Thursday, October 15, 2009

Old Newspapers Can Have Second Life in Garden

By David Burton
University Extension

Past copies of the daily or weekly newspaper can have a second life in your garden as mulch or a weed barrier according to Mark Bernskoetter, president of University of Missouri Extension’s Greene County Chapter of Master Gardeners.
“Newsprint (not slick paper used in inserts or magazines) is a great tool for the garden,” said Bernskoetter. “Even newsprint with color pictures is generally fine since most use biodegradable and water-soluble inks that won't harm the environment.”
Whether a person is creating a new flower bed, a mulched area around a tree, or covering paths between rows in a vegetable garden, newspaper has all the great properties expected and wanted from organic mulches.
“When you lay newsprint out several (4 to 10) sheets thick and overlap one group of sheets onto the next, you create a weed barrier that will smother out many existing plants. It will also preserve moisture so you don't need to worry about watering as often,” said Bernskoetter.
Newsprint will dissolve in a few weeks or months, leaving behind no residual mess.
If a gardener wants a nicer look, after laying down the newspaper, cover it with mulch.
“I would not put wood chips in my vegetable garden, but straw is a great cover between rows. On the other hand, I would not put straw in my flower beds in front of the house since I think wood mulch looks better,” said Bernskoetter.
Using newspaper as a mulch or weed barrier results in a cost savings. But remember, it will take a lot of newspaper to cover an entire garden.
“Newsprint can be used in composting too. Just shred it up and add it to your compost pile as dry or brown matter,” said Bernskoetter.
For more information, contact the Master Gardener’s Hotline in Greene County, or University of Missouri Extension Horticulture Specialist Patrick Byers, at (417) 862-9284.

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