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TIME2SAVE: How to use newspaper to stop weeds in the garden

by KASEY TRENUM Scripps Howard News Service on April 17, 2013 11:00 AM

Question: We are redoing the landscaping in the front of our house. I’d really like to buy landscape fabric to prevent weeds, but it’s so pricey. Is there a frugal alternative?

Answer: Many people overlook a very basic, inexpensive resource when it comes to weed prevention: the newspaper. Nothing fancy, just the kind that you read at your breakfast table each morning. Now, it has another purpose, too.

This is a tip I learned from my mom about keeping weeds out of flowerbeds or gardens. Newspapering a weeded flowerbed is a cheap, easy way to keep out unwanted weeds by denying them light. As you know, newspaper is easy to come by; in fact, most of us already get one every day. The method of using newspapers for weed control is inexpensive, and it’s a great way to recycle old papers.

So how does it work? Newspaper amends the soil, leaving it soft and loose if it is currently hard and rocky. As the cotton fibers in the paper decompose, it makes your soil richer and softer for next year’s planting. The hard clay soil in Tennessee, where I live, is a prime example of why I need to newspaper my beds.

Once you have your newspaper, get ready to grow a nice crop of earthworms. They love the layer where the paper meets the soil. And we all know worms are good for your plants — as well as handy on a fishing trip. While they are creepy and crawly, they are truly beneficial, and newspaper will have them flocking to you.

If you think landscaping fabric is still the best way to go, think again. Not only will weeds start growing through the microscopic holes in the fabric (also, many seeds are airborne and will just land on top anyway), but it’s nearly impossible to pull them out when their roots are under/enmeshed in the fabric You literally have to cut the landscaping fabric off the ground to get the weeds out.

Getting started is easy: You’ll need to weed your beds first and then lay down a thick layer of eight to 10 sheets of stacked newspaper. If you run out, wet cardboard will work, too; you can use old shipping boxes. Now, simply cover with a thick layer of mulch (about 3 inches) and you’ll be weed-free for a few years before you need to put down more.

Simple, inexpensive and resourceful!

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