If you are like most people and are buying online (almost 80% now) you are also receiving a potential gardening tool with every order. Cardboard is safe to use in gardens and will naturally decompose over time.
You can use cardboard from your the latest purchase to stamp out weeds in your garden! Even if you don’t get a lot of cardboard deliveries, it is easy to find cardboard.
First let's think about what you might have tried before to keep weeds out in the past. One option is using herbicides (like round-up). It kills the weeds, but it also kills beneficial insects and organisms like earth worms. This lack of life in your soil will make growing anything difficult.
Landscape fabric is another option many use, and while it does get the job done, it will cost you money and does not break down quickly. If you ever till the soil or want to amend the soil, landscape fabric can be difficult to work with. Removing the landscape fabric can be difficult as it can shred into small pieces if roots grow into it. It is also made from plastic and is not a renewable resource.
Another option many use is just mulch. This is a great option for established gardens to keep ahead of weeds. But when starting a new garden, it is next to impossible to put down enough mulch to smother the most tenacious weeds. Using newspaper first is good, but it decomposes very quickly allowing weeds to simply grow right through it.
You could till the site or dig up weeds by hand. This will remove the weeds immediately, but will bring up weed seeds that until that moment had been safely buried underground. Now that they are exposed they will quickly out-pace your new plants without some control the keep them in place.
The last option to consider is to tarp an area you want to plant on. This is an excellent option. But you need weeks or even months to fully kill off any weeds. Even after that you may need to flame weed to kill any new weed germination before you begin. This process is wonderful, but takes a lot of time.
Now that we have considered the other options, let's look at cardboard. First off, it is free! It is very effective in suppressing weeds and will give your plants a chance to get established. It will decompose in a couple of months and nothing will remain.
To get started follow these simple steps:
1Collect cardboard. Hold off recycling it. Re-use of a material is truly a better option then recycling since no energy is needed to give the material a second life. If you can find a source of large pieces such as from an appliance box, that is best. You will need to first remove any staples and plastic tape.
2 Mow or trim down the site you wish to prep. Weeds that are very large need to be flattened/trimmed so that cardboard will lay flat. Place the cardboard over the weeds you want to smother. Make sure you overlap cardboards by at least an inch. Weeds will grow through ANY gap.
3 Place wood chips or compost at least 4 inches in thickness over the entire sheet of cardboard. You could use wood chips for a path and then compost for the growing bed.
With some light weeding and re-application of mulch, you should be able to keep your garden free of weeds with little cost with this approach.
Go forth and reclaim your garden!