Reuse newspaper as mulch for your garden
By Jessica Walliser
Published: Friday, April 30, 2010
Question: I have heard and been told that newspaper is a good mulch to keep weeds from growing in the garden. I can't help but think that the ink may not be the best thing. Can you shed any light on the subject?
Answer: Newspaper ink has changed a lot over the years. Petroleum-based ink used to be the norm and it contained lead, cadmium and other heavy metals that are certainly not welcome in the garden. Newer ink formulations are soy-based and far safer (for both the garden and us). These inks are used on the matte newsprint pages while the high-gloss inserts may still contain petroleum-based inks and should be avoided in the garden. Studies at the West Virginia University Extension Service confirm this. Researchers there also found that when using newspaper mulch in strawberry production they had a significant reduction in weeds and fungal and bacterial diseases and an improvement in the fruits' color and shape.
Home gardeners can use newspaper mulch to control weeds and diseases too. It also retains moisture, adds carbon-based organic matter to the soil as it decomposes, and is a great way to recycle. Plus, a study at the University of Vermont found that a heavy layer of newspaper mulch, when left intact, controlled weeds for two full seasons.
You can use newspaper mulch in the vegetable garden, shrub beds, perennial borders and on walkways. Pretty much anywhere that weeds grow, which, of course, is everywhere.
At the beginning of the season, spread newspaper 6 to 10 sheets thick over the area. You may find it helpful to either wet the newspaper first or spray it with a hose immediately after placing it. The water keeps the paper from blowing over to the neighbors or wicking moisture from the soil. The newspaper is then covered with a more attractive organic mulch like shredded bark, compost, mushroom soil, chopped leaves, straw, hay or grass clippings.
For areas with existing plants, keep the paper and organic mulch two or three inches away from the trunk or crown of the plant. For mulching the veggie garden, I spread out the newspaper and organic mulch before I plant. Then I clear away a small area of mulch, cut X's in the paper, and plant my tomatoes and peppers right through it. It's much easier than spreading the paper around all those little plants. But it will work either way. The photos show the garden of my neighbor, Joe George. He mulches his tomatoes, summer squash and peppers this way and uses last fall's shredded leaves to top the newspaper.
The newspaper can be left in place through the winter: It will help protect the soil from erosion and freeze-thaw cycles. Then, you can either till it under in the spring or, if you use no-till methods, add a new layer of paper and organic mulch to the top.
You also can follow the same technique using unbleached, brown craft paper or plain, unprinted corrugated cardboard. They take even longer to break down and are effective for three or more seasons when left in place.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley
- Ex-Sandusky lawyer investigated in divorce case
- Primanti’s manager admits stealing $30,000 from restaurants
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Moon receives $3.3 million to improve Thorn Run interchange
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Jury in Jordan Miles civil rights trial will consist of four white men, four white women
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Penn State’s Franklin cherishes memories of time spent in Pittsburgh
- NTSB: Corroded pipe, lack of inspections led to gas explosion