As homeowners and gardeners, many of us are continuously looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste we put into landfills, increasing our sustainability. We build compost piles in our yards to cut down on the amount of food waste we dispose and recycle plastics, metal cans, glass bottles and jars, and as much paper as possible. Other than adding old newspapers to our recycling bins, there are many useful ways to incorporate them into the garden.
There is some debate over whether or not it's safe to add newspaper to your garden because of the ink used in the printing process. Rest assured, it's okay to go ahead and implement some of the following uses. The majority of newspapers today are printed using a soy-based ink that is environmentally friendly.
1. Line the bottom of raised beds
Raised bed gardening is popping up in backyards all over because of its numerous advantages ranging from increased yields to easy gardening access for people with mobility issues. When constructing raised beds, line the bottom of the structure with layers of newspaper to keep weeds from growing up through the garden soil underneath.
2. Weed barrier under mulch
Adding a layer of mulch - whether it be pine needles, grass clippings, or commercial bark mulch - is an effective way to retain soil moisture and insulate the soil to keep plants thriving. It also helps to prevent weeds from coming up, competing with your plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients. To reduce weeds even further spread a layer of newspaper down on the soil surface before adding your desired mulch.
3. Keep potting soil in containers
When container gardening it's necessary to have good drainage holes in the bottom of your pots to let the excess water drain out of the potting soil. This keeps the root zone from staying too wet and waterlogging the rots. The drawback though is these holes allow your potting soil to escape too. To prevent your soil from falling out line the bottom of your containers with old newspapers. The water will still drain, but the potting soil will stay put.
4. As a stepping stone
Is there a spot in your garden where the water naturally collects, creating a mud hole? An easy, temporary solution to this is to create a stepping stone in the depression using layers of newspaper. It will soak up extra water and can be worked into the soil at the end of the season.
5. Prep garden soil for the coming season
After harvesting everything in the fall and removing plants for the season, many gardeners choose to work the ground in preparation for the winter. When left exposed pesky weeds are one of the first plants to pop up in the spring, making it necessary to get rid of them before planting. Spread a layer of newspapers over the exposed soil surface after you till the ground in the fall. Winter snow and rain will start to break them down, but they will provide enough cover the following spring to inhibit weed seed germination before it's time to plant. Then simply pull them up, or poke holes in the newspaper to plant your garden.
6. Increase the carbon ratio in your compost pile
To keep your compost pile working the way it should, you have to maintain a good balance between carbon and nitrogen materials. Carbon materials, or brown materials, are "dry" items such as pine needles, corn stalks, and dried leaves. Nitrogen-rich materials include fresh grass clippings and food scraps from your kitchen. If your pile is short on carbon, add shredded newspapers and mix the pile well. This is an easy way to increase the brown material in your compost pile.