Homemade Weed Control: Recycling Paper & Cardboard for Weed Control in Your Garden

Weed control is one of the most important tasks in a garden. Weeds steal important nutrients from your desirable plants and are also unsightly. Hand weeding takes a lot of time, chemical sprays harm the environment, and commercial weed matting is expensive, and doesn’t really do the job well without being buried under three inches of mulch.

By recycling paper and cardboard, you can control and eliminate weeds without using dangerous chemicals or expensive weed cloth. Another great benefit of using these materials for weed control is that they decompose and become part of the soil.

Where to Get Paper for Recycling

Not as many people are taking the newspaper anymore, but if you put an ad on your local Freecycle or Craigslist, you can find free newspapers. You can also get large sacks of shredded or scrap paper from offices or other sources. Saving the flyers that come in your mail every week is another source of free paper.

Newspaper for Controlling Weeds

You will hear that the dyes in glossy paper are toxic to plants and animals but that isn't necessarily so. Most dyes are now biodegradable and non-toxic, and if some are used that aren't, you aren't going to be using enough of them to harm your plant. To use newspaper for weed control, you have to first dig all the weeds and grass out from the area you wish to plant. Place five layers of newspaper into this area, and cover with an inch of leaves or other biodegradable mulch.

Keep Weeds Out With Scrap and Shredded Paper

Shredded or scrap paper is also reusable for weed control. To use shredded paper, it's best to wet it first, and sandwich it between layers of other paper or cardboard. Wetting the shredded paper makes it easier for you to see and cover bare spots. First, lay down a layer of other paper or cardboard, then start piling on the shredded paper to a depth of two inches. Top this with other layers of paper, and add an inch of leaves or other biodegradable mulch.

Reusing Cardboard as Mulch

Cardboard boxes are readily obtained for free from grocery and other stores. Cardboard is the best material to use for weed control in large areas, and you don’t have to remove the grass first, as the cardboard is heavy and thick enough to kill it. Cardboard is wonderful for use when laying out a large bed or as a base for a lasagna garden or raised vegetable bed.

For best results, you should use two layers of cardboard. Lay the first layer, slightly overlapping the pieces, then lay the second layer, staggering them to cover the overlapped edges, much as you would lay bricks. If you will be planting in the ground underneath the cardboard, cut your holes now. If not, start piling on your mulch, soil, or organic matter. The cardboard will last long enough to kill anything underneath it and will eventually decompose and become part of the soil.

By recycling these biodegradable materials in your garden, you will not only control weeds, but you will enrich your soil and reduce waste. If you don’t reuse your paper and cardboard, rememer to put it in the recycling bin. It’s a proven fact that paper products buried under tons of garbage do not break down, as they are broken down by aerobic bacteria, which can’t survive in landfills. It’s a win/win situation for everyone when you recycle biodegradable materials into your garden.


All information and instructions contained herein are from the author’s own knowledge and experience.

This post is part of the series: Recycling and Reusing Household Trash for Your Garden

There are so many things you can use in your garden instead of adding to the landfills. Plastic bottles, yogurt containers, popsicle sticks, vinyl mini blinds, newspapers and cardboard are just a few. Come read and find ways to recycle and reuse instead of discarding useful items.
  1. Recycling Plastic Bottles into Mini Greenhouses and Planting Pots
  2. Recycling Toilet Paper Rolls into Homemade Peat Pots for Your Garden
  3. Recycling Plastic Yogurt Cups and Plastic Bathroom Cups as Self-Watering Pots
  4. Recycling Mini Blinds to Make Weatherproof Labels for Your Plants
  5. Recycling Paper and Cardboard for Weed Control in Your Garden