If weeds have taken over an area in the garden, sheet mulching with newspaper can be an effective way of smothering them and making the area look great. Its quick, its easy and its as cheap as your mulch.
An easy way to mulch and prevent weeds in the garden is to use layers of newspaper or cardboard beneath the mulch. This is sometimes called Sheet Mulching.
The newspaper acts as a weed barrier and it will break down reasonably quickly.
If you just use mulch you will find weeds growing through the mulch sometimes within weeks.
Inks in todays newspapers are non toxic and are mainly made from soy ink. The paper itself is biodegradable.
How does Sheet Mulching work
- Layers of newspaper applied properly, can block all light from reaching the weeds, mulch by itself will not necessarily do so.
- Lack of light causes the weeds to die as they cannot photosynthesis.
- Newspaper is porous and allows moisture to reach the soil.
- Worms thrive in the cool dark environment beneath newspaper and will eventually eat through the paper as it begins to break down.
- The mulch on top holds the newspaper in place, provides a better look and gives the garden extra nutrients as it breaks down.
- You can plant through the newspaper by scraping back the mulch and cutting through the paper.
Sheet Mulching Step By Step
- Clear the area of large weeds so it is as flat as possible, you can use a line trimmer for this. You can also use a lawn mower set at its lowest setting.
You are trying to cut the weeds back as far as possible.
- Water the area you have cleared AND fertilise it.
The idea is that you have removed most of the green growth.
NOW you promote growth so the weeds put energy into growing.
When we sheet mulch the weeds will exhaust themselves by trying to grow, so the mulching is more effective.
- Gather you materials, mulch and newspaper/ cardboard.
Allow around 5cm (2 inches) of mulch. Use around 6 sheets of newspaper or 1 of cardboard,
- Spread the newspaper/ cardboard over the area and make sure you overlap it.
No holes or gaps is essential.
- Keep it moist to prevent it moving or blowing away.
- Spread the mulch evenly.
- Lightly water to settle it all down.
What to avoid – Follow up weeding
- Very thick layers of cardboard or newspaper, to much can take to long to break down.
- Do not use this technique in areas that you want to plant vegetables, especially root crops.
- Weed seeds can and will settle in the mulch and grow. So follow up weeding will be required. You can do this with a garden hoe, organic weed killer or a flame weeder.
- Always keep mulch away from buildings as it can encourage termites.
- Avoid planting in the area for 6 months so as not to allow the weeds to get access to light.
What sort of mulch can you use in sheet mulching ?
You can use just about any sort of mulch, Pine Bark, Straw, Leaves or anything that looks OK in the garden situation and is biodegradable and in itself ‘Weed Free’. Decorative mulches for some areas, straw and leaves for others.