Religiously, I keep old sections of carpet, car mats, discarded blankets, shower curtains and the like.* The shower curtains are invariably used as tarps or--here's a great tip--placed under the car in a garage to catch drips. Now, a lot of carpets have a plastic backing or some non-biodegradable material--car mats, especially. These are perfect for laying out in my garden in small places that I can't reach to weed or for covering over the connections of my garden hoses to protect them from weather. Aesthetically, it's awful when I first lay them down, but a light cover of leaves, straw or wood chip, and you don't even know they're there. Yet, not a weed all summer! The tougher materials last year after year. I have a square of blue, outdoor carpet about a yard long each way that I've used for many years, and it shows no sign of wearing out.
Saturday, I was doing some autumn cleaning in the garden, pulling out cleome stalks--Ow, the thorns!--taking down tomato cages and putting them away, sweeping fallen leaves from the paths and dumping them in the beds, etc. One of the chores was to take up this blue square of carpet. When I did, the soil below burst into activity. Underneath the carpet, secure all summer, a family of rodents--voles, I think--had built a maze of tunnels. I counted about five, but there may have been more...they were scurrying in panic, so hard to tell. I ran for my camera, figuring I wouldn't get back in time before they disappeared and figuring they would be too fast for me to shoot.
No one will ever accuse me of being a wildlife photographer, but here's one shot I managed to get off.
*Some of these products contain materials a gardener wouldn't want in their soil. I know some people won't lay out colored pages of newspapers, because they don't like the inks.