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What is Paper Mulch?

Anna T.
Anna T.

Paper mulch is a type of mulch often used in gardens. Many people prefer to use it instead of other types of mulch because it is typically inexpensive and readily available. Newspaper and cardboard are popular items used for paper mulch, but some people purchase special paper mulch from gardening stores instead. Any type of paper mulch will usually biodegrade very quickly, which makes it one of the more eco-friendly mulching options.

The method of applying paper mulch to a garden generally depends on what type of paper is used. If newspapers are used, they are most often laid out flatly across the ground until the entire area is covered. They usually have to be in stacks of eight sheets or more. It is also necessary to lie something heavy, such as a large rock, on the edges so that it doesn't blow away.

Newspaper is often used for paper mulch.
Newspaper is often used for paper mulch.

When cardboard boxes are used as mulch, the boxes are normally broken down into several flat layers. Most of the time, only one layer of cardboard is needed because one layer is usually thick enough. The layers are normally laid out across the surface of the garden area in the same manner as newspapers. Cardboard may also need to be secured down at the edges by heavy rocks or something similar.

Cardboard boxes may be used as mulch.
Cardboard boxes may be used as mulch.

Some people do not like the idea of using paper as mulch in their gardens because they feel it is not attractive in appearance. One way to possibly remedy this is by putting wood chips, pine needles, or some other type of mulching material in a thin layer across the top. Doing this will likely serve the purpose of not only covering up the newspaper or cardboard, but also helping to keep it secured to the ground. This may eliminate the need to brace the edges with a heavy material, because the weight of the extra mulching substance should be enough to keep the paper mulch from blowing away.

Many garden centers sell a special type of paper mulch. It is usually a black color, which may make it superior in heat absorption when compared to newspaper or cardboard. It most likely has all the advantages of using other types of paper, while additionally being slightly easier to apply because it normally comes in rolls. Some people believe that the ink in newspapers may actually be a hazard to growing plants, so commercial paper mulch could be the answer if this is a concern. The main disadvantage to these paper rolls is that they do typically cost money, whereas other types of paper used for mulch can often be attained for free.

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Discussion Comments


Yes, you can, but some people prefer not to because a lot of ink is used in printing magazines. Sometimes the ink is toxic, and this might not be preferable when you're growing your own food.


can you use magazines as mulch for the garden?

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    • Newspaper is often used for paper mulch.
      By: Scanrail
      Newspaper is often used for paper mulch.
    • Cardboard boxes may be used as mulch.
      By: imstock
      Cardboard boxes may be used as mulch.