Do you battle weeds in your garden and flower beds year after year? Annette and Chris's favorite way to prevent weeds in our flower beds and garden is to use newspaper. We have been using this method for years and decided we should share it with our readers.
Newspaper is a natural way to prevent weeds in your garden and flower beds and can eliminate the need for using herbicides. For our flower beds, we use newspapers covered by mulch. In the garden, the newspaper can be covered with straw.
Keep reading to find out why we like newspaper over landscape fabric and how you can use it in your garden or flower beds to prevent weeds from growing.
If you are interested in other Gardening posts like this one, read to the end for some of our other favorite posts.
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If you've been reading our gardening posts, you may already know that Chris has honey bee hives in her yard. So, this makes it very important to not spray herbicides in her yard on any flowering plants. Even if you don't have beehives, be kind to the bees and other pollinators by not spraying herbicides.
WHAT YOU NEED to mulch your flower beds
- Old Newspapers
- Mulch - (For Flower Beds) I like double shredded hardwood mulch but you can use your favorite type.
- Straw - (For in Garden)
- Gardening Gloves (optional)
This bed is along the back of our house. There is a Crepe Myrtle, birdbath and Lily of the Valley plants.
How to mulch flower beds with newspaper
STEP 1: Clear old debris and weeds
If your bed or garden is overrun with weeds, you will need to pull or break off the weeds close to the ground. A weed trimmer can even be used to cut the weeds close to the ground but be careful to not trim any plants you want to keep.
Pull the weeds that are close to plants so they will not continue to grow after mulching.
Some of the fall leaves and debris can be left in the bed since you will be covering it with newspaper, but it should be close to the ground.
STEP 2: Lay down layers of newspaper
Take a section of the newspaper and open it up into layers. Place at least 3 - 4 layers down over each section of the bed to be covered in mulch or straw.
This newspaper is cut out around two Parsley plants in the bed. This is my herb garden, so there are a few perennial herbs in the bed.
Tip: Use the actual newspaper and skip the glossy sections, advertising inserts, and coupon sections.
Tear or cut holes in the newspaper and place it around the plants in the bed. Be sure to not cover any perennials in the flower bed.
Overlap the newspaper ends at least a few inches and don't leave any gaps between the newspapers. If you don't overlap, those pesky weeds will be able to grow up in between the newspapers.
This newspaper is ready to be covered with mulch. Notice how the pieces are overlapped.
I usually work in sections because the newspaper will get blown by the wind. The newspaper can be sprayed to make it wet to keep it from blowing. I don't like to wet it before mulching because it is more easily torn which will leave holes for the weeds to grow through.
This is another bed with some plants and the newspapers placed around the plants.
Step 3: Cover with Mulch or Straw
When you have a section of newspaper layers on the soil, cover it with mulch across the whole area. The mulch should be 3" - 4" deep.
If you are working in your garden, cover the newspaper with straw. Put the straw around any vegetable plants in your garden. Use a good amount of straw down to help keep the weeds from growing through.
Garden Tip: Place a soaker hose throughout the garden bed by the soil and underneath the newspaper and straw. Hook a garden hose to the soaker hose and use it to water your plants throughout the summer. I put mine on a timer and water for 20 minutes every other day.
STEP 4: Adding Plants to the Beds after Mulching
If you purchase plants after mulching, simply push the mulch aside to uncover the newspaper. With your shovel, make a hole in the newspaper and dig your hole for the plant in the soil.
Place the plant in the hole and move the soil around the plant base.
Then, replace the mulch around the new plant and it's complete! Be sure to water any new plants.
ENJOY YOUR BEAUTIFUL FLOWER BEDS!
How often will the mulch need to be replaced?
The mulching should last you an entire summer season. The newspaper and mulch will need to be replaced each year to refresh your beds. Weed seeds will get into the top of the mulch and can start growing so we do need to mulch each year.
What are the Benefits of Using Newspaper?
- Newspaper biodegrades and actually enriches the soil
- Newspaper feeds the organisms in the soil
- Worms like the area in between the newspaper and the soil
- If you have a subscription to a newspaper, it's FREE! Landscape mulch can be expensive. If you don't have a subscription, ask around and have a friend save newspapers for you.
- Mulching helps keep water in the soil for the plants so they won't dry out as quickly.
What about landscape fabrics? Why not use them?
Landscape fabrics are very durable and do not degrade over time. I guess some people like it for this feature, but it has many downsides.
- After a few years, the mulch on top of the fabric becomes more like soil and weed seeds just grow from the top and down through the fabric.
- The fabric is really hard to remove after several years.
- Weed roots can be really hard to remove from the landscape fabric and may need to be cut out.
- To plant a new plant, the fabric needs to be cut.
- The fabric may need to be replaced anyway if you need to cut too many holes for plants each year.
- After a year, it doesn't keep away weeds as well since the seeds just grow from the top.
When we moved to a new house, we found landscape fabric several inches under the soil. We couldn't even tell it was there for how many weeds were growing on top. The previous owners have used it in many places around our yard.
Now, there is so much soil, mulch and other dirt over the top which makes the landscape fabric almost impossible to remove. It also makes it hard to plant new plants as it needs to be cut through or the plant cannot establish good roots.
The photo below is from a bed I was mulching this year. I found the landscape fabric is so far down it's under this huge root (top right of the photo) from a large Red Bud tree. The landscape fabric has to be at least 5 inches down from the surface.
There is no way to get this fabric out now that the root has grown over it. I can cut or tear out as much as I can, but will have to leave some there.
I was able to remove some other sections of landscape fabric from this bed while mulching this year and one section had another big root growing through it. I had to cut the root in order to get the fabric out.
Newspaper is definitely the more environmentally friendly alternative!
If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video
comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.
For some more information about using newspapers in your garden, check out the Get Green Be Well site and their fabulous article.
Below are some other gardening tutorials on our site.
Tying Up Tomatoes - Learn how to tie up tomato plants using old bedsheets.
DIY Raised Garden Bed Cover
Below you will find some of our favorite gardening books.