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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Saturday - June 09, 2012

From: Cedar Park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting
Title: Cardboard or newsprint for mulch from Cedar Park TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What is your opinion on using cardboard and/or newspaper for mulch in flower beds or around trees?

ANSWER:

Actually, this particular member of the Smarty Plants Team has personal experience in that, in Central Texas, but not Austin. We built on a 3/4 acre lot that had been a feed lot and then sat empty for several years. So, there were lush and tough weeds all over the property. We mowed the weeds as we tried to establish a cottage garden, but the weeds were winning. The first thing we tried was just spreading newspaper over the area we wanted to control. Newspapers promptly began to blow all over the neighborhood. Then, we watered the newspaper. Wet newspapers were blowing all over the neighborhood. And the weeds were delighted with the water we had put on them.

Finally, we tried covering the newspaper with shredded hardwood mulch and then watering it, because the mulch would have blown all over the neighborhood if we had not. This helped some, but not for long. Not only did the slightest opening in the mulch/newpaper cause them both to take wings on the wind, but the weeds came up right through it. The only cardboard we had access to was from leftover packing boxes. We found them very reluctant to lie down flat and accept mulching, and water soaked through them reluctantly. We never did get a cottage garden in.

Part of the problem was that the weeds were already so well established and the area was in an exposed position, very subject to wind. However, there are others that have had better experience:

Mother Earth News The Magic of Newspaper Mulch

care2.com Newspaper Mulch: A Safe, Easy Alternative

West Virginia University Recycling Newspaper for Mulch in Home Gardens

 

 

 

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