How Newspaper Can Enhance Productivity of Your Garden
One of the single and best uses for newspaper is to provide a safe and biodegradable form of weed control. However, it’s important that you don’t smother the garden with too many layers of newspaper as well. The trick is to till the soil and then place a layer of single sheets over the surface area of your garden. Wet it down with a garden hose as you go to keep the sheets from flying away. Add another layer or two and repeat. Cover with a few inches of mulch or an inch or two of topsoil and plant your seedlings. The bed of paper will help to prevent weeds from sprouting up while your plants will take root and flourish.
Keep in mind that newspaper will degrade quickly if it is just below the surface. This makes it great for mulch, but it can also mean that you will need to pull more weeds once they grow back. Placing the layer a few inches below the surface can slow the process enough to help it last for the entire season.
There is a lot of debate over whether or not newspaper enriches or removes nutrients from soil. However, many gardeners swear by using the material as mulch, soil quality improves while weed growth is stunted. Perhaps the soil becomes rich because the weeds and grasses die off and degrade. In any case, using newspaper for mulch is easy.
You can either place a layer or two of paper near the top of the soil and giving it a good soak. Cover it with a little bit of dirt or mulch to hold it in place. Keep the soil moist for a few weeks, and poke it from time to time with a pitchfork if desired. The newspaper can start to break down in as little as a few weeks as long as it is near the surface. Adding some worms will also speed up the process and inject even more nutrients into the soil. You can also cut the paper into little clippings before mixing with soil as well. However, this can also leave open spots where weeds can go through. Some trial and error will tell you what works best in your garden.
You can also use sheets of newspaper if you have an existing garden as well. Place the paper as close to them as possible, but layer it in a way that will leave the plants uncovered. You can also lay sheets of newspaper on the surface, poke some holes in order to plant seedlings and cover with a thin layer of soil as well. This will temporarily block weed growth while giving the starter plants time to take root and grow.
Finally, you can use newspaper to smother established areas of grass, wildflowers and weeds. Cover the area, wet and hold in place with soil or mulch. The paper will starve the plants of sunlight and they will simply die off.
In all cases, you will notice that newspaper can reduce the need to pull weeds, which can actually be a self-defeating practice in the first place. On one hand, it can disturb the soil and damage existing plants. On the other hand, it can till the soil and spread weed problems even further. Newspaper will also reduce the need to spray weed killer which can leech into your water supply or runoff and impact other areas of your garden.
Finally, don’t worry about the dyes in newspaper ink. Most papers use soy-based inks that are not harmful to the environment. Try some different variations of the methods listed above, and do some research in order to learn more about the benefits of adding newspaper to your garden. Doing so can translate into less work and more productivity over the course of the growing season.