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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - January 05, 2007

From: Boerne, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch
Title: Use of newspaper mulch in garden
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Before constructing a raised garden, I would like to lay newspapers at the initial ground level, then add about 12 to 15 inches of compost on top of that. Would that hurt the plants? And will the newspaper help to keep weeds below it from sprouting?

ANSWER:

Newspapers are often used by gardeners to inhibit weed growth. In fact, some would say that the greatest value of many newspapers are as mulch, birdcage liners and fish wrappers, though we'll leave those assertions to others.

Newspaper is normally laid down on the soil surface or lightly covered with soil. Several layers work best to inhibit weeds. More troublesome weeds will require more layers of newspaper.

Placing newspapers 12 to 15 inches below the soil surface is likely to have little effect on weeds since most weed seeds sprout only when at or near the soil surface. Moreover, a thick layer of newspaper below your raised beds could have an adverse effect on drainage and soil moisture management. Here is an interesting and perhaps useful article on newspaper mulch.

 

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