Newspaper to prevent weeds in Garden?

Saylorsburg, PA

I'm new to gardening but my Mom has been doing it for years... I tried a "small" part of the garden last year (mostly just strawberries) and lost horribly to the weeds.

My garden area has been unplanted, turned over... basically left completely alone for at least 5 years at this point and the weeds have definately appreciated it, they grow extremly thick and take over the entire space very rapidly. This year I'm planning on planting a real garden with a variety of veggies in an attempt to hold off the rising cost of produce, I'll be able to dedicate time to weeding and maintaining but I will need some weed stopping power or I'll be out there 10 hours a day... and spending big money on weed blocker isn't an option.

I'm considering putting down newspaper between the rows covered with straw to keep the majority of weeds down, how effective will this be and how thick do I need to layer the newspaper? Is there anything I need to be concerned about?

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

I have been using newspapers for years, between rows and cutting holes to set tomatoe plants in the ground. I usually use a folded sections about 5/6 pages and over lap, the idea is to cut out the light. I cover mine with compost and/or shreaded leaves from fall raking, keep mulch away from the stems of the plants. I don't use the shiney ads. If it is windy wet down the paper with water or use a rake handle to lay on the paper to hold it down till you get the mulch down or you will wasting time chasing newspaper around the yard.
Don't worry about the ink, it is now plant based, or call your newspaper office if you have any concerns.
Welcome to the world of gardening! Make sure you plant some fast growing crops so you can begin to enjoy the harvest.

Saylorsburg, PA

Thank you for the very quick response! Much appreciated.

Should I use a hardwood type mulch instead of using straw? The primary reason I was thinking straw is that its much cheaper and will break down much quicker so I won't have to deal with it next year.

What will I have to do next year with the newspaper and mulch when I attempt to turn the garden over?

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I didn't realize that it's important to keep mulch away from the stems of plants. Does it matter what kind of mulch it is, and why is it important? Still learning...LiseP

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

Straw would be good , I would not use hardwood type mulch as you want it to break down each season. The newspaper will break down also by the end of the season. With you walking on it and the rain, by the time it breaks down it would have done it's job so it doesn't matter.

Here is an other newspaper tip for you, when I set my tomato plants in I make a collar of newspaper about the diameter of a coffee cup and set it around the stem of the tomato plant, "plant" the collar which is 6 inches wide half way into the soil, this prevents cutworms from getting to the stems, the worm wraps itself around the stem and chews it off.

LiseP. Some people mound the mulch right up around the plants, plants need air circulation, so mounding it up is not a good practice, I always pull mulch away. Have lost a few when I was not careful especially the tender stem ones.

Kenwood, CA

Several layers of cardboard will also work to snuff out perennial weeds and grasses. Newspaper and cardboard will decompose by the end of the season. I have placed old wooden boards in new paths -- on top of the cardboard -- until I know the weeds haven't survived.

Saylorsburg, PA

Great info, thanks! I'll definately be using the newspaper, I've also got a lot of cardboard laying around so I may use that on the walk ways to help keep them down even more and then cover everything in straw which I should be able to get for much less then mulch.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

I've used the newspaper and straw for a couple of years. It works great! In my case, I ran the tiller up and down a couple of times to work the decomposed newspaper and straw into the soil.


San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Ladygardener1, thanks for your explanation on the mulch. I might have been one of those folks you mention, mulching too much!

southwest, OH

In my raised beds I put down newspaper over the grass, then filled the beds with dirt. The only place weeds (just grass, actually) come through is at the edges, but they're easy to pull. So everything is on top of the newspaper, both plants & dirt.

Oak Park, IL

I realize we're all in different areas, but what are good sources for straw. I'm new to vegetable gardening as well and have only used hardwood mulch for annuals and perennials. I don't think I've ever seen straw in the garden centers I've been to. I'd like to keep costs down and the hardwood mulch adds up.

Mount Prospect, IL(Zone 5b)

CA_Dreamin, I'm going to try growing potatoes in straw this year and was also wondering where to get the straw. Someone in the Upper Midwest Forum talked about going to Platt Hill nursery in Bloomingdale, not for straw, but saying it was a large place, and when I checked their website I saw they sold straw. It's not all that close obviously, but I always enjoy a field trip to a large nursery!

This message was edited Feb 9, 2009 9:31 PM

Oak Park, IL

Thanks, Midwest_tyro! I am always up for a trip to a large nursery as well. If only my husband and kids felt the same way.

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