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Using Shredded Paper As Garden Mulch

Using Shredded Paper As Garden Mulch

Should you use shredded paper as garden mulch? Normally, I spend my time telling you that the advice you’ve heard countless times is bogus. But using shredded paper in your garden is actually a great idea.

What is mulch?

Mulch is a substance added to the garden that helps soil retain moisture and stay cool. It also keeps weeds away and can prevent frost damage in the winter. Organic mulches break down and can eventually improve the condition and nutrient composition of the soil. Non-organic mulches, like plastic mulch, can’t break down but can often be reused year after year.

Other things you can use for mulch include:

  • wood chips
  • leaves
  • straw
  • coco coir
  • compost
  • plastic

And yes, you can use shredded paper as mulch! One huge benefit of paper mulch is that it’s FREE and super easy to make. If you regularly use a paper shredder, emptying the canister and using the remnants in your garden is a good way to recycle them since most recycling plants don’t accept shredded paper.

How to use shredded paper as mulch

The main task you need to complete before using paper as mulch is shredding. You can use a paper shredder to rip the paper into pieces or do it by hand.

If you need to make a lot of paper mulch and don’t have a shredder, try getting the family involved in shredding paper.

Be careful when selecting the paper you’ll be shredding. Anything thick and glossy—like pages in a color magazine—contains heavy metals that can leach out into the soil. But newsprint and regular printer paper are generally safe to use as mulch.

As with any kind of mulch, cutting it into small pieces is key. Plus, if you tried to stick sheets of paper over the soil, they’d quickly end up blown elsewhere.

After applying shredded paper to your garden, dampen it with water to keep it from flying all over the place.

Did you know that you can also add shredded paper to your compost bin? If you have plenty of mulch and not enough room in your recycling bin, shredded paper can go into the compost and takes about 2 to 6 weeks to break down. It’s considered a “brown” ingredient, so if you drop a lot of shredded paper into your bin, make sure to balance it out with “green” ingredients like grass clippings.




7 Places Where You Can Get Free Mulch

 

7 Places Where You Can Get Free Mulch

Mulch is one of the most useful tools for gardeners. It’s especially helpful at a time when the weather is unpredictable. We’ve begun to see the drastic effects of climate change in earnest, namely hotter summers. And while many garden plants love warm weather, there’s a point where the heat becomes unbearable—even for heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers. Mulch is a multi-purpose substance that can help gardeners conserve moisture, control soil temperatures, and improve soil consistency.

But where do you actually get mulch? Sure, you can buy bags of mulch from a garden center, but are there ways to get mulch for free?

The answer: Absolutely!

How to get free mulch

The first strategy is to make your own mulch. Free sources of mulch around the home include:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Compost
  • Straw

Other sources for free mulch

Other places where you can get free mulch include:

  • Arborists: These are the people who provide tree care services around town. When they cut down trees or branches, they’ll usually turn pieces into mulch and take that to a landfill for disposal. There’s no guarantee that they’ll share the stuff with you for free, but you can ask politely! Just don’t expect it to arrive neatly bagged. Make sure you have a spot on your property to accommodate a truckload of dumped wood mulch.
  • Local municipalities: Many cities have yearly environment days to spread awareness about earth-friendly activities. Some cities, for instance, offer free compost to interested citizens. Other towns may have garden products like compost or other types of mulch available upon request. Not sure if your city offers any garden supplies for free? Just ask!
  • Neighbors: Not everyone is a gardener, but your neighbors may have many useful garden amendments lying around their yard. If your property is devoid of leaves, but they have a pile of leaves to rake every fall, consider offering your raking services in exchange for taking that free mulch home.

Tips for mulching

Get your free mulch and take it home. Now it’s time to apply it around your plants. The key to applying mulch is not to lay it down too thick. Too thick a layer can prevent plant roots from breathing and eventually suffocate them. Yikes!

Aim for about 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the base of a plant. After mulching, water deeply. You may have to reapply mulch throughout the season, but one application is usually enough to last a whole gardening season.




How to Use Baking Soda for Weed Control

 

How to Use Baking Soda for Weed Control

I’ve dealt with some nasty weeds in my day. I’ve also tried a lot of methods to get rid of said weeds. A lot of those so-called “tried-and-true” methods are actually bogus. Like so many gardening pieces of wisdom, a lot of weed control tricks aren’t really useful. What about baking soda for weed control? Does it work?

Baking soda’s many uses

always have a box of baking soda in my cupboard—usually two, in fact. Baking soda has many uses. It’s a frequent baking ingredient. It’s great for sopping up urine stains (something I have to deal with sometimes as a dog owner) and it deodorizes almost like magic. I also always have a box in the fridge to deal with stubborn smells that permeate from containers of leftovers.

But does it work for killing weeds? Can you use baking soda for weed control?

Baking soda in the garden

I have a love-hate relationship with weeds. I genuinely believe that some weeds are lovely. Dandelions, for instance, are a treat and I love how they attract dozens of bees to my garden. Invasive vines, on the other hand? Kill them with fire! Or maybe baking soda?

Here’s the deal. Baking soda is not a magic weed killer. Don’t believe the hype. It contains sodium, which will surely kill weeds if you pile on the stuff. But, salt is also going to harm other green living things around your garden. Salt can also leech into your soil and can cause harmful runoff.

TLDR: It works but it can also cause problems.

It seems like a harmless substance, but I don’t recommend it for use in the garden. There are plenty of better ways to deal with weeds.

Baking soda alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to using baking soda for weed control.

  • Landscape fabric. Prepare beds with landscape fabric to prevent weeds from popping up in the first place.
  • Plastic mulch. Plastic mulch is another easy-to-use alternative that can easily suffocate weeds.
  • Organic mulch. Good ole’ organic mulches like wood chips and straw can help prevent weed growth. If you have a bed infested with weeds, though, don’t use mulch until you’ve pulled out most of the invading plants.
  • Your hands. If you’re dealing with a minor weed infestation, just use your hands or a trowel to dig the weeds up by the roots. Remember to dig up the whole plant or else it’ll pop up again.
  • Cardboard. Lay down cardboard before planting to prevent weeds from growing back.
  • Get some chickens. Chickens won’t selectively pick out weeds for you but they will eat the remnants that you’ve pulled up. That way, you won’t have to find a way to dispose of them.

Quick tip: Never toss weeds into your household compost. You can contaminate your garden this way!

While I have you here: if you really hate those dandelions. I suggest not letting them go to waste. Pick them and use them to make tea.




Keep the Garden Well-Watered: 5 Tried & True Tools

well-watered garden

Years ago, when, with the help of my dad, I started my first vegetable garden, I was vaguely aware of the importance of watering plants. I watered whenever I felt like it, and whenever it seemed like my plants yearned for moisture—it turns out many of the symptoms of overwatering and under watering are shockingly similar. I struggled to keep the garden well-watered.

Watering Epiphany

One of the main reasons for my irregular watering schedule was that my garden was tucked away in the depths of the yard, and getting there meant trekking out with shoes and lugging the heavy hose to where it was needed. It was an ordeal. When I moved out of my parent’s home and created a garden plot of my own, I watered here and there but didn’t start really soaking my plants until a year into things. I quickly realized that my haphazard watering wasn’t going to cut it in this new patch of dirt. The spot, blessed with sun, dried out a whole lot quicker than in my very shaded garden of yesteryear. 

Tried and True Watering Tools

I’ve spent a couple of years fiddling with water implements and figuring out the best solution for my little garden. Here’s what I’ve found works for me.

Keep your garden well-watered with these must-have supplies.

Expandable hose

They’re typically cheaper than a traditional chunky, cumbersome hose and are easy to carry around the garden. At the end of the season, it’s super easy to pack up the flexible hose and toss it into the bin of supplies that will head to the basement for the winter. The drawback is that flexible hoses are less durable, but if you’re careful and take good care of your watering implement, it should last a few seasons. There are also plenty of high-quality flexi-hoses with triple-layer protection, though they typically cost more. Buy one with a sprayer attachment that features multiple settings. Use the misting setting on tender seedlings and the soaker setting to water plants deeply from below. 

Watering can

I use a super durable plastic watering can. It’s been around for years and hasn’t failed me yet. It’s helpful for watering areas where the hose doesn’t reach and for watering when the water is shut for the winter.

Mulch

Mulch won’t provide your crops with water, but it conserves moisture exceptionally well. Without mulch, my topsoil dries up super quickly—even if I water at regular intervals. There are plenty of cheap and free mulch options, including grass clipping, leaf mold, and shredded cardboard or newspaper. My preference is straw, but it’s not always readily available. 

Soaker hose

I tried a fancy irrigation set up in my raised beds years ago, and it was an utter failure. The hoses got in the way of my footpaths, and it was more trouble than it was worth. That doesn’t mean I completely gave up on irrigation. I recently installed soaker hoses in some of my ground-level beds, where I plan to plant perennials and other easy-to-maintain plants. Currently, only the hardiest of plants survive there because of the lack of water. The roof overhang blocks the rain and getting the hose there is a pain in the butt, so I use soaker hoses to water the area. 

The weather forecast

Overwatering can be as problematic as under-watering, so while you must give thirsty plants sustenance, it’s also wise to check the weather forecast before dumping a whole gallon of water into your beds. Don’t waste this precious resource if it’s looking like a rainstorm is on the way. Unless your plants are begging for water, it can wait. 

Do you have any favorite watering tools? How do you keep your garden well-watered? Are you fond of any watering tricks that have netted you lush, bushy plants year after year? I’d love to hear your water-wise tips! Share them with me in the comments.