Every two or three years, I have to take some time to prevent weeds in my perennial plant areas. That’s right–I have a trick that means I work hard for one day every couple years to save myself from pulling weeds for a couple years.
This is one of those things you’ll pin, think about, and one day you’ll try. Once you try it, however, you’ll be hooked. It’s that good.
If this is your first year trying this, start by pulling all the weeds in the area of interest. You’ll want to be very thorough.
Soak the ground very thoroughly, and dig all the weeds out by the roots. Then in a couple days when it’s dry, run your tiller through the area if you can, or use a smaller trowel to disrupt any growth in the area. You’ll want absolutely every sign of a weed or weed seed gone before going any farther.
Now you’re ready to get to work. If you have sore joints, you might want to take an anti inflammatory (i.e. Tylenol or Ibuprofen) before starting.
You will need plenty of newspaper, your mulch of choice, and water. I like to use a hose with a sprayer attachment that can be turned on/off to save my water.
Start laying out one sheet of newspaper at a time. Use only the black and white ones. (I don’t know if the colored adds will work, but I don’t want those dyes and glossy papers in my dirt.)
As you lay each piece of paper down, place it next to the last one only overlapped about 4 inches. You will want to soak each piece of paper as you go (or a couple at a time). Once you have a starter layer, go back to the side you started on and do another layer. Stagger the edges, and be careful that your newspaper is right up to the stalk of your perennials.
I do somewhere around four to five full layers, making sure all is good and wet. You don’t want it so wet that the paper is already falling apart. But you do want to make sure there are no dry areas in any of the layers. You must repeat the pattern of paper, water, paper, water. It will not work as well if you put five layers down and then water it.
As soon as you are done with your newspapers, put your mulch on as you normally would. Three inches of mulch is recommended.
When I first used this method, I was skeptical.
However, nothing grew through the newspaper for nearly three years. Granted I only water the plants and not the entire area, but there is quite a bit of snow that melts on it each year. If you get rain year-round in your area, it may not last you the three years. I read that newspaper will biodegrade in 18 months on average–so this should work for 18 months “on average.”
Here’s the other thing I love about it: for the most part, only grass has come through here and there. And, it’s super easy to pull when I push back all the mulch to re-treat.
Because the grass doesn’t just grow straight through, the roots just keep running. What this means is when I do move the mulch and what little newspaper is still left (visible at the base in this picture), the roots are just laying there–sometimes a couple feet in length. For the most part, I just pick them up and move them.
For those of you who fight grass roots, you understand what wonderful news this is. I don’t have to search and dig and search and dig for grass roots. I just pick them up.
If anyone else has used this method, please leave in the comments your climate, how many layers you use, and how long it keeps the weeds at bay.