Planting with a Newspaper Weed Blanket

by Daisy

Weed suppression and moisture retention for a bed of fall greens sounded good so a newspaper weed blanket came to mind. To plant: Radicchio, Red Surprise; Kale, Red Russian; Pak Choi, Toy Choi Hybrid; and Turnip Greens, Seven Top.

After raking the surface smooth . . .

. . . wet newspapers went down, overlapping well.

An old squeeze bottle filled with seaweed foliar fertilizer concentrate was used to sketch out a rough outline of where the seeds would go.

Then I took a knife and cut, removing some strips entirely, otherwise turning under the edges of the newspaper to make narrow rows for planting. The center and first two rings are turnip greens, ringed with one circle of radicchio. The pointy sections are pak choi, and the rest is kale.

To finish, a very light layer of grass clippings and netting over pvc hoops to keep the critters out while the seeds germinate. Nails at intervals along the outer sides of the beds hooked the netting in place:

Here’s the result:

The temperature has been down in the 20’s and the plants have weathered well. If there is any radicchio in there under the turnip greens I’ll never find it. That was pretty poor planning. It’s been a success overall–very few weeds to deal with and a good germination rate except for the radicchio which never had a chance under the super fast-growing greens.

What are your best ideas for low-weed gardening?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

DC November 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm

The only problem with this is that many newspapers may use petroleum based inks yet, which can be very toxic (just ask a printer). This is the last thing that one wants in one’s garden, since it will likely end up in one’s food and pollute the soil. I would only use newspaper if I knew the publisher uses non-toxic ink.

Linda May 25, 2010 at 6:13 pm

There was a time when most newspapers did use petroleum based inks, messy stuff rubbed off on hands and surfaces. Think many of them use non toxic ink now. The St. Petersburg Times was one of the first to use non toxic ink and is a perfect bedding material. We have also used non woven polyester interfacing in black or white, black to hold the sun’s warmth for seedlings in the cooler weather and white to reflect the sun and keep the bed cooler in the summer heat.

Becky January 30, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I an not a big fan of this mrthod as it is very ineffective. Sure it lasts for a little while but before you know your living in weed city!

Sam May 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

This works *extremely* well. Went around and raided the recycle bins the night before pickup to get enough newspaper. Every single newspaper in this area uses non-toxic inks. Even the glossy adverts, which I don’t use because of the high clay content of that paper – because I’m gardening in heavy clay already. As for Becky’s comment about it not lasting long, that’s because you really need more than a few layers of paper. I lay down quite a lot of layers, overlapping each one until it’s quite thick.

When I first started doing this 16 years ago,

Sam May 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Sorry, got cut off…
When I first started doing this 16 years ago, I put a layer of cardboard done first and covered it with paper. That was overkill. Today, the soil is so soft you can push your hand in halfway to your elbow easily. And I still use newspapers!

It’s the worms. They are attracted to the environment under the papers. I use cardboard between planting rows and the corrugation tunnels in the cardboard become worm nurserys. Well worth the effort even if it does take a few seasons to get the soil improvement, the weed suppression happens right away. The few weeds that manage to pop up pull out easily.

Tomato Lady May 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Sam–I really like weed blanketing. I used it again for a large area, and it has made a ton of difference. I did use cardboard–the bermuda grass calls for it here, but if I’d had enough newspaper, I wouldn’t have needed even that. Very effective. I love the thought of all those happy worms.

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