Nov 04

Recycle Cardboard and Newspaper As Garden Mulch

cardboard mulch
You can turn a space into a garden plot, simply by utilizing a blanket of cardboard and/or newspaper. Yes, cardboard along with a thick layer of shredded mulch will do the tilling for you (You may also add and/or substitute several layers of newspaper). Come time to plant, the weed patch will be weed-free and soft enough to plant anything you like.

If you decide to use cardboard, you will need lots of it and preferably huge pieces. There are many places you can find enough cardboard for the job. Supermarkets, big chain grocery stores, furniture stores, and appliance dealers, all have lots of cardboard. Most of these may recycle their cardboard but if call and ask nicely or show up and ask in person, most will give you what they can.

Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to bring a pick-up truck, station wagon, or SUV. You might find yourself with enough cardboard to put to bed every tree, shrub, and perennial in your yard. Rest assured you can order all your favorite plants and seeds throughout the winter without wondering where to plant them in the spring.

How does it work and why does it work so well? Plants including weeds, need light to germinate and grow. Cardboard blocks the light and it kills everything beneath it, except the worms which will help to turn it into wonderful mulch. It keeps the ground from freezing tender perennials. You can hide the unsightly evidence with a two inch layer of shredded mulch on top.

Cardboard can be cut into any shape you want or don’t cut it at all. Spread it around in straight lines, curves and circles using the shredded mulch to shape the desired area. Do not cover your perennials and shrubs with the cardboard! Simply place the cardboard around the plant (cut to fit) and pile-on leaves, composted grass clippings, or pine needles over the plants.

Cardboard will slowly decompose and enrich the soil. It is a paper product made from trees and earthworms love to over-winter underneath its snuggly blanket. Best of all, cardboard kills weeds and grass. Come spring, you can simply cut through the soggy cardboard with your gardening knife, dig a hole, and easily plant your new perennials, shrubs, and annuals. You can even plant seeds or bulbs by simply by cutting an X through what’s left of the cardboard. It will provide you with a wonderful incubator for your new plants.

Overlap the edges of the cardboard so weeds receive no light to germinate during those warm winter thaws. After you lay it down, soak the cardboard with a garden hose, pile on the mulch and soak the mulch on top, too. The cardboard will help to hold moisture and keep your plants and shrubs safe through the winter. Keep adding shredded mulch throughout the next growing season and by the time the cardboard has decomposed completely, you will be able to say “bye-bye” to the weeds, their roots, and its seed.

Cardboard will retain moisture, helping plants make it successfully through intense periods of drought. I live in the Ozarks and I joke about growing rocks. My gardens were a weedy expanse of clay and rocks that we called topsoil when I moved onto the farm 6 years ago. Now, I have a healthy large garden, over-flowing each year with vegetables. My flower beds are filled with shrub roses, lilies, spring flowering shrubs and trees, and spring and summer flowering bulbs.

Try this in your garden or flower beds. You’ll be adding value to your home, growing food for your family, and recycling newspapers and cardboard into useful organic mulch.

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  1. calamitybrandybelle

    You will need to wait until fall in order to do the cardboard trick to smother the grass and weeds completely. If this is a new garden and you’re trying to control the grass and weeds this year, there are a couple of ways to do it. If you want to cover the whole garden after you till it you will have to leave or cut openings for the plants. The easiest thing is to add about 4″ of compost to the top of the garden and till it in. Raise your rows… make humps in the garden and plant your seeds or plants along the top of the row. Gather as much newspaper as you can and cover the walkways in between the rows with the paper covering bottom and sides of each walkway. Wet the newspaper thoroughly to keep it from blowing away. The newspaper will smother the weeds and grass, help hold moisture, and will make a nice place for the earthworms. On top of the rows you can apply straw around the plants or I like cotton burr mulch. It’s high in nitrogen but will cut down on weeds around the plants. Wait til winter to cover with cardboard and then I cover with about 4″ of compost and a couple inches of clean manure. Wet it down between each layer thoroughly and periodically if a dry winter. Next year you can till it all in and have a good start for your plants and softer soil to work with.

    Any other questions feel free to ask.

  2. Anne Pierce

    Can’t seem to get this answer anywhere. How much compost do I need to cover the cardboard with. How many inches?????? Iam starting my garden now, how long do I have to wait to plant anything???

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