Newspaper For Weeds - Does Newspaper Kill Weeds?

(Image credit: artisteer)

For some of us, a Sunday morning ritual we’ve practiced for years has not yet been disrupted by the internet: reading the Sunday newspaper. Along with that hot mug of steaming joe, we spread out the sections and choose our favorite one first. 

With today’s recycling push, many of us go through the chore of sorting the paper when we’re finished and getting it into the recycle bin. Some of us must drive it to a recycling area. But what else can you do with the large volume of newsprint? Have you considered…

Newspaper to Control Weeds?

The avid gardener is always looking for new ways to control those pesky weeds that sprout in our lovingly laid out flower and vegetable beds. Did you know newspaper kills weeds? When spread out around our sprouting seedlings, sunlight is unable to reach those weed seeds that always germinate to perturb us and suck the nutrients from our young growing plants.

Mulch your garden bed with newspaper when seedlings or young plants are about four to five inches (10 to 12.7 cm.) in height. Prepare the soil to be covered ahead of time for best results. Hoe or hand pull weeds already growing in and around the garden. Dispose of the weeds somewhere else; hopefully the weed seeds will go along with them.

Remove any small weeds that may have sprouted close to your plants. Leave an inch or two (2.5 or 5 cm.) of ground exposed between the stem and the start of the newspaper mulch. Don’t place any mulch against stems of growing plants. When using newspaper for weeds in the garden, don’t cover the root system of your vegetables and ornamentals.

How to Use Newspaper for Weeds

The idea of using newspaper to control weeds is to eliminate most of them for the rest of the gardening season. Ideally, this works well enough to set aside the hoe in the area you’ve mulched.

Since most gardens grow in full sun, unfold a small section and use the newspaper to keep weeds out of that part of the garden, repeating in connecting areas. Weigh it down on the corners with nearby rocks you’ve removed from the garden soil, or use hay or soil to hold it down. Cover the entire garden in this manner for weed control.

Let the sunlight help determine which thickness is best for other areas of the garden. Those located in partial sun may only need a couple of folded sheets to block the sun. Put the newspaper near the plants or seedlings, but not right up against the stems. Water the newspaper as you water the rest of the garden. 

Newspaper Over Weeds

While your newspaper mulch prevents seeds from sprouting and kills weeds growing underneath the paper, it also conserves moisture and regulates the temperature of the soil. An additional benefit to putting newspaper over weeds is the fertility that is added as the paper decomposes.

Newspaper is safe for use in the garden and works well as a mulch because water can move through it to reach the soil underneath. Colored ink is safe as well when mostly made from soy products. Use only the newsprint sections of the paper. Avoid using the slick ad inserts and anything printed on glossy paper, such as coupons. These don’t allow water to penetrate them and don’t easily decompose.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.