Saturday, September 8

We need all the help we can get

When it comes to keeping on top of the weeds anything that can tip the balance in our favour is welcome. When plants are producing crops, time is devoted to harvesting so weeding is neglected. Picking various berries is especially time consuming so at fruit picking time weeds can get a bit - no lets be honest a lot - out of control.

We have had weed control fabric around the base of our apple hedge and redcurrant bushes for ages now. The fabric is covered with bark chippings which are dropped off by the council. The photos below were taken just after laying the fabric in September 2009.
The bark chippings are probably due for a top-up now but this has certainly helped keep around the base of the plants tidy.

As this weed control method has been such a success, this year we decided to use the fabric for other beds so we can hopefully cut down on weed growth and have more of a chance of keeping up with weeding on the rest of the plot. That's the theory anyway and a lot depends on whether we can reuse the fabric in future years as it is too expensive to keep replacing!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I've posted lots about using the fabric around our strawberry plants. In spite of the very wet conditions our fear that covering the soil would encourage slugs has been unfounded. Obviously there has been slug damage to berries but no more than usual in fact maybe less than in previous years. We intend to remove the fabric over winter to let the soil breathe and also so we can hoe around the plants and feed them.
 
Last year we took our eye off the ball and weeds smothered our carrots. Combined with the dry conditions the weeds robbed the carrots of any moisture that there was in the ground and the carrots failed miserably. This was a disaster as we love home grown carrots. We were determined to try and prevent a repeat so we decided to try employing weed control fabric on the carrot bed. This too has been a success. The carrots haven't been weeded other than when they were very small and very few if any weeds are evident amongst the carrot foliage.
Flushed with the above successes we have now moved on to trialling the use of weed control fabric for some of our other crops.

In this years very wet conditions, earlier planted lettuce was quickly swamped by weeds and so the latest lettuce planting has been through fabric. Other than the odd failed plant things are looking promising.


We have also used fabric on the bed in which we have planted winter brassicas. So far so good - the brassicas are growing well.
Compare these to the uncovered brassica bed which was weeded at about the same time as the winter brassicas above were planted. So far the weeds aren't too dominant in the photo below but give them time! I may be imagining things but the brassicas planted through the fabric seem to be growing faster than usual - maybe it's due to the cool wet conditions rather than the covered soil or maybe the green manure that was dug in prior to planting the brassicas has had an effect. Whatever the reason, the fabric isn't hampering growth ...
... so following on from this we have now planted some spring cabbage through fabric.
We're also thinking of planting our autumn onion sets in a similar way to the carrots i.e. in a sort of channel through the fabric. The channel will be wide enough to allow the onions to grow but should keep down the weeds between the rows. Onions hate being weedy and can be quite difficult to keep weed free so it's worth trying to suppress any weed growth.

Has anyone else any experiences at using weed control fabric with other crops? 

19 comments:

  1. I have never used weed control fabric on my crops but this is sure looking great. However I am more interested in those lovely looking spring cabbages you have just put in. Every year I say I am going to get something in the ground to grow over the winter to prolong my harvests but time always gallops by and I miss my chance. Is there anything i can plant from seed right now or start off in the greenhouse??

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    1. There's the autumn onion sets that we were talking about Tanya but I guess it is a bit late for most other things although there's nothing to lose from having a try.

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    2. Hhmmm...might see if there is anything going cheap in the garden stores as I don't want to spend money and waste it.

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  2. It certainly looks to be keeping the weeds down, very neat and tidy. It will be great if you're able to reuse the fabric, but as you say, very costly if you can't. Fingers crossed.

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    1. Yes fingers very crossed, Jo. Maybe if our plot was smaller then we would be able to keep it tidy without.

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  3. I've got WCF under all my fruit bushes and it makes a huge difference. I don't care for the look of it at all and over time will probably replace it with bark chip but that's just a personal thing.

    Your beds do look very smart though and I reckon it's perfect for an allotment.

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    1. I wouldn't want to have the fabric on display in a garden setting BW but an allotment is a whole different ball game

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  4. I have not used WCF, yet. Your tidy beds make it look very appealing to use! Cheers, Jenni

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    1. As I said above Jenni , I'm not sure I would want to use the fabric if I was growing vegetables in a garden as you will be but around fruit trees and bushes covered with a bark mulch would be different.

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  5. I have this under my stone chippings on my path. And I have some over, so now it is going over my new strawberry bed which I will plant up soon... just as soon as I am freed up from all this weeding! Next year the brassica patch.

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    1. Will you plant your strawberries through the fabric Mal?

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  6. Wow..I am so impressed with this. If we had a larger garden I would definitely try using it. Look at the difference it makes regarding the weeds!! I am not fussed one way or the other on the look of it...if it works, use it!

    Your lettuce especially look smart and I would appreciate knowing the red variety you have planted Sue, and thank you very much if you wouldn't mind sharing that information.

    kind regards

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    1. The red ones in the photo are Little Gem - Dazzle, Bren

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  7. The brassica photos show what a big impact it makes. You certainly have a lot of brassicas - do you freeze them?

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    1. They generally are picked fresh to use Liz, although my sister does freeze some that I pass on to her. They tend to hang on in the ground for a while.

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  8. The weed control fabric seems to be doing a good job for you around the plants. I've used it in areas of the garden but not really around edibles much. I have found some rather massive slugs under my weed control fabric!

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    1. We feared we would get more slug damage Kelli but it doesn't seem to be the case. We did put pellets under the fabric though with the idea that they were well away from any other creatures. I did wonder if any slugs that ventured across the fabric would be easier prey than those with weeds to hide amongst.

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  9. I see you are using the heavy duty weed control fabric, which makes sense - that flimsy stuff seems close to useless, and certainly doesn't last well enough to re-use in subsequent years. Is your apple hedge one of cordon apples? It is something I am keen to try in my back garden, any tips?

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    1. I can't really advise on the apple cordons, Janet as we inherited the apple hedge with the plot. The 'trees' are really old and canker ridden but still keep fruiting so we have kept them. As for pruning to be honest I just trust my instinct which may be wrong but I find when I watch and listen to gardeners explaining pruning techniques on TV I just get lost.

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