It's not because we are procrastinating or lazy. It's because we are hoping to leave every last tomato on the vine until we are ready to harvest.
So we wait.
But November is the perfect time to smother weeds and plants that are starting to look shabby.
It's also the ideal time to amend the garden beds. Remember those veggies have depleted the soil of nutrients and it's time to replenish those minerals.
This is the technique Tom and I use to make the gardening kickoff in spring a breeze. Our garden beds are willing and waiting to be planted in come Memorial Day!
No weeding required!
The cardboard/newspaper technique in a nutshell
When spring hits, most of the cardboard/newspaper will have broken down when you turn the bed over. As it breaks down, it feeds the soil with useful organic matter.
Now is also the time to restore nutrients and minerals to the soil realizing your plants.....both your annual flowers and vegetables have used a ton of nutrients up.
Let's amend that soil with things like compost, leaves and aged manure to restore what was lost.
We all win when we use cardboard/newspaper as the foundation followed by layers of leaves, compost, aged manure and mulch.
*Get high quality compost or garden soil labeled planting beds as your top layer. Don't cheap out!
Saving cardboard & newspaper to smother weeds
It might be time to raid the neighbor's recycling bin. Drive around your neighborhood collecting dishwasher and other large appliance boxes. It's a fun family activity!
Other reasons to use cardboard and newspaper to smother weeds?
- Worms love cardboard - it's tasty! Same for newspaper. Yummy.
- Cardboard and newspaper decompose quickly feeding the soil with useful organic material.
- Cardboard and newspaper are natural, organic and free
- Use newspaper as your bottom layer and put the cardboard on top for one super strong barrier.
- My compost tend to be wet "green" compost with materials such as grass clippings, tons of food scraps and plant waste so the cardboard helps balance my garden bed with some brown.
- Both cardboard and newspaper attract water keeping it in your garden bed where needed.
- During the many years I've used it, cardboard banishes almost 100% of weeds and other unwanted plants when used adequately.
- Cardboard and newspaper are so much better than that nasty landscape fabric that makes an absolute mess when it shreds. Then you're running around your yard in spring cleaning up the bits and pieces.
Insider Tip: Cardboard is heavier duty than newspaper making it a stronger barrier.
Method ~ Prep the beds by getting them ready for the cardboard/newspaper technique...
Layering cardboard & newspaper ~ the step-by-step guide!
Cardboard serves as a stronger barrier but newspaper works well, too. Newspaper will break down quicker than cardboard if you are in a hurry for decomposition to occur.
Collect all the cardboard and newspaper you need and have them ready by the garden bed in two piles.
You will want a hose handy and a sharp pair of scissors/X-Acto knife ready to slice cardboard if need be.
Step 2 - Layer the cardboard/newspaper over a 3-4 foot section of a bed. Leave no gaps!
In fact, overlapping 4-6 inches is ideal or weeds will find a way to spring up on you between the pieces!!
If you are using cardboard, you only "need" a single layer. Newspaper could use several layers depending on how much you have.
Best tips for using cardboard & newspaper in the garden
- Use brown cardboard only, no colored ads...the dyes will leach into your soil. Very bad!
- Remove all tape and staples from cardboard prior to use.
- Larger pieces of cardboard work best because they cover a larger area & provide a more solid weed barrier (think big appliance box).
- Be sure to overlap edges 4-6 inches to keep those pesky weeds from breaking through.
- Water the cardboard before you add leaves, manure, mulch and compost. Or complete the project on a rainy day like we did!
- Poke holes into the wet cardboard when you are ready to add plants if it's not decomposed enough.
- Make sure before you use the cardboard/newspaper that you are not covering up any seedling, incoming plants, perennials or bulbs you just planted.
- I'm not gonna lie. Having a partner help you with this project is always helpful. Extra sets of hands are very useful!