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Gardening Tips: Free, Green Weed Barrier

I am a thrifty gardener.  And this is one of my favorite thrifty tricks.

If you’ve ever used plastic or fabric weed fabric, you know that it just doesn’t work.  Sure, it’s okay for awhile, but after one season, you’re sunk.  You put mulch on top of it, the mulch breaks down and weeds grow in the mulch.  And you can’t just pull them, because the roots go down THROUGH the fabric, making a tangled mess of fabric and weeds.

My solution is a free, recycled option that works like weed barrier fabrics – by blocking sunlight from reaching the weeds – but without the problems.

free & green weed barrier

After 7 years of renovations, including all new siding and new windows, we were finally ready to begin landscaping the north side of the house.  Last fall, we had an electric line trenched in, and I bought a couple of bushes on clearance at Lowes and plopped them in the ground.


To get this area ready for mulch, I started by digging a trench outlining the new flower bed. Then, I sprayed the weeds inside the bed area with Roundup 5003110 Weed and Grass Killer III Ready-to-Use Trigger Spray, 1/2 Gallon .  This part is completely optional…you could, instead, pull the weeds in the bed, or hope to suffocate them with the weed barrier and mulch.

how to get rid of weeds

Next, I put down my weed barrier – recycled newspaper!

Overlapping the edges, I put down one layer at a time, spraying it with the hose to keep it in place while I worked.

recycle newspapers in the garden

After 5-7 layers, it was ready for the next step.

(Note: It’s tempting to just unfold the newspaper and lay down all 7 layers at once.  But it doesn’t work. When the newspaper dries, it crinkles up, and if your mulch isn’t thick enough, the paper will poke through.  Also, because of the crinkling, you may end up with spots not covered by paper, and the weeds will somehow magically find them.)

best free weed control

I spread 2-3 inches of mulch all over the newspaper, working in small sections across the back of the house.


This mulch was leftover from a truckload we got last year.  It had decomposed quite a lot, and there wasn’t enough left to cover the area I needed, so I went to Lowes to get more.  II have heard that dark mulch holds a lot of heat and can “scorch” plants and dry them out more quickly, but the dark brown was on sale, so that’s what I got. Remember, I’m thrifty.

best weed barrier

By evening, our recycle bin of newspapers was empty and we had this on the north side of the house!
The newspaper will break down over a season or two, adding organic material to the soil.  But combining this technique with a weed preventer like Preen will help keep the weeds down without a tangled mess of plastic or fabric.

dark mulch

Next up, dealing with the grass that was disturbed when the electric line was buried!

boothbay blue

Related Posts:
Our Exterior Renovation
8 Tips to Keep Container Gardens Alive and Thriving
Spring on the Porch

Shared at: Motivational Monday

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great tip. I've been needing something to put down too and will try this.

  2. Katy, I hope that you avoid the bird flu! This is such a sad situation for those farmers affected. I can't imagine the stress they are going through.

  3. Great idea to use your newspaper, I always used to do this in my vegetable garden, but got tired of the bits of paper flying around the yard the next year. This looks like a perfect application for a permanent planting bed. I'm with you----------------do it on the cheap!

  4. Sounds like a great tip! I've been thinking about re-doing a planter bed and was planning on buying weed fabric. Might have to reconsider - thanks for sharing!