Growing through biodegradable mulch film

This can be a good way of keeping weeds down and maintaining moisture levels in the soil. We take a quick look at some of the pros and cons, and give you some pointers in case you’d like to give it a go this summer.

What is biodegradable mulch film?

Essentially, this stuff is a sheet of black film made from biodegradable materials, like corn starch. It looks and feels a lot like black polythene, and can be used in much the same way in the garden.

Where can I buy it?

You can find it quite easily with a quick search online – there are plenty of suppliers and you can buy by the roll/metre.

Is it really biodegradable?

Yes. But it does take some time to break down. When you are choosing it, be sure to look for indications that it is ‘home compostable’ so that, at the end of the growing season, you can simply pull it up and add it to your own compost pile knowing that it will indeed break down. Some suppliers suggest that you can instead dig it into the soil at the end of the season and let it break down in the soil itself. We’ve personally not found this as effective as adding it to a compost pile, but you could certainly give it a go.

What are the pros/cons?

The pros are easy to list: the mulch film helps to suppress weeds, keeps soil temperatures more even, helps to lock moisture in the soil and all of this helps to minimise the ‘work’ you have to do in your veg garden. Of course, being biodegradable is a big pro as well, although as we’ve mentioned above it can take some time to break down completely.

The cons? It takes time to break down, and sadly it can provide a very nice hiding place for slugs to hang out!

How can I use it?

It’s very simple to use – just lay a sheet over your raised bed/soil and use soil along the edges and corners to hold it down. Cut holes at intervals and plug your plants in as normal.

What about watering?

Plants will have plenty of access to water that is already in the soil and it will dry out far more slowly. You can still water – just aim carefully for the base of the plants to make sure it trickles through the holes and into the soil. An alternative is to lay a drip hose underneath the mulch before you get going for the season.

Is it worth it?

If you’re tight on time, if you live in a dry part of the country or are growing in a polytunnel, or if you’re just getting your beds sorted and need all the help you can in terms of keeping weeds down, then it is definitely worth trying. However, if you have the time and energy to spend in the garden, and if it brings you joy to run a hoe across your veg beds from time to time, then it’s not necessary at all.