Someone in this dg recently suggested using layers of newspaper to
prevent weeds. I have a 10x12 area on the side of the house that is not
used for anything but always gets overgrown with weeds. It is used
primarily as just a passageway between the front and back yards. Not
wanting to use chemicals if not necessary, I am thinking of using
newspaper with a layer of wood chips or mulch. How exactly do you lay
the newspaper to be most effective? How thick of a layer? Should it be
wet or dry? About how long before it has to be replaced? How does it
compare with the commercial black weed prevention sheets? Thanks for
what worked for me in suppressing oxalis. 6 to 10 layers of newspaper (even
more should not be a problem) which should be damped down. Either soak in a
couple of cms in a wheel barrow or mist over with a hose when down. Over lay
the sheets across each other so there are no gaps. It will last no more than
a year, dependant on how thick you layer it worm activity etc, before it
breaks down or dissappears all together. I reckon it works very nicely and
cuts out all of the weeds whilst it is down. A layer of mulch over the top
will suppress most of what makes it through the newspaper over time. If you
simply leave it down as you described it should be good for a least 3 years.
You could throw a mulch several inchs deep of soil and compost over the top
and plant in to that. The plants roots will dig down through the newspaper.
This is a system you can repeat year after year as need dictates. Newspaper
and then compost, plant. When weeds start to break through more paper and
compost and plant. Etc etc.
If you simply want to plant and forget about it weed mats will suppress
weeds for longer than newspaper. You will need to cut through the weed mat
for plants. Some plants will mix their roots into the weed mat. I much
prefer using newspaper and continually building up the soil rather than
laying down weed mat as a permanent dead garden. I don't recommend
composting over a weed mat and building a garden over the top. In a few
years time the weed mat may be troublesome as plants put their roots down.
Newspaper at the same level will no longer be around. An alternative to
newspaper could be cardboard. I have found that really good at the bottom of
raised gardens to knock off grasses and weeds.
I have read that one should avoid the funny pages or pages that
use color ink as it contains chemicals that do bad things to the soil
and to earthworms. I don't know how accurate that was, but
avoiding those pages shouldn't
be a problem anyway.
Some time ago, many inks were lead-based. The non-black inks were
commonly leaded beyond the time that black inks were commonly leaded.
This was long enough in the past that you don't even have to worry about
the details. Leaded inks are no longer used in newspaper production.
Inks are now vegetable-based -- even the bright colors.
What you should avoid are the glossy inserts -- but even that's a
non-issue if you're not talking about an area that's going to be a
vegetable garden. I wouldn't start tossing magazines into the mix, but a
few ads from the Sunday paper aren't going to kill you. If it is no big
deal to separate those inserts from the rest of the paper, sure, go
ahead. Just don't let the work to separate them be an excuse for not
doing anything at all.
If you're using newspaper, it doesn't matter if you wet it down or not,
unless it's a windy day. Even then you'll want to get the mulch on top
of the newspaper in short-order. Either way, use 6-12 sheets, and
generously overlap them. Too much is never a problem.
For very large areas, I've had good success with large, corrugated
cardboard boxes. It cuts the time needed for work down considerably.
Don't use waxy food boxes, and single-layer cardboard seldom comes in
pieces large enough to save you any time over newspaper.
Within two years the newspaper is going to be essentially broken down to
the point that it is no longer any kind of barrier. However, by this
time you'll have choked-out nearly all the weeds, and hand weeding
shouldn't be a problem. You'll probably have more weeds germinating on
top of where the newspaper was than below it, which would be the same as
if you used the fabric.
The big problem with the fabric is eventually you'll see it on the
surface. The only time I use fabric is when I'm going to put something
substantial on top of it, like a paver path, or a couple inches of
Thanks for the helpful info. So if I plan on never planting anything in
the area and keeping it permanently as a passageway between the front
and back yards, it sounds like using weed mats (longer lasting than
newspaper) is the way to go. Perhaps gravel might be even better. Do
If you want it to be [more or less] permanent- then use a good weed
barrier *and* 4" or so of gravel. The weed barrier will help keep
the gravel from mixing with the soil below.
Read the labels on weed barriers. Some are only guaranteed for a
couple years. I've seen others that say they last 20 yrs.
gravel is the way to go. Ingrid
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Zone 5 next to Lake Michigan
good advice from others on this issue already although I would add I have
put down gravel paths and not bothered with weed mat, I just cut deep, boxed
and used a lot of gravel. Likely I cut the most of the weeds out in the turf
and anything left has a hell of a time poking through the gravel. Did cost a
bit of $$ for the gravel mind. If you want a permanent 'passageway' consider
turning it in to lawn.
The previous owner had spread gravel over much of the area earlier. It
seems the gravel layer was quite thin because weeds have grown in the
area since as far back as I remember. It'll probably be easier to add
to the gravel rather than take out the gravel and plant a lawn. Thanks.
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