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Top Weed Mat Alternatives (Australian Guide)

There are numerous weed mat alternatives that you can use to help suppress the weeds and still have a lovely healthy garden with soil that is enriched and full of goodness.

Most of us battle weeds on a constant basis in our garden and are always looking for ways to make this task easier.

If you’re creating a new garden bed or you want to replace your lawn with more low-maintenance plants, then you might be tempted to use a weed mat to help combat the weed problem.

However, this is not always the best solution.

Is weed mat good or bad?

While weed mat (also known as landscaping fabric) forms a fairly good barrier on top of the soil and is effective at preventing weeds from growing and weed seeds from even germinating, there are some downsides too.

Pros

Weed mat is definitely a good barrier to stop weeds from growing through. And, it does have a place in the garden but not on garden beds that you want to grow healthy plants in.

I would only use weed mat under areas such as paving and paths. 

Cons

In my own personal experience of using weed mat, I found that although it is a good barrier from weeds, it also stops the moisture from getting through to the soil. 

In my previous garden, I used weed mat when I created a couple of new garden beds. However, I ended up removing the weed mat because when I looked at the soil under the mat, it was completely dry and looked lifeless.

The reason for this is that weed mat really does form a barrier over the soil. This barrier not only prevents the water from getting through but also stops any organic matter from effectively breaking down and enriching the soil.

Alternatives to weed mat

Luckily, there are numerous landscaping fabric alternatives that you can use to help suppress the weeds and still have a lovely healthy garden with soil that is enriched and full of goodness.

Mulch

Mulch | Weed control

My favourite alternative to weed mat is mulch and lots of it. When you lay down a thick layer of mulch over your garden beds, it not only makes it harder for the weeds to get through but it also benefits the soil.

A few years ago, I managed to get hold of a truckload of acacia mulch from a tree lopper who was cutting down some trees in the area. I laid this thickly over some garden beds where I had a lot of flowering plants such as roses, daisies, and a few larger shrubs.

As the mulch broke down, it enriched my heavy clay soil and the plants absolutely loved it. Of course, there were some weeds that still broke through but they were very easy to pull out and get rid of.

Newspaper or cardboard

cardboard | Weed control

Laying down a thick layer of newspaper and cardboard was another experiment I tried.

The idea here is that the newspaper or cardboard forms a barrier over the soil so that the sun can’t get through to assist the germination of weed seeds.

This can actually be quite effective and as the paper or cardboard breaks down, it helps to enrich the soil.

However, if you’re turning your lawn into a garden bed, you will find that the grass will continue to come through for quite some time. This happens because most grasses grow from underground stolons and these are extremely tough and resilient.

For this reason, you might want to combine the paper or cardboard with an additional layer of thick mulch to make it harder for the grass to come through to the surface.

Ground cover plants

Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle | Weed control
Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’ I Akos Kokai I Wikimedia I CC BY 2.0

Another really good way to stop the weeds from growing is to crowd them out by planting effective ground cover plants, such as the native Grevillea featured above.

As these plants spread over the soil, they provide an effective barrier that the sun can’t get through.

This is a really great way of adding beauty to your garden and eliminating many different weeds. You’ll probably still see the occasional weed come through but these are easy to just pull out by hand.

Here are a few hardy groundcovers that will cover the soil and help solve your weed problem:

  • Native violets – perfect for shady areas in your garden
  • Creeping thyme – this herb can even be used in cooking
  • Mondo grass – great for edging around garden beds
  • Grevillea ‘Bronze Rambler’ – perfect for slopes
  • Pig face – ideal for hot, sunny spots
Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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