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This is a short post, but I just wanted to share with you guys an update on how effective adding newspaper to your flower beds really is… even with a TON of neglect for an entire season!

newspaper under mulch

Last year, I began working on the garden area on the side of the house (some of which you saw an update as recently as yesterday). But one of the new things I’ve been doing to each bed has been the addition of a layer or two of newspaper underneath the mulch. Some areas, like the mailbox and garden bed directly in front of the house, have annuals. Others, such as the garden bed I started working on beside the garage, are full of perennials and I’m hoping to get closer and closer to a flowery, but relatively maintenance-free, garden bed. I typically pull back the old mulch, plan the placement of flowers, dig the holes as needed, and surround the rest with either full sheets or small strips of newspaper (tip: wet the newspaper before putting the mulch down to keep it from blowing away while you plant). Either way, as long as the stuff is layered enough to cover everything but the roots of the flowers I just planted, weeds are so much more manageable than mulching alone. You could also use landscaping fabric if you desire, but a local newspaper gets delivered to my driveway every week for free, so it makes for a great repurposing option. I also sometimes use the recycled paper lining that comes in packaging (again, free).

newspaper under mulch
Last fall’s mums

I’m probably the least active gardener, and even though I started working on the side of the garage with plants, I didn’t get around to finishing before the winter (I got about halfway, got distracted with other projects, and just plain blew it off until spring). It’s embarrassing to reveal this prior to cleaning it up again (in that it looks like total trash), but this blog has always been about showing you the uglier side of home improvement, so why not? Just before starting on the weeds yesterday, I snapped a few pics to show you just how dramatic the difference is. Keep in mind, this is ZERO effort put in this part of the house since last fall. Here’s what half of the bed looks like with having the newspaper-mulch combo in place, then leaving it to the elements for the entire winter:

left side newspaper under mulch

mulching with newspaper

And here’s what it looks like without. Yeah… I’m going to need a wheelbarrow.

weeds out of control 2

weeds out of control

(FWIW, it’s not visible from the street when you drive by, so thankfully I can clean this up in the next few days without being too ashamed with my neighbors for my lack of follow-through.)

The new garden beds along the backyard fence are also in amazingly good shape after doing some “lasagna” layering before putting them in. Other than throwing on some fertilizer, these things haven’t been touched all winter. And they’re thriving! New mulch will go on top, but I can’t wait for them to bloom and fill half the yard (and add bouquets to the kitchen) with the scent of gardenias!

gardenia garden beds

So, if you’ve ever been curious as to whether or not the extra step is worth it, I’m definitely a convert. The addition of the newspaper is going to make a HUGE difference in the amount of time I will need to spend cleaning everything up for spring.

More updates on the interior progress soon. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cheers to all of you sharing a green beer or two. I will be as well.

(By the way, today’s the last day to enter the storm door giveaway… if you haven’t checked that out yet, enter here.)

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  1. We’ve tried MANY different weed blocking products and found newspapers actually work almost the best (landscaping cardboard is the winner), but newspaper actually performed A LOT better than the landscaping fabric we bought at stores (we tried out many). And one tip – if you don’t get a paper delivered to your door, we’ve also used junk mail (coupon inserts, etc). I love free, useful things :)

    1. Yeah, I get creative too. Free newspapers I never asked for, junk mail, the paper lining from Charlie’s BarkBox deliveries, etc. Cardboard worked great to establish the garden beds on the side of the fence! I only wish I were making more of them… I seem to accumulate cardboard around here so fast!

  2. I’ve never heard of this trick, maybe because I’m not a gardener. Having said that, my wife is the gardener in the family and I’ve never seen her do this, but always see her battling with weeds. I might get lucky tonight after sharing this info with her. As they say – never too old to learn…

    1. That’s what I’m here for: gardening advice and helping people get lucky in the process. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling people from now on.

  3. Oh thats great! Pretty neat trick that doesn’t require much work.. watch out weeds!

  4. hi just wanted to know if you can or should use both wet newspapers and landscaping paper before mulch ?

    1. You could, sure, but the point of using wet newspaper is just to avoid having to spend the money on the weed blocker material you can pick up at the store. Usually, the newspaper I use is delivered free (it’s the local paper that I’m not actually paying a subscription for), so this is meant to be a good way to still get the results you want (fewer weeds) but not have to spend the cash on weed blocker. If you used both, you would probably get the same results.