Mulch ado about weeding

What’s black and white and mulch all over? Yes, newspapers.

With a family addition nearly due to distract them, our neighbours G. and W. are cleverly smothering a former weed patch in their garden with newspapers, topped with a few inches of woodchips. That should keep weeds down to a dull roar while the new parents attend to more rewarding matters.

The blade of grass visible in the top left corner above shows that this method doesn’t entirely eradicate weeding. Weed seeds can still land and germinate in the mulch. However, there are many more weed seeds in the uncovered soil, such as those starting to take root at right. Beneath the paper, the environment is much less hospitable.

Last month, Sarah wrote about how she has successfully used this method to reclaim her flower garden from the big bluestem grasses at her country place. It works in urban settings, too. Not only does it save weeding time, it can save digging time if you want to clear a large area. To plant something, simply cut a hole in the papers and plant.


  1. Hi Helen, I love this method and have used it for the first time, twice, this year. A nice thick layer of papers helps. So much easier than digging.

  2. We did this at our old house and had black gold within a year. Dark, crumbly, beautiful soil! It's fantastic.

    I recommend the book "Lasagna Gardening" which is the method we used to get such fantastic results. We have since moved to a newly built house (read: no garden) and are saving our newspapers for a big "lasagna garden" party this fall! It's fast, fun and fabulous!

  3. One of my earlier garden teachers used this method for getting rid of crabgrass, believe it or not. Her secret was to layer newspaper thickly; a folded section of reasonable size at least.

    Julia, I agree, "Lasagna Gardening" is indeed a great book, for saving labor and getting decent soil fast.

  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I'm going to be using this method to help a friend transform her lawn into a garden. Stefani is right — so much easier than pulling (or digging), especially in Norway maple tree root country, as we have in Toronto.

    Linda and Frances, it's good to hear your personal endorsement.

    Julia and Pomona, thanks for the recommendation of 'Lasagna Gardening'. Sarah and I were talking about this book the other day.

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