Plants & Gardens Blog

Using Newspaper as Mulch

BBG staff made good use of old issues of the Daily News in the Fragrance and Shakespeare gardens this week. Newspaper makes an excellent, weed-suppressing mulch material, and BBG horticulturists have been using it in different parts of the garden for several years. In addition to inhibiting weeds, it can also be used to keep prolific garden plants from encroaching beyond their desired location, says Jennifer Williams, curator of both gardens.

“Mints and lemon balm, for instance, will spread into beds where I don’t really want them. The newspaper keeps runners from sprouting and seeds from germinating, and I don’t have to spray chemicals,” says Williams. It’s also a good way to convert a patch of turf into a flower or vegetable bed without having to spray.

To mulch with newspaper in your home garden, lay down a layer about five pages thick, water lightly to keep it from blowing away, cover with topsoil, and then plant your beds. The newspaper layer will biodegrade into the soil in time allowing roots to penetrate and moisture and soil microbes to pass through.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.


  • annalevis June 21, 2017

    Planting through a mulch is easy. Carefully draw it back, then dig a hole for your plant and water it. Push back the mulch, taking care not to smother the young plant.

  • Janeva Erickson August 29, 2013

    If I have a layer of newspaper down in my flower garden, will my tulip bulbs be able to sprout through in the spring ?

  • Jennifer Williams, BBG staff June 5, 2013

    If the roots of your plants are deeper than your soil layer, you can
    poke holes in your newspaper to accommodate them. There is a chance that weeds or unwanted plants will make their way through the hole, but layering a few extra pages in advance can help minimize that risk.

  • Ria June 3, 2013

    Question: This sounds like a great idea, but do you plant on top of the newspaper, or do you make a hole through it for a new plant? Thanks!

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