I have what can only be described as a mountain of carpet, with its peak at 1.3m it’s now the highest point on the allotment. Mont ‘Plot 83’ as it’s now known it testament to every reason that you shouldn’t use carpet on an allotment plot. The reasoning behind this was to suppress weeds which to a certain degree it did and I suppose if the plot had remained in use then this would have been effective.
How to get this stuff up?
The first issue is that carpet once it starts to degrade actually makes an OK growing medium for some plants. Pulling weeds from the ground is a problem that we all deal with but when you have to pull up 10 kilos of carpet with each one then this becomes onerous. There is really only one way to get rid of existing carpet and that is brute force. All of this was removed by hand but it took days and days of hard graft, a job that I would never wish on anyone in the future.
Do they really stop weeds?
Secondly weeds like Bind Weed and Couch Grass don’t really care about the carpet and just carry on regardless underneath. I’m a firm believer that with perennial weeds you’ll never get them all out of the ground, this is just a fact of life. All plants however can only sustain themselves on a finite amount of food stored in the roots before they have to come up for air. If you let those roots carry on across the soil then eventually they’ll find a hidden spot and off they go getting all the energy they need. If you let them come up anywhere then you can see them, once you do you knock them back and eventually you have it under some sort of control.
What chemicals does carpet leave in the ground?
And lastly are the chemicals that are left behind in the ground after the carpet is removed. Many like Formaldehyde are very volatile and won’t last for long once exposed to the air but others, especially flame retardants and specialist additions for reducing dust mites will hang around. Greenpeace did an extensive study on a number of carpets to determine the chemical make up of them with some conclusive results.
If you need to suppress the weeds because you’re laying a path or because you are using it as a mulch to grow vegetables through then there are perfect alternatives. I use something like this light membrane when I’m laying paths as it’s easy to work with and stops the weeds enough when laying gravel or wood chips. Otherwise use a heavier cover like this one so that you can use it as a proper mulch. These you can leave down on the ground making a small cross cut for plants like lettuce and brassicas to grow through. The also help a little with the slugs.
I’ve finally removed it all and started to get through all the roots that have been languishing underneath, let’s put an end to this practice once and for all.