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Last month I read somewhere (probably GW magazine) about putting down weed-suppressing membrane on ground not yet needed for crops, etc. Nothing new, and a fairly common suggestion.

However, does this really make sense in the long run? As I understand it, all the membrane does is suppress the weed seeds, so they don't germinate. Surely, then, when the membrane is taken off, they all shout 'Hip hooray! Here's light, let's get growing!'?  

Why not let the weeds germinate, grow to a reasonable size and before they flower, harvest them for the compost bin?

Alina W

Well, part of the argument is that seeds only have a finite life, so if you suppress them long enough they'll be dead before they can get the chance to germinate.

I gues the counter-argument would be that some seeds live in the ground for a lifetime, just waiting for that opporune moment.

For example: My garden is infested with charlock seed (the previous people kept chickens, and I think the seed came in with their food). I've been here for three years (so the fourth year in the garden) and even though it hasn't been allowed to flower, the stuff is still coming up. Therefore I'd need to keep the membrane on for a few years.


As most weed-suppressing fabric is black, another effect is that it will help to warm the soil earlier than normal which will trigger many weed seeds to germinate.  They will then die because of lack of light.  For weed infested areas I would say it gives quite a benefit if put down early enough, ideally then followed by regular hoeing.

On part of my plot I used it on a section of about 2 x 4m and planted strawberries through it.  After 4 years I removed fabric and 'worn out' strawberry plants and that area has remained the most weed-free in my garden for about the last 6 or 7 years.


Thanks for the link. Yes, that's one of the articles I read, and which helped me to realise that I have a major and on-going problem which needs patience, patience  and yet more patience, given these facts:

"Seed longevity in dry storage is 12 years and in soil is 35 years. Charlock seeds buried in uncultivated soil will remain viable for 60 years"


"The optimum germination temperature is 21°C and there is little germination below 11°C or above 30°C."

We've had single figure temperatures for weeks now, and that hasn't stopped the stuff germinating!

But that's taking the subject from the general to the specific. To give other examples, nettles can live for about five years, and chickweed, three.

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