When it comes time to plant your garden in the spring, there’s nothing worse than discovering the soil isn’t as ready as you are. Depending on your location across America, your springtime soil may experience sogginess or be compacted. The key to producing gorgeous flowers and an abundance of fresh vegetables in your garden is to ensure plants can root in rich, healthy soil. Essentially the newspaper method is a cost-effective slow-brew solution to killing weeds and grasses while softening the soil to be ready for spring planting. So how do you do it? Let’s look at how to prep your garden using the newspaper method.
Start a newspaper collection
The first step in using the newspaper method of prepping your garden soil for planting is to collect newspapers. You can dig your own out of the recycling bin or grab some from your neighbors. Both shredded and full sheets of newspaper work very effectively as garden mulch. The bonus here? Newspaper is generally free so it’s a great alternative to purchasing pricey landscape fabric.
Why newspaper works
Besides doing your part as a responsible recycler, reusing newspaper in your garden offers the advantage of being both biodegradable and porous meaning it lets moisture and water through. When placed in your garden, the newspaper also blocks light just as a traditional landscape fabric does so it helps to prevent weeds from growing. When the newspaper breaks down, it adds nutrients back into the soil. The advantage of using newspaper over landscape fabric is that newspaper can be moved quickly and easily, while landscape fabric is a pain to try and reposition should you decide to relocate some of your annual plants.
Is newspaper safe to use in gardens?
Today’s newspapers have come a long way since the days of being printed with petroleum oil-based ink. Even though you still see lots of colors and glossy ads, soybean oil is now the primary ingredient used in producing newspaper ink. For safe biodegradability, recycle those catchy advertising inserts and stick with actual newspaper pages for use in your garden. If you have any concern over the thought of using newspaper, know that popular alternatives include landscape fabric from which chemicals could be leaking or dyed mulch where the dye may be coming off, so it ultimately makes newspaper the much more eco-friendly alternative. You’ll also be able to cut down or eliminate the use of nasty toxic weed killers.
Prep the garden bed
Just as you would when using mulch, you’ll need to prep your garden before laying down any newspaper. Start by pulling out any visible weeds and then remove any debris or rocks. Loosen the garden soil with a rake, a garden fork, or a cultivator so it’s not compacted. Then place your plants in the ground. Ideally, the newspaper method can be used in the late fall/winter before the spring planting season occurs to ready a section of soil for planting, or to simply kill off weeds in and around your plants as noted here.
The newspaper method
Once your plants are comfortably in the ground, you can add a layer of organic matter such as shredded leaf mulch as an extra source of nutrients for the soil before laying down the newspaper. Place a double layer of newspaper sheets on the ground around the plants, in between, and overlap along the edges to make sure there won’t be any gaps. Since it’s lightweight, it’s a good idea to use garden staples to help keep the newspaper in place. Make sure the newspaper stays approximately 2 inches away from any plant stems so it doesn’t inhibit growth. Keeping the newspaper wet as you’re applying it makes it much easier to work with. Once the newspaper is down, cover it with another layer of mulch and then water it thoroughly as the mulch helps to keep the newspaper moist.
Ready to plant
If you applied the newspaper method to a section of the garden to prepare it for spring planting, you can simply remove the excess leaves and newspaper or dig them back into the soil before putting your plants in the ground. Your newly uncovered section of the garden will consist of ready-to-plant topsoil where your plants are sure to have a productive year due to the revitalized soil nutrients. There are some great success stories of potato patches having been covered with newspapers resulting in robust potato crops with little to no weeds peeking through.
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Author – Connie Motz