). This has a double effect of allowing your intended plants to receive water, and inhibits water loss through evaporation.
- Biodegradable fabric
This type of fabric can be quite expensive to buy. It is often made from starch, and can be laid on the top of the soil and is designed to be ‘planted through’ with crops. The fabric lasts long enough to inhibit one season’s worth of weed growth, and then degrades into the soil.
Laying Weed Control Fabric
On our allotment we prefer to use ground cover fabric as it prevents the additional expense of a mulch. However, for a garden, a prettier alternative is weed control membrane covered by a wood chip mulch.
See our video below, or if you prefer, read on for our installation tips.
The most important step is to level the existing weeds, ensuring that the surface the fabric will be applied over is flat and free of any sharp objects.
If there is grass around the bed, it is a good idea to create a shallow trench at the edge of the bed so it is below the level of the grass. This makes it easy to cut the grass without any danger of accidentally cutting the fabric.
Measure out the fabric and lay it around the plants. U pins are extremely useful for holding the fabric in place.
It is time well spent to ensure that the fabric is firmly held in place. Strong winds are inevitable, and if the fabric allows the wind to penetrate under it, the fabric can be blown away or ripped.
The picture below shows the ground cover pinned around our gooseberry bushes. We have deliberately not stretched the fabric too tight, to enable us to walk over it to pick the fruit without fear of tearing the fabric.