Saturday, September 25, 2010

Newspapers As Garden Mulch

Newspapers As Garden Mulch

Save all your old newspapers to use in your garden. Placing a layer of newspaper over bare dirt, makes a great mulch and has many organic benefits. Save all your old newspapers to use in your garden. But stick to the black and white print. The ink used by most publishers is water based. However, inks used in advertising supplements or “glossies” may contain heavy metal.

Placing a layer of newspapers over bare dirt makes a great mulch and has many organic benefits. Soil moisture is conserved by allowing rain to penetrate it. The cold is kept out and the paper protects root crops against early or late frosts. It reduces weeds, keeps vining vegetables off the ground, and helps to build soil structure.

Lay the newspapers on the ground at least four sheets thick. Overlap them so that none of the ground is exposed, and anchor them with rocks.

To have an early seedbed in the spring, layer the ground with an inch of newspapers, top with leaves, hay or grass clippings in the fall. When the next spring rolls around, just pull back the mulch enough to plant lettuce, potatoes or cabbage. The ground will be easy to dig under your mulch.

An easy way to grow potatoes is to pull back the mulch you created last fall, drop the seed potatoes on the ground and recover with the mulch. No need to dig. The potatoes will form above the ground, making them cleaner and easier to harvest.

A layer of newspapers spread around your vegetable plants, like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers is a good weed deterrent. Then at the end of the growing season, either till the mulch into the soil or add more newspapers to create a planting bed for the following year. This newspaper mulch over time causes the soil to loosen and be easier to manage.

Newspapers can also be used as first-aid for broken plants, or plants under attack by pests. Cutworms can be effectively deterred by making a protective band around the plant. You do this by tearing three layers of newspapers into strips, two inches wide and long enough to wrap snugly around the stem. Moisten the newspaper so that it will cling to the plant.

Newspapers can also be used to repair a broken plant. Soak newspapers strips in water until they become the consistency of “papier mache. Tightly wrap the broken section of the stem and heap the soil around the plant so that it covers this “splint. As the paper dries, it hardens and new roots will form above the break.

Newspaper ashes are a good, natural pesticide. A quart of ashes dug into the ground a few days before planting will deter maggots from destroying root crops such as radishes. A good solution for cucumber beetles is a mixture of a cup of newspaper ash, a cup of lime and two gallons of water. Spray this mixture on both sides of the leaves. Works on squash bugs as well.

Newspapers can be used to extend the gardening season. Just protect young seedlings under a newspaper tent; spread a newspaper blanket over root crops such as carrots, parsnips or beets to allow the roots to hibernate without freezing. And green tomatoes harvested before the first frost is due will ripen nicely out on the “floor” of the garden between several layers of newspapers.

So don’t throw out your old newspapers. Use them in your garden, instead!

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