Rolling Out the Carpet

By Robert Kourik

My garden's carpeted. No, not with flowers or ground covers, but with actual carpet that's hidden under the wood-chipped, mulched pathways. The carpet prevents growth of the most stubborn perennial weeds, such as blackberries and poison oak, so I don't have to dig them out by hand or use herbicides. Though landscape fabrics that control weed growth are available, I've found that used carpet stops the inexhaustible weeds more effectively. Moreover, it comes in large pieces, and it's free. Polyester and nylon carpets last a long time, don't harm the soil, and can impede weed regrowth for more than a decade.

To get started, go to a carpet store and ask permission to retrieve rolls of discarded, dry carpet (wet carpet is too heavy). Wear a mask and gloves, and safeguard your back by bringing a friend to help lift the roll. Watch out for sharp nails or tacks left in the carpet.

To prepare an area for carpeting, till in, mow, or chop all the plants to the ground. Then add an inch or more of manure over the entire area to help rot the chopped foliage. Don't even bother digging up the root crowns of perennial weeds. However, you must have a permanent plan for your garden because, in my experience, trying to take up, get rid of, or move carpeting after it's been down for a year or so is extremely difficult. Place the carpet with the nap side, not the bottom, down. Be sure to overlap carpet edges by 1 foot to keep vining weeds from snaking through the unions. Secure the corners and edges of the carpet with 9-inch-long metal stakes (such as tent stakes) every 3 feet. Next, cover the carpet with 4 inches of wood chips or bark mulch. Replenish the mulch as it compresses or moves around, and pull any weeds that sprout.

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