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The real reason newspapers will never die


I love the most recent post from Michael Tortorello’s New York Times blog. I’ve been following Michael’s misadventures of a new gardener with his first vegetable garden with interest (and frankly, a little bit of jealousy. Is the NYT paying him for this? How come I didn’t think to pitch that idea?)

He’s talking about using newspaper to block weeds, of course, which is something a lot of gardeners figured out a long time ago. I’ve been doing it for three or four years now when I start a new bed (aka lasagna gardening … sort of, in my case). I’m a fan because I think it works and it’s a hell of a lot better than poisoning the world with a case of Round-up. But Michael makes a great point and it’s one that’s near and dear to my heart: what are you going to use to keep your weeds in check when newspapers are gone? Organic Gardening magazine addressed this in the letters column of their most recent issue by suggesting using paper grocery bags or kraft paper. First of all, haven’t we all given up on grocery bags? I suggest everyone go out and buy a bunch of Baggu bags and keep them in your car or purse. On the rare occasion that you forget your Baggus, just get plastic and use it to pick up dog poop, or store your wet swimming suit in when you come home from vacation. Well, whatever, I’m not going to get all preachy about grocery bags, but I don’t mind getting preachy about newspapers. So subscribe, then use ’em in your garden!

Oh, and here’s a tip on the newspaper thing: You know when you’re doin’ some lasagna gardening and it gets to be a huge pain to unfold all those papers and then they start flying all over the place? Call up your local newspaper and ask them if they have end rolls. Since I work for a company that also publishes a newspaper I have access to all the end rolls I can use (end rolls are small rolls of paper left at the end of a roll after printing. They don’t want to run out on a print job mid-roll so they stop before the end and start a new roll). I roll them out in about 20-foot lengths and double back and forth to create about nine layers of newsprint. Then I roll them up, carry them to where they need to be, unroll them, wet them down right away with the hose and move on. Works like a charm!

2 Responses

  1. Hi Prospero! I really like the lasagna bed concept. I can’t say that I really follow it to the letter, but I do my own version of it. The raised beds (which are amazing!) were new this year so they got all new dirt and compost and no need for lasagna, but my new shade garden, which I’m ever so slowly filling up, was lasagna-ed (how that for a verbing a word?). I put down about nine layers of paper in fall and it’s not broken down yet so I just dig through it when I plant things. The dirt in that area was pretty good to begin with, but I think it looks great now. I also layered alfalfa stew (I bought alfalfa pellets at the feed store and I soak them and make a tea out of them which breaks them up into a slurry and poured it over the newspaper), straw and some finished compost. The newspaper is still doing an excellent job at weed suppression. There are a few weeks here and there, mostly around rocks and trees, but not bad considering the bed was totally au natural before I started. I’m really sold on the concept though and can’t imagine starting a new garden by digging or (gasp) poisoning again.

    Oh and yes, I’m zone 5 but I spent a good part of the winter months dreaming I’m in zone 11!

  2. How’s the lasagna gardening going? I saw your nice raised beds. You’re in zone 5, right? I’m in zone 11 and want to try the lasagna bed idea.

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