Last updated on April 20th, 2021
This post was updated in March, 2021. Want to eliminate weeds without endless pulling? Do what I do, and smother the weeds with newspaper. Newspaper, as we have discussed before, makes weeds instantly disappear. And it prevents them from re-emerging for an entire season, if not longer. I papered and mulched one of my weed-choked beds just this morning. Would you like to see the easy procedure?
The bed in question is located between my Kitchen Garden and Woodland Garden. As you can see, the bed is planted with young peonies, Baptisia, and some mighty expensive daylilies.
What’s that you say?
You can’t see the peonies? Or the Baptisia? Or the pricey daylilies?
That’s because the bed has been overrun with wild onion, garlic mustard, and other invasive growth.
Pulling these weeds would be a waste of time. For once the soil has been fiddled with (through the act of pulling weeds or digging up wild onion bulbs), more weedy things would be encouraged to sprout.
But weeds can’t grow and seeds can’t sprout if they are covered with a thick layer of The New York Times!
Applying the Paper
First, water the bed deeply. Then lay paper directly atop the weeds, and in-between the ornamental plants.
This young, aristocratic Baptisia heaved a sigh of relief when I approached him with newsprint in hand. Said he: “No longer shall I endure the common, weedy riff-raff that steals my food and water.”
The trio of ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peonies were overjoyed, too. They can’t wait for you to sniff their fragrant pink blooms.
The daylilies practically shrieked their gratitude. Frankly, I felt embarrassed.
And by the way, water can permeate paper with ease. The soil below will receive moisture whenever Nature — or my garden sprinkler — deems to provide it.
Wetting the Paper
Back to our project. Spray the newspaper with water. Otherwise, a strong wind will blow, and send your papers flying. Wet paper won’t budge.
Mulching the Paper
And finally, top the paper with mulch. I mulched my bed with three inches of shredded leaves. Shredded wood chips make a fine mulch, too.
My ornamental plants are delighted with their new, weed-free environment. And I’m happy, too. For I won’t have to deal with weeds in this bed for at least one season. Another bed I mulched with newspaper remained weed-free for two years in a row.
And here’s another great benefit to newspaper mulching. As the paper decomposes, it (and also the shredded mulch) will provide abundant food for beneficial soil organisms. In fact, if you are cursed with crappy, inert soil, try the newspaper routine as described above. Within one year your earth will be teeming with worms and other soil-building friends. My previously-asphalt-paved Rose Garden will prove this to you.
I suspect some of you are wondering if you can use cardboard in place of newspaper. Yes, you can. I like newspaper because it can easily be manipulated to fit around plants.
You might also wonder if I’m afraid of the chemicals used in newspaper ink. No, I’m not. From most accounts I’ve read, today’s newspapers are printed with soy-based ink. Even the glossy pages are coated with a non-toxic material. I have no doubt that the air we breathe contains far worse chemicals than those found in newsprint and cardboard.
If you have a nasty weed-infestation in your own perennial bed, consider smothering the offenders with newspaper (or cardboard). You will no doubt find, as I have, that this arrangement will produce only positive results for you, your soil, and your plants.
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This is my favorite mulching method as well. Sometimes, in the vegetable garden, I’ll use straw on top of the papers, which gives a nice surface for squash vines to sprawl on. One trick I have, for days when it is too windy to spread the papers dry, is to put them in either the wheelbarrow or a joint compound bucket and soak them before spreading.
I have had mixed success using this method for my worst pest–witch grass. I have had them spread their stolons several FEET, completely in the dark, along the layers of paper, and pop up on the far side, ready to continue trying to take over my little corner of Maine!. So now, I stop everything whenever I see a shoot of this implacable enemy and deal with it right away!
Robert Meehan says
I’ve tried using cardboard and it will keep weeds down but working it in and around plants is a pain in the tush. Gonna try newspaper but living on the Eastern Shore of VA it’s gonna take a while to get enough newsprint. (no NY Times). Peonies are doing well already, tulips and other bulbs are about done. Roses are just about ready to bud and the lawn is already tryin’ to kill me. (we mow from early April to Nov or later) oy!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Mary – Thanks for your tip regarding newspaper-soaking-in-a-wheelbarrow-tip. And I’m with you on (weed-free) straw-mulch for veggie beds.
Robert – I obtain reams and reams of newspaper at my local recycling plant. It’s free, and I can choose thick Sunday-editions!
Karin W. says
I wonder if it will also keep the nasty Bermuda grass out, which creeps into everything over here in Kansas.
I’ve been using this method for several years and love it. I have several medical problems that make it hard to pull weeds, so this is the perfect answer. As for the chemicals in the ink thing, I’ve heard it said that if you have to deliver a baby (yikes! I hope not) and don’t have anything clean to catch the baby in, to use newspaper. Hey, if it’s good enough for babies, fish and chip take-out, and parakeet cages, it’s good enough for me.
New to your blog, really enjoy it.
I have used this method for no dig gardening on grass. I was told to spread pelletised chicken manure over the grass, then cover it with wet newspaper. On top of that pace straw and mulch into which the plants are planted with a little soil around them. apparently the pelletised chicken manure causes the grass to grow madly under the newspaper in the dark so that it exhausts itself and dies. Seemed to work. Don’t know if it would have worked as well without the chicken manure. I also use fresh stable compost under and over the newspaper. Still learning about how effective it is.
I’m fighting black spot on my roses. In spite of cleaning the fallen, infected leaves and spraying with a fungicide I’m unable to get rid of it. Infected leaves still fall onto the ground in the rose garden. I suspect the black spot spores are living in the mulch/ cedar chips in the rose bed. My latest idea is to cover as much of the ground around the roses w/ newspapers, layer them with shredded bark from my arborist, and thus bury and kill off the black spot spores. Do you think this might work????
As always Kevin you have the best ideas for natural gardening and the issues that befall those of us that choose not to poison our property and pets and ourselves with chemicals that would just make it worse in the long run anyhow. I will be doing this as soon as I can locate enough newspaper and cardboard as we have terrible clay soil and I fight the weeds constantly and its so time consuming that I have gotten frustrated and told my boyfriend that I was going to dig it all up and buy plastic flowers and cement GGRRR! You have renewed my hope Thanks once again You are a Gem !!
I adore your humor Kevin. Been wanting to try this treatment. Soon the beds will be planted with gobs of little winter sown joys. It seamed like a lot of bother to work around the babies . . . . . but no more! I’ve been inspired.
badger gardener says
Garlic mustard, ugh! I’ve been able to keep this at bay in my yard but have friends, including an adjacent neighbor ,who do battle every year w/ this invasive plant. Do you find the smothering effective at stopping its spread? I am definitely recommending this to the neighbor before its flowers come out as every year I’m waiting for a larger garlic mustard “attack” in my own yard.
I hadn’t thought of doing this to prepare a new garden like jeniren mentioned above. I am finding this spring that I really need some more beds. I am out of room and after reading your post about growing leeks decided I have to make some new beds for next year.
I have a corner flower bed between the driveway and road that I’ve tried to ammend the soil for 5 years but everything I plant in there struggles. Just planted wintersown marigold seedlings and am trying the newspaper/mulch this year. I guess if an ex asphalt covered garden can turn out well then this will work for mine too. Thanks!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
badger gardener – Newspaper mulching has definitely stopped both garlic mustard and wild onions from sprouting in my beds.
Elena – Probably this program will do wonders for your flower bed. First, your flowers won’t have to compete with weeds. Then the newspaper and shredded mulch will provide food for soil-building creatures.
LAVON EBLEN says
Cardboard works great on a flat surface. We covered a large area of grass to create a new herb garden. The local appliance dealer was happy to give us boxes from refrigerators etc so it didn’t take very many. Be careful to overlap the edges. Grass is sneaky so finds a way out of every little opening. Covered the bed with mulch. It was amazing how fast the cardboard got soft enough to easily dig through to plant. Your site is one of the most fun as well as informative.
The only thing is, wild garlic pushes right through! Now I’m trying weighing it down.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Terri – If wild garlic or onion pushes through, you’re probably not laying the newspaper thickly enough. Choose a nice, fat section from your local Sunday edition!
Just wanted to let you know that I look forward to receiving your email each Sunday. Love your blog 🙂
Sandy Hutchison says
Excellent method if the plants aren’t too crowded and you’re not too attached to the reseeded stuff (as I often am). Definitely my approach with all new beds. I just wish dandelions and orange hawkweed could be stopped this way. They always work their way back up and have to be attacked more viciously with vinegar and/or repeated beheading (when just pulling after a hard rain doesn’t work)..
Warren Dahlstrom says
I’m a 75 year nube. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge!
I’ve tried this method and it works great!! Thanks Kevin!!
Casey now in PDX says
Kevin, do you think the newspaper method would suffocate horsetail which is such an invasive plant that we have here in Oregon. Runners spread out under the surface as much as 12 inches down from each above ground feathery shoot and it’s like trying to pull out ropes and of course they break the more you tug. The only thing we’ve had success with is serious chemical spray which I don’t like to use and cannot use near the vegetable garden which is a raised bed and they even pop up in there!
Oh this is fantastic!! I can’t wait to try it (I have just the garden bed!).
Kevin, is there any reason not to use this method in vegetable beds? My tomato beds are full of weeds, and I was not looking forward to weeding before I add some nice straw mulch.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Cindy – I use newspaper in my Herb Garden beds (pictures here). The paper tears very easily when it’s time to plant lettuce, parsley, and other seedlings.
Mary Ann says
We practice lasagna gardening here, so we have a layer of paper… but I am going to start doing this on top of my perennial beds, especially the one I am still building. Great idea!
Barbara Wheeler says
I’ve been saving my daily newspaper for weeks now and have plenty….getting ready right now to head outdoors to the plant beds, wet them down and lay down the papers…can’t wait to get rid of the grass and weeds. Enjoy your column…keep up the good work and pictures.
Thanks Kevin. I am disabled and have a difficult timegetting down and bending over. I think this is a great idea and am going out to try it now.
I just love you, Kevin. You make me smile. As we like to say here in OK, “I’m fixin’ to” try your groovy newspaper method!
Susan in MI says
Late to the party (as usual) but newspaper with mulch on top has been a savior for me as well. I placed a “Wanted” post on my local FreeCycle lists and got more free newspaper than I had ever imagined. Took a grown child with me to help load the bonanza into the back of my SUV and that was that. It’s very easy to poke through 5-10 layers of wet newspaper with a trowel to plant an already started plant. before putting a couple of inches of mulch on top.
For the beans and peas, I just poke enough to press in a seed, then mark the placement with a piece of wooden skewer to make sure I know where they are before laying the mulch.
I use pizza boxes, and junk mail to do this, too.
Janet G. Metzger says
THANK YOU! I did not get the newspaper down BEFORE I built the raised beds. I thought I was lost This is a relief to know I can still put down newspapers. The step-by-step instructions including the watering (and cardboard, cereal boxes, AND junk mail) are necessary. Again,
Naomi Shelton says
Well, dang! Too bad I didn’t read your post yesterday. I just spent this afternoon digging some stubborn dandelion and other nasty weeds out of the beds surrounding my deck and my back is killing me! Here’s the sad part: I have newspaper mulched before and know that it is effective. I just wanted to see that clean dirt around the plantings, but tomorrow I am going to lay down those pages and go buy some mulch to top them off so I don’t have to pull anymore intruders from that particular bed for the next year. Thanks for the reminder, Kevin. I look foreward to your posts each week. And you keep me on track with the gardening.
Julie Piehn says
I read this tip last year and my husband and I tried it-he now tells everyone about it! Thank you Kevin for making life easier and better 🙂
Kevein. I’m going to try this. Would like to know how many “pages” in a section of newspaper would you recommend using. Thanks!!
One other question, please, how long does it take after doing this procedure can I start planting in the affected area again?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Gail – I recommend a thick layer of newspaper — at least 10 pages deep. You can plant in the bed immediately. A trowel (or just your fingers) will easily pierce damp newsprint.
I am interested if you have any natural ways to keep weeds out of my front walk way. I wish I could just put newspapers down and mulch on top but .. I guess the brick pavers then would be really unseen. I have used the vinegar and hot water methods and they work but are timely and I have to repeat it multiple times a year. I dont’ use pesticides on my grass and we really try not to get any grass clippings on the walkway when we mow. .I am looking for other CLEAN ideas that you or others might suggest.
I think I will try this around my young evergreen trees that get lots of weeds around them.
Thanks for all your posts .. I love all of them!!
Robin Hamann says
Thanks for all the info on using newspaper to kill weeds. My raised beds are fine, but the area around them isn’t. I’m going to use this method to smother the weeds!
Thanks for all the great info that you post. BTW, peonies are my favorite flower!
Please, please, please tell me that this would help smother a bed of invasive English ivy!
I have my fingers crossed.
Audrey Wilhite says
need to know if I can use small rock instead of mulch on the paper. I actually have taken up the mulch as it always gets all over the concrete walks (even with rubber borders around the yard).
this is my first time on here and Im really getting a lot of ideas. Will be a continued fan from now on.
I get free weekly local newspapers and lately the Star Ledger has been dropping off a free Sunday paper to try to get subscribers. These’ll end up being used as weed block.
For those that want to try cardboard, a good source of large sheets of cardboard is your local warehouse store (Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s). Last year in early spring, I was competing with another gardener to grab up all of the big sheets that seperate layers of product on the pallets. I now have a gorgeous wildflower garden on what was a steep grassy slope, and the cardboard has all but decomposed. The worms LOVE it and the newspaper.
We love receiving your weekly news letter and have given your site to many others. I sent you a question three or four weeks ago. I did not receive an answer and it hit me that you must get many each week. Do you address all the questions and responses you receive? Keep those great recipes and garden tips coming!
is rubber mulch a better product than regular mulch. I’m new at this a friend says she uses nothing but rubber mulch
Kevin, I love your blog. I am new to anything gardening..I plan to get rid of my front yard and make it natural..with plants and dry riverbeds etc. I am going to use tree stumps and driftwood to replace the horribly ugly bricks they previous owners had..
here is my question. Can I put newspaper down and cover w/wood chips or mulch and rocks and plants etc.?? will that be enough to kill grass. I have heard/read so many suggestions but many exhausting. as to cardboard and straw and then mulch etc.. or can i spray vinegar all over my yard to kill grass and then put mulch over dead grass?? what would you do?
Kevin, you’re a genius — not to mention my garden hero!
If I used this method on my asparagus beds in fall or early spring, do you think the asparagus would push through? I’ve had it lift carpet.
Yolanda Robeson says
This works exceptionally well, however I would not use it in your vegetable garden if you want to maintain a strict organic garden. Soy ink, which is made from soybeans, are GMO. I do use plain newspaper from my local newspaper office. You can purchase the “end rolls” from them at a low price.
Deb from Wisconsin, aka trillium says
We love this method and have shared it with so many friends. I used to think 4 sheets of newspaper was enough, but like your suggestion of using 10. While I don’t wet the newspaper before mulching and haven’t had problems with the paper shifting around, your method would ensure it and save time to boot. Thanks!
Thanks for the newspaper method, Kevin! Can’t wait to try it! You are always so very helpful. You’re a Garden Angel!!
Hi, and thanks for sharing the info. I will indeed try this method. I do have a question though: Regarding your other post about using Vinagar (diluted) to kill weeds – Can I or should I spray and treat the newspaper or cardboard with the diluted vinagar as well to futher prevent the weeds from coming back? or would that be overkill?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Hugo – I’m afraid that spraying newspaper/cardboard with vinegar would not make any difference at all. The newspaper/cardboard should provide plenty of protection.
Knowing most of the soy here is GMO–would that make the soy ink a problem?
I enjoyed reading your tip about killing weeds with newspaper, but I don’t have mulch I have rocks in my garden. Do you have any tips for killing weeds in my garden? It seems the more I weed the more they grow!!!!
We’ve used newspapers topped with grass clippings in our veggie garden for years with great success. Started using vinegar for weeds & it’s great; kills in a matter of hours. I even use it, carefully, in my flower beds. I add some Dawn dish soap to the vinegar; heard it helps it cling to the leaves. Don’t know for sure if it’s necessary but it works. I’m going to put some vinegar in my watering can to kill the weeds in our gravel driveway….make sure to rinse out thoroughly, though.
First, I’d like to say that I LOVE your site and all the wonderful gardening information, pictures, and recipes! I’m making your Frozen Blueberry Yogurt Pie for Independence Day with my family, and I know it will be simply delicious on a hot Texas summer holiday!
As far as your instructions for smothering weeds with newspaper, how many sheets thick do you lay it? I would imagine only one or two sheets thick would not be enough. I love this method and am eager to try it on some raised beds I have that continuously get all kinds of tenacious weeds, particularly nut sedge, which is very hard to get rid of.
Thank you in advance, and I look forward to your reply and next weekly newsletter!
cecily porter says
will use the newspaper idea in my flower beds immediately!! However, don’t think it’s suitable in veg gardens since the soy based ink will be GMO soy, and I grow organic veg. Will need to stick to my weed mulch – pull the weeds, lay them down on the soil:)
Deborah Reese says
I need to get rid of weeds where a wide, simple stone path is to go, so it needs to be a more permanent fix. I am going to try to kill them with vinegar, and then lay black plastic, and then mulch.
But I am afraid the plastic will be slippery. Tried landscape cloth but weeds grew through it. Do you have a better idea?
the article using newspaper to rid gardens sounded great. There is one point that I may have missed. I understand that you wet the paper to hold it in place and water will permeate through the paper but the article didn’t mention when to cultivate the papers into mulch or how long we wait.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Deborah – Regarding landscaping fabric, my experience was the same as yours. Weeds can grow right through the material. However, keep in mind that plastic will not permit drainage. Cardboard might be a better option.
Hi Jeff – No need to cultivate the paper into the soil — ever. The paper will decompose after a season or two.
LC Reiss says
For the side of my house between our neighbours, I use tar paper which controls the weeds remarkably well.
Ava lansbery says
I use this method in my almost large day lily bed, I did not get it renewed this year and am now paying the price. Our little local paper is maybe a 10 pager on a good day….perfect for shingling around the plates. I don’t have enough even if I save them for a year, and the newspaper office sells huge bundles for 50 cents. I soak some in a 5 gallon bucket and apply them wet…really wet, then cover with shredded mulch…presto done. Don’t put too may in the bucket, they swell up big time, and you can’t get them out….ask me how I know?
Tereese DeMetz says
Hi Kevin – I went on an extended vacation to Alaska and now my vegetable garden has 7 foot tall weeds, grass and you name it. The vinegar works good on the limestone walk ways around the garden (Thank You :))but, not so good on the invasive Morning glory bushes the neighbor has that have taken over my covered walkways and I need to know what to do with the garden weeds. Should I cut everything down first, or just smash it all down with the cardboard. I have carpal tunnel and alot of hand action will definitely put me out of action for awhile and the weeds will just get bigger. What would you suggest? Just found your site a few days ago and your attention to detail is very much appreciated Kudos!
Oscar Booth says
Well I finally found something the New York times is good for!
What a wonderful idea. Here in Berkeley we have a HORRIBLE time with oxalis in the late winter/early spring. It just covers the flower beds full till you can’t see the dirt. I’m going to try this next year and keep my fingers crossed it works on it!
Hi–I absolutely love using newspapers under wood chips to keep my gardens weed-free. I just put down section after section of newspaper (sections are often 8-10 sheets thick this way), drench all the newspaper with water and then spread wood chips over it all. I have to find a source for newspapers–I go through them way too fast. I am wondering about the use of junk mail. Can I use shredded paper if it’s been sorted to just be white paper?
Hi, Is it good to plant ground covers around shrubs or hostas? I’m wondering if they will choke out the plants when dense as they grow. Thank you for your help and great ideas. Looks like I will now be saving cardboard and newspapers.
Kevin, before I ask my questions, I just have to tell you that I stumbled onto your site googling natural remedies to kill weeds, and all I can say is WOW! I signed up instantly–and I’ve been enjoying your humor, wit, and great advice ever since!
Questions: If I arrange newspaper around my bulbs while they’re in bloom, will they have any trouble blooming next year? Can ground covers and other spreading plants grow with all that paper around them?
Thanks so much for helping me to be a better-informed gardener!
I have a stepping stone path that runs down the side of the house and through the back yard. The weeding was killing me and someone mentioned newspaper. A quick internet search found your website. Instead of cutting it to fit around the stones I put it into my cross-cut shredder and dumped many loads of the shredded paper directly in the path. I would dump a load on each stone and then wet the whole thing down, washing the shredded paper off the stones and it “fit” itself. After several dozen loads (the paper is about 2″ thick) I am finally weed free! I put some wood mulch on the top and I think I’m good for a few years. The shredder has earned its keep. We shred the paper daily put it into our compost piles. Works very well.
I just wonder, because 99% of soy is now GMO if the newspapers will affect the ground in way not as wonderful as we’d like it to do.
I’m hoping this will work on poison ivy, our flower bed in front of the house has become overrun with it. I’ve hoed, pulled it out and sprayed it with poison ivy killer and it’s still flourishing. I’m going to put a laying of newspaper down now in December and then another layer in the Spring before topping it with wood chips. The Hostas planted along the walkway are the only plants that haven’t been over taken by the poison ivy so it would be so nice to see flowers there again.
Judy Gierke says
Thank you for this suggestion, I’m brand “new” to this gardening stuff! But determined!! Thank you Kevin.
This trick works so well!
I have a non-weed related question. Is it too late to plant tulip bulbs? I completely spaced! I live in SE Pennsylvania. Thanks!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Cynna – If your soil isn’t frozen (like mine!), you can plant tulip bulbs now, in mid-January. Just don’t expect them to bloom this spring. Tulips (and all other Dutch bulbs) need approximately 12 weeks of cold in order to flower.
Do you think this method would work in a (central) Florida garden?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Donna – I should think that newspaper mulching would be terrific for your central Florida garden. You probably won’t have to water as often, since the soil beneath the paper tends to stay moist for a considerably long period.
To those poor posters suffering from ivy invasion – I empathise. When we moved to this house 7 years ago all the front yard and half the back was covered with ivy. Much digging, chopping and I’m afraid to say, poisoning and finally this year we are an ivy-free zone. We had some that had trunks up to 6 inches in diameter – I’d saw the trunk then put neat glyphosate on the stump. That worked! But I’d love to hear any non-toxic ways of dealing with ivy.
We have a terrible time trying to kill earwigs. We have so many I have to go out at night with a swatter and flashlight and I end up killing about a hundred a night. Will the newspaper provide them with a good place to hide? I’m thinking that they will hide under there and I won’t be able to control them from eating my non-gmo veggie garden to stubs. Do you have any ideas about the earwigs?. We have tried everything, the tin cans filled with oil, Vinegar and water in a sprayer and a few other non-destructive ways that won’t affect the purity of the plants.
Kevin, I’m out in the garden right now and have a ton of newspapers to put out but am wondering if they will keep the new daffodils and crown imperials from coming up this spring? Do you think I should not put the newspaper down in those areas? Weeds are everywhere! One of the first 60 deg days I’ve had to get out there and get something done! Thanks!!!!
Is there any way to get rid of Bermuda grass? Won’t it just grow under the newspaper or cardboard and pop out where it’s not covered?
Wonder if you can help me….I’ve acquired a neglected potted red acer plant. It’s very well established but it has a couple of really big thick stemmed weeds entwined with it’s toys, neutering right up close to the stem/trunk of the acer. Said trunk/stem is approx an inch thick to give you an idea of the size of the acer plant. I’m not sure smothering would work given that the weed is so close to the stemfof the acer and also given that the weed is also very well established, it itself has a stem approx 1cm in diameter with a woody quality….. any ideas? It’s a beautiful plant and it’s a beautiful shape, I’m desperate to save it….. many thanks in advance 🙂
Ahhhh auto complete! Roots not toys and sitting not neutered! 🙂
Debbie Howard says
on your question, ” I’m not sure smothering would work given that the weed is so close to the stemfof the acer and also given that the weed is also very well established, it itself has a stem approx 1cm in diameter with a woody quality….. any ideas? It’s a beautiful plant and it’s a beautiful shape, I’m desperate to save it”
Have you tried mixing up a weed killer, can be a nice strong mix of (vinegar with a bit of molasses to help it stick) or something from the store, Just take an artists paint brush and brush some of the leaves to the unwanted plant with it, or you can drill a hole into the unwanted plant and use an eyedropper to put a bit into the wound maybe?
Thank you Kevin for posting this. Clearly explained and easy to do. THANKS!!
Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I
came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information.
I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
Exceptional blog and fantastic design.
Kathie Light says
Will this work to rid red bud seedings? Had them removed ~4 years ago, but they keep sprouting. I’ve tried everything possible that I thought would help but they keep popping up every year. If I catch them soon enough I can pull them up but they are a real problem every year. Quite prolific. I STRONGLY recommend NEVER planting them. They are pretty in bloom but a pain in the rear for a long time after removal. The seedlings get wedged in the rock and viola! new shoots every friggin year. Gr-r-r-r-r-r-r
We are going to try this in our vegetable garden! (cardboard, and then straw on top) Do we need to do this around EVERY plant in the row…or can we just do it on the rows (this will make a nice path for walking on as well, when the garden is muddy or soft!
Thank you for the information. I have heard about using newspapers but nobody seemed to be able to tell me how to do it properly. I have a large area of my front yard that, for years wouldn’t grow anything. Now there are, at least, weeds starting to come up. I think I will try the cardboard on that area and see what happens.
Does this method will work to kill the grass that is spreading into my vegetable garden??
Kevin, I would love to try the newspaper method, but instead of mulch, I have pebbles around my plants and flowers… What would you recommend? Thank you.
How would you recommend getting rid of weeds that are growing in rock beds? I dont want to kill plants or shrubs. I cant use newspaper as it would dissolve on top of rocks. I have tried to pull them out but they come back. So tired of them. Thanks
I’ve been contemplating using newspaper and cardboard in my backyard. My trouble weeds are: English ivy, poison ivy, wild strawberry vines. Will newspaper and/or cardboard be enough to stop those in their tracks? We have strawberry vine up against our house foundation and I’m thinking about attempting to put 6-7 layers of newspaper over it, tucked between the foundation and the dirt to create a barrier so it can’t come up there anymore. Then cover the newspaper with mulch. Will that work, do you think?
How long will I need to wait to start planting a garden if I use this method for weed prevention? I have a nice plot but lots of weeds and I’d like to plant within a couple weeks?
Does this newspaper have any affect on plants spreading? I’ve got quite a few that I want to spread out but I’m afraid the newspaper will stop this. Also, if I cover spots that have tulip bulbs and other bulbs as well, would my bulbs have trouble coming up next spring? Is it best to not cover any spot that has a bulb that’s not ready for bloom yet? Thanks for any replies.
Ray Hosler says
I tried newspaper under a layer of wood chip. The crows went after the newspaper day after day. I finally gave up and removed it.
Pam Scott says
Curious if shredded paperwork and bills would work?
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Anne Marie Harm says
I appreciate the details… I’m wondering what you do then (after the first season or two), when the weeds may have worked their way up from the soil and mulch to find their way back to sunshine?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Anne Marie – When the paper finally decomposes (after a year, or sometimes two years), I simply re-paper the bed.
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Weeds have taken over says
I live in hot and dry So Cal – I did this with newspaper and topped over with cedar chips.
It did NOT work well as after a couple days the weeds poked through the paper or found its way between them. Then worse yet when pulling the weeds would bring up the paper also. A major eye sore and pain. The only system we can use is pulling the darn weeds out one by one.
Are there Gmo’s in the ink .Not good in an Organic garden. I haven’t seen you comment on this?
I live in a suburb of Chicago. All summer I pulled weeds in my garden so when I read your newspaper idea I thought I’d try it before the cold weather, so I’d be ready for spring.Spent most of yesterday laying down wall to wall newspaper 10 sheets thick ,then I soaked it and put mulched leaves on top & soaked it again.
This morning my yard was a MESS! The wind blew the leaves & wet newspaper all over the yard. I will never listen to what people write in these blogs again.I’m near 70 yrs old & now I”ll spend hours cleaning up this mess. “Wet paper won’t budge” NOT TRUE! The gusts of wind blew the wet leaves & paper all over. Thanks guys for all this trouble!
I live in Ontario Canada and have moved into a house that the gardens are over run with weeds some as tall as 4 -5 feet last spring I pulled them out but they have all returned do you think this methed of cardboard ( which I can get plenty of ) will work to get reid of them?
Hi Kevin, I just want you to know that I tried this idea and it was a disaster.
The newspaper was on the ground for only about 4-5 weeks and it caused mice to come and hide under it. We have a brand new house just built in 2013 and we had not had any critters in or around our house. We had to hire some help to get all of the newspaper and mulch removed away from the yard and house as quickly as possible. I will not do this again. I had no idea that newspaper attracted those little gray mice-lots of them. We had to put several repellents inside the house just to be proactive and we put a yard repellent outside to keep them away. I’m glad this worked for you with no problem, but i will not be trying it again. Good luck to those of you whom it this idea does work for.
Great tip I did this to my entire front lawn to start new flower beds thanks! love it
Grass, etc was up to the skirting all around my house. Couldn’t mow that close and wanted flowers. So I used cardboard all around my house last year. Topped it with shredded leaves and grass clippings. Getting ready to plant soon. Only problem was dandelions that came right through the cardboard so will have to dig separately.
Also wanted to plant tomatoes last year so lay down cardboard and clippings and then poked holes through to plant the tomatoes. Worked great.
Now that the weeds and grass are under control I can use newspaper to continue that control.
I couldn’t help but giggle when you wrote “But plants can’t grow and seeds can’t sprout if they are covered with a thick layer of The New York Times!” I find the same applies to my brain when I read it!
hi I am going to try the new paper or card board to get ridge of weeds but the black spots that appear on the leaves of my blackeye susan and corn flowers this has been going on now for years I have spray them with a fungus pesticide do you think I should get ridge of the soil and start all new plants and soil I need help thanks marion
I work in an office and have an abundance of scratch printing paper. Could I use this instead?
Sandy DeMuth says
Thanks so much for the reminder! I had forgotten this tried and true remedy. Alas and alack, I made the mistake of buying landscape fabric (so-called 30-year by the way) and putting mulch over that last year. I learned the hard way that’s not the best way. Halfway through the season, the weeds pushed through. I’m going back to newspaper this year . . .
Planted a new bed last summer/fall and did precisely what you recommend. Have done it before and have been so pleased. I can actually see the tiny primroses this spring, the bloodroots etc. It is so effective. Now, I need to whip up my rabbit deterrent once again and spray my tulips before they sneak by to have dinner!
This is our 2nd year in this home, and the weeds every spring are getting worse…. with little time and challenging weather, our weeds are tall and out if control….. your idea sounds great…. should we whack the weeds down as low as we can first, then apply the newspaper? Also, we live in Georgia. Will all this newspaper attract roaches?
Can you do this procedure if you want to plant grass later? Would you have to remove the newspaper or just thrown good dirt over it and then plant grass?
Mary Ann says
Hey, we have done this with landscape paper in the past… but… I have a bed right now that needs HELP… I’ve pulled and pulled and I can pull no more…. I’m going to use your method.
Wondered if I can use the papers or cardboard in the flower beds around the perimeter of my house? Someone told me to not use any paper products close to the foundation of my house because it would attract termites. I like the idea of doing this, but now I’m hesitant to try it. Help!
Dumb question maybe but – do you have perenniels growing in the same location as the weeds ? If so, how do they grow when covered with newspaper ?
Julie R says
Thanks for the great tips on how to get rid of those nasty weeds in the garden, with using a layer of newspaper and leaves or mulch to cover them up. I plan on trying it on several areas in my yard.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Susan – I always wait until my perennials have emerged in spring before laying down the newspaper and mulch. The newspaper is arranged around and between the perennials. It’s an easy job!
Jeanie Jackson says
Kevin, I look forward to your emails and share with my friends in the Herb Society and Master Gardeners. Many have enjoyed your treats as well. The newspaper mulch has been used in my garden with great success especially in starting a new bed. Perennials are a favorite of mine and they appreciate a little room without the invasive pests knocking on their door.
I have asked my husband to mow throwing all of the grass seed away from my beds to also reduce the added growth where I do not need it…Thanks so much for a very welcome website.
You may have even more earthworms if you use cardboard. They love the glue it’s put together with. Probably won’t see a difference there until you are adding the next years layer of cardboard or paper. They won’t make their own hole in the cardboard but if they find a handy one it’s go time.
Jeannie Alvin says
I use cardboard to create trails in the weeds. It rains a lot here in Panama from about April or May through mid November. The weeds grow like crazy! I’ll try pieces of cardboard or newspaper in between my blackberry plants. I’ve been using hay or dry weeds as mulch around them, but the cardboard or newspaper sounds like a better idea. The weeds are a big challenge, and the newspaper will help. Thanks!!
Carol McCormack says
What a great and inexpensive idea. Think I’ll try shredded paper and cover with mulch.
Jean B says
This is one of the most beneficial posts I have ever read. I love my gardens but with age and arthritis I am finding it harder every year to do the necessary work. When I first read this I did my perennial garden and I used wood chips on top, in 2 years I only have a weed pop up on occasion, and I was short on paper and didn’t do the 10 sheets. This years I put in a large rose garden and for Mothers day My kids did the planting and the newspapers and wood chipped the top. I am looking forward to a beautiful garden with minimal work. Thank you Thank you
Kevin you are wonderful!!! I’ve been looking at the many weeds growing merrily at the front yard and not relishing pulling them out. Newspapers .. here we come!
bob gleason says
how can i kill the thistle in my vegatable garden without killing the tomato and cucumber plants.
You had me at “Wild Onion weeds and bulbs”!!!! I’m so tired of digging them out, bulb, dirt and rocks. I know the onion weeds keep growing, but I think my rocks have babies!!!! Sooo many, been clearing my garden for years now!
Pamela Borden says
My neighbor planted bamboo and his yard is overrun with it. I am now getting his runners and several sprouts in my yard, will newspaper stop bamboo? If not, do you know what will? If it keeps coming over, I will have to sell my house. I’m too old to use the ax to chop up the runners.
Can this method be used with veggies?
Brenda Grimm says
Thanks you so much for this tip Kevin. I have done this to two problem areas and it does work. Just have to do the watering quick if the wind is blowing.
Hi there. The garden I have trouble fighting weeds in is full of peonies and bearded iris. The iris are the problem… if a beautiful one. They don’t like a layer of mulch over them so I have never mulched them as I do my other beds. Wondering if there is a way to use the newspaper without the iris rhisomes rotting… I love my iris but the yearly weed battle has me about worn out.
My neighbour has been advocating the newspaper method for quite some time. I had a property management company come and do a spring cleanup, weeding, mulching, etc. (Garden was a mess.) I requested that they lay newspaper before spreading the mulch and they did not do so. So, I now have a very thick layer of black mulch and TONS of weeds. Just wondering how I shoukd proceed from this point?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Carol – It’s too bad the property management company didn’t heed your directions. Since the mulch was applied thickly, you’ll probably have to remove at least some of it. Then you can lay down newspaper (about 8 pages thick to really smother the existing weeds), and cover it with the mulch you removed.
Bonnie Gallagher says
This works amazing. First I took boiling water and poured it all over the area I was making a plant bed for this season. Then i put down the newspaper and we poured more boiling water. Then we put the mulch and the NOTHING grew. I was amazed this year how clean the area was with all the rain we got. I was going to do a planter bed there but found some beautiful planters and we put down fresh mulch and the planters with beautiful color and it looks amazing.
I’m probably the least competent person on here – apologies for my, most likely, “duh” question. I want to try this but am wondering if I should do this now (fall) or spring? If I do it now I run the risk of pulling it all up when I rake up the impending onslaught of leaves. Maybe I’m answering my own question. Come spring perhaps I should rake remaining leaves, put paper down, mulch….?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Dawn – You are right — spring is the time to apply newspaper as a weed-barrier. Have fun with your project!
Nathan Somasundaram says
I didn’t know that newspaper could be put to a use like this! It’s very inexpensive too.
I was initially thinking of buying a sod cutter to remove the existing lawn and then renting a tiller to till the soil before laying the sod next spring.
Now that I’ve learned there’s an inexpensive way of doing it, I’m going to try this (newspaper and cardboard) in the Fall so come Spring my currently weed-infested backyard could be converted into a nice looking lawn! It’ll be painless too!
I never thought of using cardboard or newspaper to smother grass. Instead of compost or wood chips place on paper or cardboard, could i put dirt from my container garden. I grew tomatoes in containers and now need to do something with that soil and a flower bed that could use some more dirt.
Sigrid Woelke says
Hi there. I’m new to this website. I love the idea of the newspaper. I live in Uruguay, South America, but I will certainly try it. Weeds of all kind and even the lawn are invading my flour and veggie beds, and it’s a pain in the neck to pull all those weeds. Plus the ground here is poor and I have to battle all kinds of pests in my plants.
But I won’t give up. Working in my garden is relaxing and enjoyable for me.
Thanks for all the good ideas.
how would you prevent mould growth when doing this??
Could I use this trick to rid my garden of weeds so I can sow a lawn in a month or so when hopefully some nice Spring weather arrives?
please, can be used this method in the spring (now).
I am in Oklahoma and have beds with iris and daylilies and Bermuda grass has crept in…overa period of years will I have to dig up all the plants and get rid of the grass and weeds before I can get the weeds out , then put the iris and lilies back in the soil and then use the newspaper and much?
Carol Samsel says
I’ve used this method for years I used both cardboard and newspapers. The newspaper directly around the plants and cardboard in lager areas. Works like a charm ♥
Kevin, I have a question.
First the situation:
Here in MN (zone 3), we have spruce trees lining our suburban/rural property. (Housing development butted up to farmland.) The trees make a great natural wind block and add privacy. Our lush, green grass (originally from seed) goes up to the tress.
The spruce trees (which are now approximately 20 years old) are starting to get thin on the bottom, so we would like to add a few rows of bushes and perennials in front of them to make a thicker screen.
What’s the best way to remove the grass without harming the spruce trees? Would your newspaper method work to smother lush sod?
Hi Kevin. So glad someone else grows Baptisia. Love those plants. Ordered 2 new ones this year from Bluestone. One is red/pink & another blue. Love your column. Thank you for all your great recipes and helpful hints. I have a problem with wild raspberries (thorny vine) & Star of Bethlehem. No matter how much I pull it comes back every year. They are in all my flower & veggie gardens. Now I have Catchweed/Bedstraw which is horrible & everywhere. It sticks to your clothes so you have to be careful you don’t spread it. According to my weed book the only way to rid it is to pull but the roots don’t come out easily. It entwines with all my plants so can’t use vinegar. Any remedies? Garden Design is a good mag. Used to have a scrip but let it lax. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks Kevin , newspaper is a great way to keep weeds out i used to do it in my garden in Ontario now we live in Newfoundland we don’t get the newspaper her in the small town we live in but we do get lots of weeds but my wonderful husband help me in my garden i love your to read you bog thank you have a wonderful spring & summer
I’m about to go out and use your newspaper technique on the areas in between my raised garden beds. I’ll be using wood chips on top of the newspaper, to create neat paths in my veggie garden. Thanks for showing us the nice-n-easy way to weed-free garden areas.
Mary in Iowa says
I’ve been using the newspaper trick for around 20 years, but I’m faced with a task I’m not sure even they will solve. Last summer I laboriously dug out the sod in the 7′ x 60′ parking strip, dug deep, spread compost, shredded leaves and fertilizer, rototilled it all in and planted a beautiful garden to replace the useless grass, with divisions and 57 winter sown plants. This weekend I discovered that last week’s rains caused the GRASS SEED some miguided soul–and I say misguided soul to spare readers with tender sensibilities what I really said–to germinate. Roughly 110 sq. ft. of the 420 now is covered with 43 gazillion individual blades of the hated grass. I don’t have all that much space between hostas, columbines, campanulas, geraniums, bergenias, daffodils, astilbes, pinks, daylilies–the cheap kind, not your aristocrats–etc. to squeeze in enough newspaper to kill grass, which is blanketing every spare bit of unoccupied soil right up to the base of every plant. For now, I’m going to avert my eyes until all the budded beauties bloom, then face the music. Probably digging out all the good stuff and dumping vats of vigear to keill the nasty grass will be required, when what I’m really involved with is this year’s project of the 8′ x 100′ front parking strip re-do. Suffice it to say that it’s fortuitous that I don’t know who the perpetrator is or I’d soon be serving a life sentence. I’m pretty sure I could still stay connected with your blog in prison. 🙂
Hello Kevin, as good as newspapers are for weeds, I wonder whether you have a natural solution to curbing or getting rid of Mosquito infestation? I have a small potted garden and the blessed mosquito as invaded and making my life a misery when sitting out.
Pots have roses, impatient, portalacula,sage, rosemary,basil, geranium. I do hope you have a solution! Thank you in advance.
Yes I could see where the NYTimes could be good smothering material… ha! Love your blog, your ideas and you.. thank you for sharing the best with all of us! Blessings!
You may of answered this… but how many sheets of new papers do you use per layer?
I have tried for years to create a very low maintenance perennial garden and have been pulling my hair out yearly trying to stop weeds. I’ve tried everything. And spent a fortune. I’ve been to the recycling center and filled my car with newspaper and this weekend I’m following your instructions above and paper mulching. My fingers and toes are crossed. I have to try something. And the good part other than the mulch to go over the paper it’s costing me nothing!! I’ll let you know by July/August whether the weeds win again this year!
Thank you for giving me new hoe!!
Sharon Vantuyl says
I have been using newspaper, phone books and junk mail for years. I highly recommend wetting the material shortly before putting it down. First I weed whack the grass/weed area as short as possible. To the dirt if possible. Apply about 4 deep sheets, more if you have stolen grasses. Wet paper adheres to the ground and does not blow around. Don’t try to do too large an area or the paper will dry out and blow around. Straw, leaves, wood chips are placed over the paper. The wheelbarrow idea was great because you can move the water and paper as you go. Cardboard should be used with caution in walkways. Soaked it works great BUT Corrogated cardboard is glued together. It sometimes slips apart and you end up walking on a slippery sliding path that can dump you. I have also used old natural fiber carpet that I find on the curb in the community clean up. I cut the carpet into width desired for my path and roll it up until I’m ready to use it. Have not tilled a garden in years. Just move the carpets around. Normally get 2 to 3 years before they go back in the trash. Currently I have a pathway of “glass backed” .carpet squares. Nothing grows through these. I am 68 and expect them to last the rest of my gardening days. They were available at our local “Restore” recycle center and came from an office building. Biggest problem seemed to be staples and soda pop spills which attracted bees for awhile. I now keep the bottom smooth side facing up. I don’t use these in the veggie section, just to kill grass or make paths. SHREDDED OFFICE PAPER. I once found large amounts of this in a dumpster and thought it would be sort of like paper mache. It did not take water like newsprint and it was difficult to cover with wood chips. Results? The birds loved it! Especially the starlings and sparrows. They carried it all over the neighborhood and soon there were messy nest of white, pink, blue and yellow paper.
Sharon Vantuyl says
If you are able to locate it and just need a no till garden the best material I ever found was sheets of corrugated roofing tin. Highly frowned on by neighborhood associations but if you have high fences and a backyard or live out in the country it works awesome. We used ours for over 15 years. We had sections 8,10,12 foot long and about 30 inches wide from a demolished outbuilding. We put it between most of our planting rows but especially rows of corn, tomatoes and peppers. You need to lap the joints and weight it in spots with bricks or old 2×4’s so it won’t sail in the wind. Advantages. The metal helped warm up the soil and squash and warm weather crops got an early jump on the season. It seemed the reflected light seemed to be an extra bonus also. When weeds did appear in the planted rows they were pulled and tossed on the metal paths where they dried up in short order. Sometimes I left them there and sometimes they went into a bucket with rain water to make mulch tea. Raccoons will eventually lose fear of the metal but the deer would not walk on it. It also seemed to cut down on some bugs. (Actually discouraged some neighborhood mishchief makers one night.) Oddly enough the metal actually conserved moisture. Once the plants grew they shaded the metal and rain was channeled under the sheets of metal. Corn was taller and sent side roots under the metal. One year winds flattened the neighbors corn but mine stayed upright. In the fall we mowed the planting rows. Later you just shift the metal to cover the mowed area and plant the previous years path. We did have several garter snakes that seemed to like to stay under the metal where they seemed to be eating crickets and worms.
Barbara Jean Smith says
I have little Tansy seedlings coming up, and I’m not ready to transplant them yet. So I took your advice and covered the spaces with newspaper – aah! Much less weeding to do! And I do have leaf mulch (gleaned from the gutters) ready to put down. In the meantime, I’ll hold them down with rocks. Thank you Kevin!
Kevin thanks for letting us know we need 10 sheets of paper.
Looks interesting but how about inks leaking harmful chemicals in the ground ? I thought that was why newspaper should never be composted.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Anne – Regarding newspaper ink, be sure to read the paragraph under the last photograph.
Judith Collins says
Great methods for weed killing…. BUT HELP… need help with roses….
First your milk treatment really helps… with blackspot …. THANKS
but…… my rose leaves are being eaten up … so they look like they have pinholes in them…..
I’ve read they have caterpillers of some kind… but not convinced….
I want to treat them naturally and at this stage ready to cut them all back….
HELP… i love roses and I love your blogs…
Judith in St. Louis
Thanks for the great idea.
Have been looking for ways to stop weeds and grass from invading my rose plants.
Christina Gutt says
Will this method also get rid of Lily-of-the-Valley? They’ve taken over the garden bed!!!
Does this work if you cover with pine straw, or just mulch?
ok i tried this with grass clippings since I didn’t have anything else. BUT, once the grass dried and so did the newspaper, the wind blew the grass off the paper and the paper went flying. So what to do now??
Does it have any toxin in the ink on the newspaper???
I think we have to think about it.
Sau Douma says
I am in Florida, to prevent weeds growing in the flower bed , I put cardboard on the soil then rocks on top. Do these card boards cause termites? Please, let me know. Thanks.
tu veux faire encore mieux ? j’ai mieux avec ma méthode plus de travail après ça
i understand the physical benefits of newspaper and cardboard in gardening and soil remediation. But please consider the following: while many respond that newspaper is good because it is now uses soy ‘based’ inks, the ink is just that: soy-based (also likely GMO) and not all soy. But more importantly, the mass of the medium is pulp, which contains dioxin, chlorine and many other nasties like BPA, all of which concentrate as paper gets recycled. Same applies for cardboard, except that boxes, like shipping pallets, are often sprayed with insecticides for shipping.
Renate Simsa says
The newspaper ia a good idea, if you do not have Robins. They scratched throug the mulch and made a mess of the paper underneath. Looked like a battlezone. Had to put my privacy slat from the chain link fence down to discourage them, so will not use that method again.
I’m hoping you can help me brainstorm a solution to an ongoing garden dilemma. How would you handle weed abatement for the weeds that grow in the bed of a long, wide drainage ditch bordered by large rip rap rocks and some desireable flowers and plants? I live in NC, and this ditch was put in my our home’s builder years ago and divides our front yard, so it is very visible, In the summer, the bindweed takes over, blanketing the surrounding rocks and even blanketing nearby bushes and trees. With the snakes, bugs, and summer heat/humidity here, I’m reluctant to spend the hours required to stay on top of the weeds by hand pulling. I’m also reluctant to spray toxic chemicals. I have considered your newspaper and mulch solution but am worried it would be washed away in the first big storm. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.
I first heard of this trick a few years ago from a friend. I have been battling with horsetails at our weekend home for years. I tried newspaper and cardboard with mulch or compost on top. Last year we finished a kitchen remodel and have a ton of cardboards. I laid two layers of cardboards. There may be less horsetails now (can’t really tell) but they are going through the cardboards! I still have to hand weed every weekend and a week later the yard looks the same – a horsetail garden. Can you tell me what I have done wrong? I have tried this in spring and fall. The area is on a slope so I have to weight the paper or cardboards down with rocks. I didn’t soak them, but here in PNW everything is soaked in no time. Maybe I didn’t put enough mulch on top? I sow wild flowers on top and need only 2″ compost. I read somewhere that horsetail likes poor soil. Do you think some fertilizer would help?
Love your post – just got a gallon of vinegar to kill the docks on driveway.
Karen W says
Barbara Bush would approve of using the NY Times this way. I’m going to try this method. Thanks!
You must have known that I was in a bit of a state today wondering how to rid my garden of chickweed!! I shall try the newspapers and hopefully it will cut the weeds for a while.
I can’t think of a better use for the New York Times.
Justine Bona says
Hello, I have a lot of weeds in my garlic bed and want to do this. However I also want to plant my garlic (fall planting) will my garlic pop through the newspaper or should I try to place it on top? What do you suggest?
Also side note: recycling is great, but if your in a pinch and you need a lot of news paper you can go to any local newspaper and they will have paper end which are dirt cheap (pun haha), it also easier to just roll out a big roll if you are trying to cover a large area.
I have heard some great success stories regarding the use of newspaper instead of traditional weed mat, and newspaper is much less expensive. The key is to use very thick layers, ten sheets or more, to create a more dense barrier to smother the weeds. The newspaper will break down as it gets wet and weathered, so the thicker the layers the longer it takes to break down. I have been hoarding the pennysavers and local papers that are thrown on my driveway every week. I am also collecting the old pennysavers from the local paper stands, which just get recycled anyways. I am so tired of pulling weeds, although it is good exercise.
Question: We have an ailing ancient sugar maple and our tree service recommended removing the grass from a large area around the tree and mulching to help with moisture retention. I’m not looking forward to the ‘removing grass’ portion of this advice. Can I assume that your method would work on large swaths of lawn as well as within existing gardens? This seems like the perfect solution – yes? Thanks so much for all of your fascinating gardening advice. I just recently started my milk-jug winter-sown seeds. Hope they sprout!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi BVaeth – That’s exactly what I would do — smother the grass with newspaper (or cardboard).
Thanks for not just telling us but showing us too. I have wanted to try newspaper but wondered about shredding it first; how thick; how to “work it into the soil” etc. Got it and will try it in my blueberry shrub bed.
Kathy F says
Hi Kevin, I always love your ideas and it’s good to repeat them for new readers. In Colorado I pick up as many bags of leaves as I can find, but the front range just doesn’t have as many trees as the east. This is a form of lasagna gardening at its best. I finally found a good source of organic matter. There are House Rabbit Societies all over the U.S. I pick up bags and bags of their rabbit litter. I know it’s Timothy hay and it should contain weed seeds but I haven’t had a problem. I apply a layer of mulch over the fertilized hay and bunny droppings. My soil is so much better now. I have two favorite garden sayings regarding mulch: 1) No one knows what lies beneath. 2) Mulch is the lipstick of the garden. Thanks for getting the word out. You’re teaching new gardeners to recycle resources to improve their soil.
An excellent use of the NYT
I live in a major metro area. I and my friends or neighbors do not subscribe to our local newspaper. It has been next to impossible getting old news paper. Ive tried the usual sources-no luck. I have resorted to cardboard (amazon) but weeds still come up, although not as many. And the worms love it.
Marcia Isman says
Are there no foragers among this group of gardeners?
I love you, Kevin, this site and all I have learned. Little plant are starting to emerge in my “greenhouse” jugs from Gardening 101 and I am looking forward to using your newspaper technique to eliminate the rapidly proliferating Star of Bethlehem that has been the bane of my existence. I am surprised, however, that all weeds are spoken of as the enemy rather than as a free and highly nourishing food! Kevin, I would love to see you incorporate them in some of your wonderful recipes. Or create a category of recipes just for them. Wild onions and garlic mustard can be quite delicious. Dandelion greens, that were mentioned in the comments, are a gift and the flowers are quite medicinal. On Long Island in New York, I harvest many of the weeds (I like to call them native plants) and cultivate them as I do herbs, not allowing them to take over, but growing them either in pots or in their own confined area of my edible garden, as I would rapidly spreading mint or oregano. My favorite natives to include in salads in addition to dandelion greens are chickweed, purslane and lambs quarter. Mallow flowers make a beautiful addition to your salad, and their leaves can thicken your soup or gravy! I was excited to see some broad leaf plantain growing this year in my backyard. My daughter, who is an herbalist taught me to use it externally as well. For those of you who prefer to avoid dousing yourself with toxic chemicals, mugwort can be brewed as a tea and sprayed on oneself every couple of hours to keep away mosquitos and other insect pests. There are many informative books and articles on the subject of the positives of weeds. Just my two cents.. Hope I have provided something of value although not the original topic.
As others have asked, will it work with the kind of pokey weed grass with root system that spread underground. It has taken over my flower garden and seems impossible to eradicate.
Chemicals and soy ink and mice–oh, my! And there’s another possibility that my exterminator warned against: TERMITES! He said I was inviting trouble by using cardboard or any more than 1 or two sheets of newsprint so close to the foundation of the house. I had one season of dry knees. Now it’s bye-bye, weed-free garden!
I too have used this method for years… works well for the weeds coming up, but how do you keep the birds from dropping their surprises on top and creating the weeds on top?
Ruth Lee says
Please tell me if the newspapers will kill out all the ground Ivey or creeping Charlie that is chocking out my rhubarb, I’m desperate !!!
I lay down all of the cardboard we accumulate on my cleaned up veggie garden in the fall-If you need tons of cardboard there is usually a pickup night in town where the merchants put all their accumulated and tied up cardboard out. Fantastic.
Then cover with leaves and straw from the summer season. It sits and decomposes all winter. In the spring I open black bags of chopped leaves that have been out in the sun all winter and decomposed enough-Spread that again and magically, the garden is ready to go. No tilling-No weeds.
Just dig where seeds and plants go. I am also collecting and using very large black plastic pots to grow veggies in more raised beds. Heavy weeding is a distant memory. Just pick at a thing here or there and my time is my own.
Karen Carpenter says
I have used your newspaper mulch in my flower and vegetable gardens and love how well it works.
I have a question for you… Do you think the newspaper mulch can kill mint? If not, do you have any suggestions how to get rid of mint? I had a small, self contained tub of mint set within my ‘raised bed’ herb garden. The mint has escaped its container and invaded all of my other herbs, please help!
Avis Sorensen says
Here in Wisconsin we get lots of rain and very tough weeds. We started using your method of using newspapers around our tomatoes to prevent splashing soil diseases on the leaves but even with 4 layers of paper, it decomposed before the end of the summer. When we quite subscribing to the newspaper, we switched to using paper grocery bags and they work beautifully. Cut the bags open and use the same technique you describe, making sure to wet them down. We mulch with grass clippings or straw and keep almost all the surface of our garden covered. It is so much nicer to walk on these less slippery surfaces than on mud and we hardly have to do any weeding. The paper bags are just about decomposed at the end of the season when we are planting our winter ground cover. Thanks for the great low maintenance method!
I’m sure this question has been answered but I’m an amateur gardner and I’m just wondering if annuals will be able to grown through the paper and mulch and not be smothered?
Mary Meany says
Hi Kevin. I’m delighted to report that my first attempt at winter sowing has been very successful. I’m now dressing my new beds with newspaper. I’ve found daffodil and tulip bulbs I forgot to plant. I am wondering if they will be able to get through the newspapers next spring if I plant them now?
Theresa Yesu says
Hi Kevin, Thanks for the great step by step instructions and pictures.
I live on a corner lot in MA and my flower beds line the curb. As a result, they get hit with the sand and salt from winter plowing. I’m planning on putting compost and topsoil on these beds to enrich the soil. What do you think? And do I put the wet newspaper down than topsoil/compost? As you can tell I’m a newbie at this? Thanks!!!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Teresa – Top soil can contain weed seeds. I’d put it down first, followed by the newspaper, then the mulch. Good luck with your curb-side project!
Craig Jones says
I recently pulled up a few hundred square feet of ivy that had taken over part of our back yard. I visited the local Target every Wednesday for several weeks and gathered the largest, thickest cardboard boxes I could find from their product unpacking. I put a layer of cardboard down, overlapping the edges by about 6 inches, and then covered the area in a few inches of cypress chips kindly delivered by a tree cutting crew that was taking down a number of dead and dying Leyland Cypresses nearby. So far I’ve just had to keep the ivy at bay on the perimeter. I have not seen any pop up in the bed just yet.
I think this is fairly friendly to the environment, though I am also sure that cardboard boxes are not entirely free of chemicals. But it sure beats Monsanto’s poisons.
Maggie Grant says
My weeds are intricately woven among lilies and other perennials. There’s no clump of perennials to work newspaper around; it’s all a mishmash together. How do I discourage these weeds?
Hello from Connecticut – I planted English Ivy as a ground cover under two huge Northern Pine trees some years back – big mistake. Now I have an investstion of poison ivy and Virginia creeper climbing up the tree trunks, fence and Garden shed. Going to try this so I bought paper leaf bags ( I don’t get a newspaper) from a big box store and covered with mulch. I hope it kills the ground cover and invasive weeds. I’ll let you know.
I used to use this method. YEARS ago. Then our paper got thinner and thinner. And more and more expensive. With more and more ads. I haven’t subscribed to a paper in about 10 years. So, where the heck am I supposed to get enough to mulch my flower beds? I have a huge problem with Canada thistle and I refuse to use RoundUp. The only thing that I have found that works is pulling and that really doesn’t work all that well as, when you pull out one and leave even the smallest piece of root, two or more grow back so it’s a constant battle….one I give up on once the summer temps hit 80+. I believe the newspaper would work because I have a corner of the yard that is SO shady that essentially no weeds, not even the thistle, grows. So, where the heck do I get enough paper to do all this?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Teri – Your local recycling facility should have all the newspaper you need. Good luck with your project!
Kevin, can I lay the newspaper or cardboard over the existing weed material with last years mulch still on top, or do I have to remove the material and old mulch first?
Great and inexpensive idea. Think I’ll try
Karen Roberts says
I am new to this sight and can’t wait to try the newspaper method on a back fence garden where I have planted day lilies and sunflowers. I have an invasive weed that I can’t seem to kill and recently had to get drastic with a vine that I think is sugarplum? It is awful and wanted to even grow over the grass and climb a maple tree. Thanks for the info re vinegar too.
Cindy Kiker says
I’ve used this idea for years. Once I put the newspaper down I apply straw, then water. This method not only keeps the weeds out, but is a great way to conserve water, as the earth stays moist longer between watering. The garden is not only neat but smells good as well.
can i use old magazines for this ??
Thanks to you, I started your suggestion with newspaper and cardboard and large areas . It holds the weeds back! Less work for me and can enjoy the garden .
Love ❤️ your blog and your videos. You’re the best
Bruni Haydl says
I’ve found that the library is a great place to get newspapers. They collect a good amount before they take them to the recycling place where they may be processed before you get there. After calling the library to check on their supply I came home with a trunk full of newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and NY Times among others. I prefer using newspaper over cardboard and have found it to be safer underfoot.
Yamile Rijo says
Just a little note to say that you are my guru. Ever since I found you on Pinterest and you saved my roses I have been your fan. Love your sense of humour, your recipes and look forward to Sundays when you without fail deliver some words of wisdom.
Have a great Sunday!
I collect bags of leaves to shred as mulch and actually use the empty leaf bags as you do news paper. One can cover much larger spaces when they are cut open, are double layered, and when applied in the fall helps to control weeds and allows bulbs to come up, as the paper is soft by the time of the arrival of spring. Should one notice humps coming up pushing the paper and raising the mulch leaf cover, all one has to do to allow the bulbs to get through is take a knife and make an X in the paper much, the bulbs come through and the paper settles in and protects. Been thinking of perhaps running leaf bags through a shredder as well.
I found 2 layers of bags extremely effective against Bermuda grass and even fold up a complete bag lengthwise to about 6-8 inches to bury in the ground next to some monkey grass as a border to inhibit its spread. Worked for a couple of seasons extremely well.
So many comments..one more,- I have used the newspaper method and it is great !! thanks for sharing
Petera Mironchik says
I tried this method last year on two of my perennial beds and vegetable garden and WOW. What a time saver and back saver this year. It really works. Add some more mulch to last years job. Just finished doing my rose garden today and will start on my front yard perennial garden tomorrow. What a work saver. Thanks
Kev, You are the Oscar winner of SO many areas❣️Just LOVE your info, presentation, etc. (Am missing Lilly though).
Shirley Parran says
I’ve been using cardboard for years. It works great.
Judy Peck says
I love this method however I was taught to sprinkle cinnamon you know table sprinkle cinnamon roll cinnamon in your garden around your weeds and in the dirt that you’re getting ready to plant in use it on the roots of the transplants use it on the broken stems where everything is has boo boos on it… cinnamon is a Gardener’s friend for sure oh yes and I want to remind you all if you didn’t know cinnamon helps cure and stop the fungus on rose leaves hollyhock leaves and even zucchini and cucumbers just mix it in a bottle of water and spray all your leaves you will be delighted with the results
Hilde Sladich says
I have horrible weeds, especially chickweed with the stickers. Would vinegar penetrate deep into the soil or would I still need to till up the soil for new grass. Also, is there any grass that stays green all year that suffocates weeds? Also, the kind that look like tall grass but the stem grows sideways. I want all the grass gone but I like the idea of the newspapers. and mulch.
susan rieske says
Sorry, Kev. I luv your articles, but I must point out the science has proven the newspaper is bad for the soil.
I agree that weeds are horrid but thanks to a really neat class I took at the Audobon I now know not to completely get rid of them. Just eat’em instead! The garlic mustard you covered up makes an awesome pesto and is good sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Chickweed is yummy in salad. It tastes like a fresh pea from the garden. Yes they are invasive but why not get something good from them before you smoother them by adding them to the dinner table or to your next cocktail party!
Moira Tither says
My name is Moira
My question does the newspaper work on ” Horsetail”. I would be obliged if I can get an Answer
Dear Kevin, I have an area infested with weed and would like to plant grass. Can I do the newspapers, and later on plant grass? Will the grass grow?
Hi. Great advice! I know this post is a few years old, but hoping you are still responding. Is there a modified version of this for my bulbs clusters? Crabgrass is sneaking in between the bulbs. I could dig them up and split them when it gets cooler, but I didn’t want to do that with all of them. Any suggestions?
Well aren’t you a breath of fresh air! I stumbled upon your site while researching paper mulching. I’ll be following you from now on!
Jeremy Henry says
Good Morning Kevin,
Thank you for your detailed article. I enjoyed reading it. Can you also use magazine pages? Or are they too glossy?
Vicki M Haworth says
The topsoil has eroded in my flower beds and sloped lot and I want to bring in new soil and build it back up again to look nice. The ground is extremely hard! I have been saving newspaper all year to try this method to keep weeds down. My question is do I lay the paper and then cover with new topsoil or the opposite…… topsoil then newspaper? I also want to top it with a nice dark mulch/bark or something decorative. Help!!! 🙂
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Vicki – Topsoil, then newspaper, then mulch. Have fun with your project!
I have one (?) little confusion about newspaper mulching…
You do this in early spring, which is late February for me. I’m in coastal Wa.
Once you wait a few days (weeks?) and want to start planting seeds, do you just poke your finger through the paper layer and drop a seed in? Or something else. When do I till up the grass/garden or does the paper/mulch layer negate this? Thank you for the help I’m still new to this gardening thing.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Brooke — Newspaper smothers existing weeds, so there’s no need to till. Too tricky, I’m afraid, to plant seeds in a papered bed. Seedlings (young plants) are the better option. For these, just pierce the damp paper with trowel or knife, and plant away!
Thanks so much for your very informative, entertaining and humorous article! 🙂 Question for you: I’ve cut out a bunch of 4 ft. diameter donut-shaped landscape fabric to put around tree saplings to kill grass and weeds, and then cover it with mulch on top. Then someone just gave me lots of old newspapers. I’m thinking i could i use both landscape fabric and newspaper for a more effective grass-killing/weed-preventing solution. Is this a good idea, or should i only use either/or?
Chris Li says
I look forward t reading your column each week! I have used the newspaper
mulch and it indeed helps with weed eradication. I was also wondering if
shredded paper would work.
Great idea. You don’t have to wait until you have collected enough newspapers, just go to a Newspaper office, they sell roll end, and they are very inexpensive.
Janice Crabtree says
“ Frankly, I felt embarrassed.” LOL
This is my favorite gardening article ever. I, too, am a fan of mulching over newspapers. Who knows how many brain tumors we can avoid by ending our relationship with Preen and Roundup?
Lisa Bottorff says
Definitely sounds less back breaking to get rid of weeds. Will this method also kill monkey grass in my flower beds?
Lisa Bottorff says
Definitely sounds less back breaking to get rid of weeds. Will this method also kill monkey grass in my flower beds?
Phyllis Bachinski says
Thank you for reposting this! I will pass it on to my husband who thinks the earth replenishes itself…ugh! I need to ask you if in the future weeks if you can give me hints what to do next with my spent rose bushes and my peonies, something easy to follow please.
Thank you in advance!
I used this method for creating a rock garden after seeing this post! I don’t think I put enough down. The weeds (in most cases just invasive groundcover) are popping through. I’m going to try to patch in some more in those areas and cover with more pebbles. I’m such a newbie at all of this so I truly appreciate your blog.
Varina Rolen says
I live in north central Texas. I began using this method last year when a new bed quickly started becoming overtaken with Bermuda grass where I too had planted expensive day lilies. A year later, I only have to occassionally pull grass from the beds, but it is very easy to keep up with as I do the pulling as I am deadheading and watering. The daylillies are thriving! I just completed new rose beds and again, used this method. We quit getting the local newspaper, so I went to the local U-Haul business and purchased a large box of dish packing paper, which IS clean newsprint. I paid $10. This is a good option for those worried about the ink. Once my new rose bushes were planted, I covered the newsprint with a thick layer of cypress mulch. Looks beautiful
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Varina – Dish packing paper (clean newsprint) from U-Haul = Brilliant. I’m so glad this method of weed-smothering is working out for you!
Captain Uglybeard says
So much dandelion hate. I like dandelions, so I very carefully mow around them. They are good for the soil and the bees. Edible too. I am turning part of my lawn into a garden though, so definitely doing this technique.
Donna M Asam says
I no longer get a newspaper. can I use what I in my shredder? It’s all paper from mailings.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Donna – Your local transfer station or recycling facility will have MOUNTAINS of newspaper and cardboard, all free for the taking.
Betty in Arlington says
Kevin, Such a great idea for the garden! I get the WashPost, so it’s think on Sundays…will start to save it. And, the tip on getting the newsprint from the recycler is a grand idea! Newsprint used to be made of yukky black soot – I remember my dad’s thumb prints all over our white doors! I used the newsprint idea last year for my shrubs – no weeds this year, except the spesky ones (I figure if they could sift thru eight layers, they deserve to come out)! I so look forward to your emails on Sundays, Kevin. Happy gardening to all! And, Blessed Palm Sunday to those celebrating, and blessed Passover. (My Easter (Pascha) is May 2, so I have a while.)
Sylvia McQuillan says
Any ideas how to stop Blackberries from taking over the garden. Would layers of newspaper and cardboard help if I first cut off the canes? Any ideas would be gratefully appreciated. I
Danella on the Canadian west coast says
Another useful article. Just about time for another layer of newspaper in the raspberry patch. Works great! Thanks Kevin.
We tried this at our church on a grassy slope. It looked beautiful for about a month, but apparently we didn’t lay the paper thick enough as grass and weeds are now coming through the mulch. Can you suggest what we can do besides raking up the mulch and laying down more paper? Thanks for the great ideas.
Just wondering if magazine pages would do the same as newspaper or does the coating on the magazine paper cause an issue?