Where we live, the weeds seem to grow as tall as the corn stalks. That’s an exaggeration, but I really dislike weeding in our southern heat and humidity no matter how high the weeds get. Because of my dislike of weeding, it seems that the weeds get extra tall.
I recently decided to put mulch under our children’s playset mostly because it was a pain to mow the grass which looked patchy anyway. I thought that a thick layer of mulch would kill most of the grass and weeds. I was wrong.
Weed mats are sold at various home supply and gardening stores. There are many kinds of mats. On the more expensive side, you can purchase contractor grade mats which carry a 30 year guarantee. Other mats have a 20 year guarantee, and some of the mats are made out of recycled rubber! I saw a mat that was made from biodegradable materials like corn fiber. At the other end of the cost spectrum were woven mats that lasted a season. In addition to using the mats, you need to purchase tacks to hold the mats down tight against the ground so that the weeds can’t poke up through the mat.
There are other low cost alternatives to weed mats. A neighbor of ours bought plastic sheeting at the local farm store where it was quite inexpensive per yard. He wet down the weeds in his yard and then put the plastic sheeting over the wet weeds. The heat from the sun killed the weeds and he didn’t have to do a lot of work weeding or spraying chemicals. After the weeds had died, he put mulch over the plastic sheeting and simply cut holes in the sheeting when he wanted to plant.
I have personally made weed mats out of biodegradable materials like brown paper shopping bags and flattened cardboard boxes which I had on hand. I think that the flattened cardboard boxes hold up better as weed mats, but if you need to watch your pennies, you can use the shopping bags. I have found that it’s necessary to use several layers of shopping bags for them to be effective as weed mats. Be sure to overlap the layers to minimize the chances that weeds will grow in between the bags.
If you use these materials, you may have to start again from scratch every season depending upon the conditions where you live. In some areas, the bags and boxes may decompose very rapidly. In other areas, it may be possible to use the same “weed mat”” for several years.
Have you ever used weed mats in your garden? Do you have any tips to share?