Chemical Free Weed Control by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Periwinkles are a popular ground covering plant

Chemical Free Weed Control

Geotextile membranes were one of the great gardening innovations of the 20th century promoted as a chemical free low maintenance weed control solution, used in conjunction with decorative mulches such as bark flakes or gravel.

Generally unsuitable for use in an herbaceous border or where bulbs are planted membranes are primarily found for separation of gravel surfaces from the underlying soil and within mass plantings of shrubs and trees.

In the short term geotextiles can be highly effective at providing a low cost/low maintenance option for these areas but it would be a mistake to believe that they are maintenance free. Typically the kind of issues that may arise are birds disturbing decorative bark mulches thus exposing the underlying fabric and the effect of strong gusts of wind actually lifting the fabric away from where it has been placed.

Geotextiles are popularly used for weed control

This is far less of an issue where gravel mulches have been used but other problems can arise. Despite claims to the contrary by the manufacturers in our experience these membranes impede the exchange of air within the soil resulting in the ground becoming compacted, anaerobic, slimy and poorly drained with little beneficial earthworm activity apparent. This does not represent good growing conditions for healthy plants to thrive in.

In the longer term further negative impacts have become apparent. Whenever a mulch is used it will over a period of time trap wind-blown dusty soil particles and seeds, often those of the most vigorous invasive weeds such as bramble, nettle or couch grass. Under these circumstances ideal germination conditions may arise and these seedlings will soon anchor themselves to the membrane and worse still eventually root through it into the soil beneath.

Weedy & neglected, the plants have failed to thrive despite the use of a membrane

Dealing with this kind of scenario, especially once the perennial weeds are well established negates any benefit derived from the use of the geotextile with the most likely solution being to grub everything out and replant afresh.

A solution that appears to work best is to plant quite densely and to omit the membrane, using  a decently thick layer of composted bark instead.  Ground smothering plants such as periwinkles are a particularly useful way of filling the gaps in and around other trees and other shrubs. The planting needs to be regularly inspected and any losses made good, the bark needs to be topped up as necessary and any incipient weeds dealt with before they have become established.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email  phone 07890 869918 logo & name 26.10.21


B.A.L.I. National Award Winning Garden Designed by Tim Brayford

The Isle of Wight has long been recognised as benefitting  from both a mild coastal climate and fertile soils favourable to the gardener

“In general such is the purity of the air, the fertility of the soil, and the beauty and variety of the landscapes, that this island has often been styled the Garden of England” – The History of the Isle of Wight, Sir Richard Worsley. 1781

This is one of a series of articles and anecdotes largely based around our work on the Isle of Wight and occasionally further afield

The Tim Brayford Designed B.A.L.I. National Award Winning Garden

One of the greatest pleasures to be had from providing a professional garden design and construction service is when you receive positive feedback from grateful clients, however it really is an honour and a privilege when you receive such accolades from your fellow professionals and competitors.

Our brief for this project  was to provide a low maintenance garden on a limited budget  that would provide some colour and interest throughout the year with some paved areas and  whilst retaining the centrally placed greenhouse.

The challenges presented by the site tested our abilities to the full. The plot was very overgrown, quite narrow at around 15’ (4.5m) wide and 45’ (14m) long, but that was not all. It rose in height by around 20’ (6m) with a dangerous flight of collapsing concrete steps.

Tim Brayford  B.A.L.I. Award Garden – Project underway

The principle site access was via the front door of the house, up some stairs and out of the back door across a narrow iron walk way. The street outside was a narrow cul-de-sac with double yellow lines and special consideration had to be given not to inconvenience neighbouring properties during the work.

We created a seating area for a bench based on some railway sleepers at the very top of the garden to provide views over the nearby downs, countryside and sea, accessed by some shallow winding sleeper steps and a pea shingle path.

A larger area of mixed natural stone and recycled brick paving was situated further down in front of the greenhouse, with tubs and other planters containing soft fruit, herbs and annual bedding.  Other planting included a mixture of evergreen shrubs,fruit trees, roses and herbaceous perennials with some rusticwork supporting fragrant climbers. Weed control was aided by spreading bark flakes over a geotextile membrane edged with rustic logs and natural stone walling with watering from an automated irrigation system.

Receiving our prestigious award!

Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. Awards Contractor Winner

Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. Award Garden Designer Winner

With the encouragement of our client we entered this project for the British Association of Landscape Industries National Award competition, here is what the judges said:-

“The Tim Brayford Landscapes entry was superb, especially as it overcame the difficulties of a narrow plot which rose by over 20 feet. Tim Brayford and his team created a small garden with a simple patio  as its central feature surrounded by mixed fruit trees and bushes with automatic watering. It is terrific value for money and the result is a folksy cottage garden full of interest & colour. The client is  delighted.”

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email  phone 07890 869918 logo & name 26.10.21