The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Smallholding => Land Management => Topic started by: spandit on April 01, 2013, 12:12:46 am

Title: Weed membrane question
Post by: spandit on April 01, 2013, 12:12:46 am
If we manage to buy the house of our dreams I'll be looking to plant a few trees to provide fuel in years to come. I don't like the thought of spraying chemicals to kill grass so was thinking along the lines of this:

Tree planting doesn't take place until the Winter.

If I pegged out some fabric after cutting the grass/rushes (it's damp ground) and left it over the summer, could I then just plant through it in the Winter? Basically, would a few months without light stop the grass etc. growing sufficiently to allow the trees to get strong enough to survive on their own?
Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: deepinthewoods on April 01, 2013, 12:21:03 am

most of my veg is grown thro membrane, and trees benefit from it too. its a v sensible, organic solution.
Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: HesterF on April 01, 2013, 01:19:22 am
I've just planted a load of trees - fruit and other - and have been putting mulch mats around them. I went for rolls (you can also buy individually cut mats but they're more expensive) and they're biodegradable, supposed to last for 2 to 3 years - hopefully enough time for the trees to establish. The ones I've got have a black plastic backing (but allows water through - holes in it) and a wool mix top side (actually like a rug - the cats loved it when I was cutting it up inside and left them a big pile to sleep on). I've also got biodegradable pegs for them.

Now it's early days - literally I've put the mats in over the last three days - so I don't know how this is going to work long term or whether the weeds will find a way through. The biggest problem so far is that the geese have trashed a couple already so I hope they get bored of that quite quickly. Also I can imagine it'll be popular as a nest material for the wild birds and I don't know whether strong winds will rip them up as well.

Oh, and I haven't cleared the grass first (you mention putting down the material in advance) - where we've dug the holes for planting (which is the same size as the roots anyway) it's clear, now the mats will maintain a bigger weed free area around them. Because they're quite thick, the theory is they should work like a mulch too - helping to retain moisture in the earth (our soil dries very quickly) and adding nutrients as it degrades. Just make sure the membrane you buy (there are lots of options) is permieable so it's supposed to be planted through and the water can get through. There are some that are for pathways and driveways which just block everything.

Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: spandit on April 01, 2013, 09:10:22 am
Thanks for the replies. The biodegradable stuff sounds interesting - do you have a link?
Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: Fleecewife on April 01, 2013, 11:59:21 am
I would recommend that under the weed-suppressing fabric you spread a very thick layer of mulch such as spoiled hay (although that does contain weed seeds), or straw, or strawy manure.  This will keep the light out more effectively than weed fabric alone, and will rot down to make a nice friable fertile soil to plant your trees in.  :tree:
Whether the weed fabric can fully suppress your weeds will depend partly on the type of weeds you have.  Creeping thistle, nettles and couch grass will simply come in from the edges and recolonise, and couch in particular will grow on top of the fabric as well as under it.  Make your covered area as wide as you can.  Even just a year of weedfree growth will help your trees to establish, although they would probably survive without it.  We planted so many trees and hedging plants that we simply couldn't afford to cover the ground under them, and like you we don't use weedkillers, or any other chemicals on our land.  The trees and hedges we planted are well established now and shade out the plants below to some extent, but some grass now they are big also provides cover for wildlife - partridges and so on.
Bank voles in particular love to live under weed-suppressing fabric, which gives them an ideal place to shelter while they gnaw their way through the bark of your newly planted trees, so be sure to use spirals and get them well down the trunks, protecting the parts under the fabric.
Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: HesterF on April 01, 2013, 10:55:43 pm
We got ours from Farm Forestry ( (scroll down for the mulch mats). There are quite a few places that sell it, I just googled for the cheapest option. Still not cheap but after we'd paid up to £30 a tree for some of the more expensive fruit trees, I reckoned I'd like them to thrive (and fruit!).

I'm now worried about voles though! We've got chicken wire round the trees - quite big surrounds so that the geese and rabbits can't reach over the top - but I've put the mulch mats right up to the trunks which means it's gone underneath the wire. Ugggh! Always something to worry about just as I was feeling smug about them all being safe from rabbits, weeds and drought.

Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: Fleecewife on April 02, 2013, 12:47:21 am
Sorry  :innocent:   
The other problem we have found, with spirals, is that when the snow is deep the rabbits hop about on the top of it and can reach to nibble (shred) the bark, which is no longer protected.  If we had realised we would have put a second spiral above the first on the more precious trees, instead of losing quite a few.......... :bunny: :bunny: :bunny:  (where's the gun icon when you need it)
Title: Re: Weed membrane question
Post by: spandit on April 04, 2013, 11:52:44 pm
I'd never have considered that! Thanks!

If and when the time comes, I'll be inviting some local air gunners in to control the bunnies, as long as they prep the meat for me! :)