While permaculturists strive to live sustainably and limit their impact on the environment, it can be a challenge to manage garden pests without the use of harmful chemical sprays. Weeds dig their roots into your soil and steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from other plants – while expanding its own system to disperse offspring throughout your garden.
Using a weed barrier can help you fend off these frustrating intruders without turning to sprays that will cause harm to the environment by blocking sunlight, water, and oxygen from getting to the weeds – either killing them or stunting their growth and preventing them from reproducing.
There are several types of weed barriers that you can install in your own garden to help control your weeds.
Natural weed barriers
Gardeners have been taking advantage of natural prevention techniques for centuries – using peat moss, straw, leaves, mulch, or other organic materials to block weeds from establishing themselves among your desired vegetation. Since these materials are biodegradable, you will need to check your barrier periodically to ensure it remains effective, and likely replenish it at least once a year.
Some of these materials may contain weed seeds, which can worsen the problem. If your barrier is too thick, you might also prevent your cultivated plants from receiving sufficient water and oxygen.
Homemade weed barriers
These barriers are made with materials like newspapers, cardboard, garbage bags, or other household products. Most of these materials will filter through air and water, and will still eventually decompose into the soil. However, they can give your garden a bit of an unsightly appearance and can be blown away in strong winds if they aren’t well-secured.
These barriers are an inexpensive way to block weeds from establishing themselves in your garden, though, and are a great solution to recycling discarded products.
Fabric weed barriers
These barriers can be purchased from a garden centre, usually sold in rolls. With a synthetic, geotextile material and a layer of laminated black polyethylene, a barrier made with landscaping fabric can be even more effective than using herbicides. Weeds will be starved of sunlight thanks to the dark color of the fabric, but the mesh still allows water and oxygen through to reach the soil.
This barrier is often used to coat the entire garden area, with slits cut through to allow for cultivated plants to emerge. It can be quite expensive, especially for a large garden, and can require replacing after a few years.
Plastic weed barriers
Using a plastic barrier is a very effective way to suffocate weeds – even mature, established plants. This black plastic material is spread out over weeds, keeping them from receiving any sunlight, oxygen, or water, while absorbing sunlight and warming the soil to enhance the growth of the surrounding desired plants.
These barriers are quite durable and are generally more expensive than most other options. However, the versatility and efficiency of this type of barrier makes it a solid choice for longer term projects like trees, shrubs, and developing flower beds.
Fabric and Plastic barriers should not be first on the list of go to items, but, every site is different so just make sure you use these products in appropriate places.