Thursday, July 15, 2010

Extra! Extra! Homestead Experiment #5!

My garden is starting to look like a newstand! First we made the newspaper seed pots
(see archives) and now we have completely blanketed my raised beds in layers of newspaper! Before I get into Tuesday's activities, let me give you a little background...

Last year my landlord was telling me about all the wonderful benefits of newspaper weed blocker. It's cheap/free, and the following spring, the old paper will have broken down into a mulch you can turn in your soil. Now by the time she had told me this, I had already planted the beds. So, I just decided to do one 'experimental' bed and laid newspaper around my pumpkin and zucchini mounds. The result? PERFECT weed blocker! The stuff was unbelievable! It was faring much better than the expensive weed blanket we'd bought for the other bed! I was a die hard fan.

So back to this year. We decided to try it the way my landlord had said to; starting before you plant. Her instructions? Lay several layers of newspaper across the whole bed. Then cut (with a utility knife) a row in the paper. Plant your seeds. This will help you keep your rows marked and straight and put weed blocker right up to your plants. Sounds good and easy, right? We thought so, and here's how it really went.

First, I got out my paper. I had a friend save me some, and I posted on our local freecycle yahoo group for more. I also got out my hose. We learned last year it's much better to wet your paper as you put it down so it doesn't blow right off. We layered all the beds with paper and put rocks all over the corners to weight it down. So far so good.

Next I began to cut my rows. This is where it got a little tricky. My utility knife tended to tear through the layers of paper rather than cut, so rows got a little messy and it didn't go as quickly as I'd thought. Oh well. That was finished. Time to put in the seeds and the starts we already had going.

Now this is where I really began to dislike this method. Because I didn't want my kids to walk on the paper and tear it, they didn't really get to help plant! Big thumbs down from the kids. Now if you look at the picture above, the big bed is where we have our rows of veggies, and the three side beds are where we have our mounds. They were able to reach the mounds on the sides of those boxes, but they were bummed they didn't get to plant the carrots, snow peas, broccoli, and brussels.
(The portion of the bed in the back is our wild strawberry patch.)

Next, onto the mounds! With the first two beds, we cut holes in the paper and built up our mounds on top of those holes. It was okay, but I really just did not like fighting the paper. By the time we got to the third bed of mounds, my son and I pulled up the paper and did it like we did last year: first mounds, then paper around. Ah, much easier.
You can see the difference between the bed in the background and the bed up close, right?

So, the verdict? The newspaper is still a fabulous weed blocker, but I recommend using it in the following order:
1) Plant your rows or mounds.
2) Layer your wet paper between them.
3) Weigh down with heavy rocks or weights of some kind. My husband actually wondered if you could connect many of the pieces with tape after they've been laid down in order to use less rocks. Maybe we'll try that version next time!

One more thought-As we were eating dinner last night and watching a stray dog roam in my yard, a question popped into my mind. Is it possible that the newspaper is also a good deterrent to keep cats and other animals from digging in my beds? It would seem so, right? Hmm, maybe that's just wishful thinking...

1 comment:

  1. Twinsmama,

    I've really enjoyed reading and exploring your blog, found via the link @ Homestead-Acres (Onyx Angel). My husband and I have actually been using the newspaper idea for a couple of years, but only for winter months as a weed blocker. We get our papers from friends and family that subscribe. After seeing your idea for using it year round, we're goint to give it a go this year. What we've found while using the paper is that it blocks the weeds, but only allows them to stay dormant so to speak. After we remove it in the spring for planting, they emerge with a vengenace. So I'm hoping your idea will eliminate this issue. Another thing, the cat and dog issue...While I cannot speak gospel of dogs, I know for a fact it doesn't repel our area cat issues. They just tear the paper and dig a hole as usual. Sighs!