Not a lot of people read a newspaper anymore. It’s true. But if you DO, or if you have access to old newspapers, then you’ll want to use these tips to use newspaper to prevent weeds naturally in the garden!
Why Use Newspaper in the Garden?
Newspaper is a fabulous way to prevent weeds from growing in your garden.
- Porous (it lets water through)
- Blocks Light
Why does that matter?
If you put anything in your garden, you want it to allow moisture and water to go through. Your garden is constantly outside in the elements. Rain, sprinklers, snow and humidity all need to be allowed to drain from the top of your soil and seep down into the lower layers of your garden soil.
And if you are using a product in your garden that doesn’t allow moisture to move through it, that’s bad. It can kill your plants with too much moisture.
If soil doesn’t have sunlight reaching it, then the weed seeds won’t grow as easily. So that’s why you want a light blocking product to help prevent weeds (such as landscape fabric).
When the newspaper biodegrades under the mulch, it will add nutrients into the soil. Which is amazing. So you are actually creating better soil while also smothering weeds naturally.
Is newspaper safe in the garden?
Newspaper has changed a lot over the years.
Once, newspaper was just plain paper and non-toxic dyes.
Today, newspaper has a lot more vibrant colors, a lot more slick, glossy ads and the paper quality seems to be different. Yet colors and dyes seem to be soy-based these days.
Still, newspaper is safe to use in the garden.
Think about it. You might be worried about using newspaper and the dyes in your garden, but do you worry about the possible leaching plastics and chemicals from landscape fabric? Or the dyes coming off of dyed mulch?
Newspaper is still a great idea to naturally prevent weeds. Just stick with the actual newspaper pages. Do not use the:
- Glossy sales ads
- Advertising inserts
And while we’re considering the safety of newspaper in the garden, especially vegetable gardens, consider whether or not using newspaper as mulch will prevent you from using chemical weed killers.
If you line your garden beds with newspaper, and the weeds are greatly reduced, then you don’t have to spray weed killer on your garden.
And if you’re not using toxic weed killers, then you’re drastically reducing your chemical load in the garden.
How to Use Newspaper to Prevent Weeds
So here is how you use newspaper to kill weeds in your garden.
You don’t just lay newspaper on the ground and walk away. Not only will that look bad, but it will fly away. In fact, it’s kind of hard to use newspaper in the garden without also using mulch, too.
So here are the tips of how to use newspaper to prevent weeds in the garden.
Using Newspaper Under Mulch
- Prepare your garden bed as you would prepare before you laid down mulch
- Remove any weeds you see (This isn’t totally necessary. Newspaper will smother weeds. However, the weeds could leave seeds that might sprout in uncovered soil next year.)
- Have plants in the ground already so you can lay newspaper around them
- Consider adding a layer of shredded leaf mulch on the soil to decompose under the newspaper
- Starting laying out pieces of newspaper
- Overlap the newspaper on the edges at the end, making sure that there will be no gaps in-between the sheets of paper
- Use garden staples to keep the newspaper down if you’d like (optional)
- Lay paper down just up to the root system of plants in the garden. Keep the paper about 1-2 inches away from the stems.
- Water the newspaper so that it will stay down while you are working
- Add your preferred mulch on top of the newspaper
- Water thoroughly
How Many Layers of Newspaper to Kill Weeds?
How thick should the newspaper layer be to effectively smother weeds?
Lay down 2-3 pieces of newspaper on the soil to prevent weed growth. Which means two sheets of newspaper total. Not two sheets of newspaper folded in half for a total of four pieces of newspaper on top of each other.
The key is to have a thick enough layer of newspaper to prevent sunlight from reaching the soil, yet still allow water to seep through.
Newspaper for Landscape Fabric
What is the difference between lining your garden beds with newspaper and using landscape fabric?
First of all, newspaper is free! So there’s a BIG bonus! If you are trying to save money gardening, then using newspaper for landscape fabric will save you a lot of money.
Here’s some ways to get newspaper for free:
- Subscribe to the newspaper
- Ask neighbors for their newspapers
- Scour recycling bins on recycling day to pick up newspapers
- Ask your library to pick up their old outdated newspapers to use
- Grab a stack of grocery store ads on the night that they expire. Or ask the manager if you could take a stack if they will just be recycled
Landscape fabric will cost money. Plus, you’ve got to buy a lot of landscape fabric staples to insert in the ground.
But, landscape fabric will last for quite a long time.
However, I have had the edges of landscape fabric eventually fall apart because the lawn service would catch the edges with an edger. Then the fabric would shred. So the landscape fabric technically wasn’t always there.
And I’ve found weeds grow up through landscape fabric more easily than newspaper. That’s my experience.
Newspaper is also biodegradable. Which means that over a year or so, the newspaper is going to eventually disintegrate and decompose into the garden soil.
This is a benefit for garden beds that are replanted frequently. Using newspaper in flower beds is smart because you might change the location of annuals next year, and you wouldn’t want to have to dig up the landscape fabric next year.
Or use newspaper for weed control in vegetable gardens where you don’t want a lot of chemicals and you truly want an all natural way to kill weeds. You can easily change the position of plants for proper crop rotation since you don’t have to worry about moving landscape fabric.
More Natural Gardening Tips
Using newspaper to smother weeds is just one of many ways to reduce your use of chemicals in the garden.
If any weeds DO pop through, mix up this homemade weed killer to get rid of them naturally.
Plant lavender to repel mosquitoes: Here’s the tips you need to know.
Check out these organic gardening hacks for even more ideas.
Use plain white vinegar to kill weeds. It’s non-toxic and cheap!
Sometimes, you can have a fungus gnat infestation (small tiny gnats coming out of your soil) if you use bagged garden soil outside or potting soil inside. I’ve found that using a different type of growing medium, such as compost, helps prevent this problem.
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy large planter for container gardening indoor or outdoors, here’s our DIY for turning a Trash Can Into a Large Flower Pot Planter. Consider using these beautiful pots to grow your own tea to blend at home.