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Use Newspaper to Prevent Weeds Naturally in the Garden

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!

sheets of newspaper lying on dirt under mulch in garden

Why Use Newspaper in the Garden?

Newspaper is a fabulous way to prevent weeds from growing in your garden.


Because newspaper:

  • Porous (it lets water through)
  • Blocks Light
  • Biodegradable

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.

stack of newspapers to be used as mulch in the garden

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
  • Coupons
  • 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.

Stack of newspapers on white isolated background

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.

Here’s how to use eggshells in the garden.

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.


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Saturday 13th of May 2023

Can I use hay or straw to hold down the newspaper?

Kimberly Button

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

Yes you can.

Barbara P

Thursday 2nd of June 2022

I don’t have enough newspaper. Can I use newsprint paper which is used for packing .. it’s biodegradable

Kimberly Button

Friday 10th of June 2022

You could.


Monday 2nd of November 2020

If I line a flower bed with newspapers will the flowers grow through the paper as it gets wet and breaks down?

Kimberly Button

Monday 2nd of November 2020

Tommy, it definitely could grow through. However, there's no guarantee. And you'd have to wait a while before that was an option. I think that you probably wouldn't want to use newspapers if you intend to have flowers growing there.


Wednesday 28th of October 2020

I plan on smothering my front lawn with newspaper and either mulch or soil on top. First, what type of mulch would you recommend for an 8-month decomposition time period? Second, is it realistic to assume that 8 months will be enough time for the newspaper and mulch/soil to fully decompose? It's the end of October now; I would like the yard to be ready for new grass seed by early September of next year. Thanks!

Kimberly Button

Thursday 5th of November 2020

Hi Joe! I think it's realistic to think that the newspaper will decompose in 8 months. However, mulch might not decompose in 8 months fully. If you used something like leaf mulch, then you could realistically think that. But if you're using cypress mulch or hardwood mulch, I wouldn't think it will be completely gone in 8 months. It might be a lot less noticeable, but I think you'll still need to deal with it somehow. You need to be aware that using soil instead of mulch will introduce a lot of weeds when Spring comes around. If you're okay with that, then don't worry. But nature is nature. You will have things sprouting in the soil.


Sunday 7th of June 2020

What about using cardboard and newspaper as a base before covering with chips? I don't have enough newspaper to cover all the beds but I do have a combination of newspaper and cardboard to over 100% of my beds prior to layering on my chips. Is cardboard a suitable replacement for newspaper? The cardboard I am eyeing is unadorned with any inks (just 100% brown cardboard). Thanks for any input.

Kimberly Button

Monday 8th of June 2020

Roland, You can use cardboard. But you might have issues with the rainwater not sinking in quickly enough, which could cause mulch to wash away. Also, cardboard is quite thick, so it will last for quite a while. Which is fine if you plan on not planting anything in the area. Or would be able to remove all of the cardboard and start over when it's time to plant there.