THIS MORNING, during my weekly jaunt to the county dump, I decided to go through other people’s garbage. And I found what I was looking for, too: lots of newspapers. Let me show you how old news is good news when you want to make weeds instantly disappear:
Pictured above is the weed-choked, north-end of my Woodland Garden. This is a damp, shady area where common white vinegar — my favorite weed-killer for full-sun situations — would have little effect. I’d pull the growth by hand, but without some kind of suppressant, more weeds would appear in short order.
But newspaper — applied thickly — will smother those weeds for an entire season. The paper will also keep any buried weed seeds from germinating. This technique, which I call “Newspaper Mulching,” is very easy to do.
I don’t worry about black-print versus colored-print. Why? Because these days, all newspapers use non-toxic pigments. Even the glossy pages are coated with a non-toxic, biodegradable material.
In my experience, newspaper makes a better weed-suppressant than regular mulch alone. The paper blocks out the light that plants need for photosynthesis (the conversion of sunlight into sugar). But water can penetrate the paper, which means worms and other soil organisms are not compromised in any way.
As a matter of fact, newspaper feeds the soil. Worms eat the decomposing material, and then release it as nutrient-rich matter in their castings. Worm-castings are nature’s soil-conditioner.
You can plant right away in a bed that’s been newspaper-mulched. Simply plunge a trowel through the paper to make a hole (damp newspaper cuts very easily). Then plant your seedlings.
Newspaper mulching has been my salvation on many occasions. One spring, the raised beds in my Herb Garden became choked with weeds just when I wished to plant my crops. So I simply laid down the paper and mulch, made small cuts in the paper, and then planted away. That summer, not one weed pushed its way through the paper-barrier.
A wise journalist once proclaimed “Old news is no news.” But if you’re a gardener who hates to pull weeds, you will find, as I have, that old news is great news!
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