Newspaper Mulch Helps With Weed Control

Don't just read the newspaper every morning, turn it into newspaper mulch for your garden.

| May/June 1978

Whether or not the morning newspaper is handing you the whole truth about what's going on in the world, it can be the best friend your garden plants ever had. When formed into little tents, newspaper mulch can protect your crops from the glaring sun. As mulch, recycled newspaper is one of the best weed-controls available. You can even blanch celery with the Daily Gazette! As a matter of fact, I find newspapers so useful during the growing season that I collect them year round.

For me, using newspaper mulch is a longtime dream come true. I had always envisioned warm, golden cantaloupes peeping from beneath the umbrellas of their massive vines, spreading a green blanket over a rich brown surface, with complete weed control! But that dream never materialized . . . until I discovered mulching in general and newspaper mulch in particular.

The main benefit that any gardener can realize from a good newspaper mulch is weed control. (Once your layer of papers is in place, you can forget about that section of the vegetable patch for the rest of the season: You're done with hoeing and weeding.) But newspaper mulching also regulates the temperature of the soil, adds fertility, and conserves moisture. (This last point alone can be a real benefit when every gardener's eye is searching a cloudless sky, and unmulched plants are slowly turning brown.)

Most crops — melons, beans, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, etc. — should be mulched when the plants have reached a height of 4 or 5 inches. Prepare the ground around the crops to receive the covering of paper by first hoeing out any weeds that are as tall as (or taller than) the cultivated plants. (The smaller weeds will be smothered by the mulch.)

Early morning and late evening, I've found, are the best times for laying down a mulch. The wind is usually calm then which makes it easier to spread out a complete row of papers before weighting them with hay. (At other times of the day, a gusting wind can send carefully placed newspapers flying. Grabbing here and there, trying to halt their flight, I have often wished I were an octopus while watching my papers tumble across the garden and plaster themselves against the far fence!)

If you want to mulch closely spaced crops such as beets or carrots, you can forget about the weeds which grow between individual plants within a row. The fanning foliage of such closely spaced crops discourages weed germination well enough to do away with any need for slitting each sheet of paper and fitting it down around each separate plant. (It would be tedious indeed to attempt to equip every tiny carrot seedling with its own little newspaper collar! ) Instead, just peel a 5- or 6-sheet layer from your supply of papers and adjoin the ground covering up against the stems of the plants at one end of the row. Then continue putting down similar layers of newspaper along that side of the row, allowing 2 or 3 inches of overlap for each new section of the mulch.

ann eileen miller baker
2/24/2013 10:23:16 PM

can you plant on top of newspaper mulch which covers sod (lawn)? pls email:

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