The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Dangers of newspaper mulch

Reading the

Mulching with newspapers is dangerous.  If you're like me, you might get sidetracked reading the headlines and take twice as long to put down your kill mulch.  Then your photographer will have to take a look at an article on hops, and pretty soon you're just sitting in the garden catching up on the news.

Kill mulching

More seriously, newspaper isn't my favorite kill layer in a mulch --- cardboard works better and feeds the fungi more --- but the thinner paper will do in a pinch.  Both Mom and Kayla have been saving me their newspapers, which is why I felt I could do a quick-and-dirty weeding job Monday instead of ripping up every weed.


Another disadvantage of newspaper is that it will blow away in even a mild breeze, unlike cardboard which tends to stay put in our valley without any help from above.  I've started feeding our woody perennials in the fall, though, so partially-decomposed deep bedding did a great job weighing down the newspaper.  In the end, the only real problem is that there's never enough deep bedding to go around --- clearly we need more animals!

Our chicken waterer keeps the coop dry so the deep bedding is easy to fork out.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Maybe I'm twisted, but part of why I love to read your blog is that you live where water falls out of the sky! Novel concept for me, as I've lived in Nevada for 30 years. In my super-dry climate, I prefer newspaper to cardboard as a sheet mulch. Here (in my experience), cardboard is the more difficult choice. First I have to break down boxes and remove staples/tape. Then, because there's no water to make the cardboard squishy, I still have to weigh it down. And then it takes much longer to break down than newspaper and is harder to cut into to plant through if I want. I kill-mulched some lawn SIX years ago, and despite six winters and my watering during the summer, the parts that receive less water--and some of the parts that receive regular water--still have cardboard lying between the accumulated natural mulch and the dirt! I didn't think to soak the ground before I sheet-mulched, and that was a big mistake...but six years! Here's a newspaper trick that might even help in your climate as you put the paper down: Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water. Grab a stack of newspaper , sort of fold/roll it and stick it into the bucket for a minute. The newspaper you pull out is weighed down by the water, and it kind of forms to the ground. You'll still need some sort of weight as the paper dries (will it dry, in your area??), but this saves you all the effort of chasing the flying-away bits. (One confession: A friend works at the local newspaper, so I can easily get an endless supply.) Keep rocking in water-world; it's good for me to see that not everyone wants to do more water catchment!
Comment by Kathleen Wed Sep 25 09:06:50 2013

You had me going for a sec. I also acquire my newspapers from family for the purpose of lining the bottom of our bunny cage, after which they head to the garden as weed block, usually with grass clippings on top. Love it when I can double up on my recycling value.:)

Comment by Karen Wed Sep 25 19:07:06 2013

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