Gardeners Guide to Newspaper Mulch

Newspaper makes a great mulch. No matter what type of plants you have, newspaper provides the same benefits as other mulches. Not to mention it’s also DIY-friendly and cost-effective! In this article, you’ll learn how to make newspaper mulch as well as how you can use it in your garden!

Don’t have any newspapers? This is an ink and chemical-free packing paper that is perfect to use as mulch.


Why Use Newspaper Mulch? 

Newspaper mulch will not only prevent weeds from growing, but it will also save water, provide organic material to the soil, feed your plants, and chill plant roots during the summer heat. Under the mulch, earthworms will work the soil for you and add worm castings, which are like gold to plants.

In addition, most newspaper is made from wood pulp, which is rich in plant-friendly nutrients like nitrogen. Many plants require these nutrients to grow robustly and healthily. As the newspaper breaks down it releases these nutrients for your plants and worms to feed on.

Also, newspaper mulch is dirt cheap! Sure, you have to make it yourself but what’s better than knowing your mulch is homemade? OK…. probably a few things, but still…

In short, newspaper mulch is fantastic for gardens and gardeners both.

Want to use another type of mulch? I’ve written a complete guide on cedar mulch, rubber mulch, red mulch, and black mulch.

Stacks of newspaper

Here’s How to Mulch With Newspaper 

Pick The Right Newspaper 

Not all newspapers are made equal; while some can make wonderful mulch, others will just impede your plants’ ability to develop. As colorful ink frequently contains numerous chemicals that do not disintegrate well and may potentially hurt your plants, it is best to choose a colorless newspaper. Additionally, avoid newspapers with shiny graphics or pages because they degrade poorly.

If you have many old newspapers lying around, you can use them as mulch. However, you should utilize them carefully because, until a few decades ago, many newspapers’ inks included lead.

Shred The Newspaper 

If you want to use a newspaper as mulch, you must choose between utilizing huge pieces of newspaper or shredded newspaper. Shredded newspaper is great for aerating the soil and tends to disintegrate much more quickly than huge pieces of newspaper. On the other hand, it is easier to cover a sizable area with large pieces of newspaper. However, larger piece of newspaper tend to decompose slower and dry out your soil quicker.

Personally, I recommend shredding (or ripping up) your newspaper into smaller bits. It’s a little extra work, but your plants will thank you!

Place The Newspaper

Make sure not to smother your plants with newspaper when laying it. Place the newspaper around the plants, leaving a few inches between the newspaper and the stems. Newspaper is very good at holding onto water, so if it becomes wet and comes into contact with the stem, it will attach to it. This increases the risk that the stem of the plant will rot and other illnesses will spread.

Add a Few Layers

If you are using mulch made of shredded newspaper, you should spread it out over an area of about 2-3 inches; this will be enough to retain water, prevent soil from drying up, and begin feeding your plants once it decomposes. It is best to crumple up the individual pages of a large piece of newspaper before using it as mulch since this will allow air to flow into the soil, which is good for the plants.

However, if you simply want to lay down newspaper pages without disintegrating them, layer three to five sheets on top of one another. Make small holes in the newspaper as well; this will allow the water to pass through the mulch without stopping and aid soil aeration. Shredded newspaper is quite simple to use and will produce greater quality mulch, so I advise using it.

Water The Newspaper 

Once you have positioned the newspaper mulch around your plants, you should water it. The newspaper will become heavier due to the water, preventing wind from blowing away, and the extra moisture will speed up the decomposition process. Additionally, wetting the mulch before applying it around your plants is a good idea because doing so will make it much simpler to handle, especially if you have a sizable garden.

Add Other “Ingredients

Even though newspaper mulch is very effective at holding onto moisture, you still need to keep an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t dry out. Organic mulch, such as grass clippings, is better at retaining water than newspaper mulch. Thus I advise using some on top of the newspaper mulch.

On the other hand, you can use newspaper mulch and wood chips if you plant trees or other plants with a lengthy lifespan.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, mulching using newspaper is a rather simple process. I like shredded newspaper since it does a great job of aerating the soil and holding water. In the first few days of utilizing the newspaper, be careful not to let it dry because this will render the mulch unusable.

Interested in reading more about gardening? Check out our library of free resources.

How to Use Newspaper Mulch

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