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Monday, May 21, 2007

Stranger in Your Garden

posted by on May 21 at 12:59 PM

A green-thumbed reader wrote in with this question:

As a regular reader of The Stranger, I have a large stack of old issues laying about my house. I also tend a plot in one of the city’s 50+ P-Patch sites. I was wondering, is the paper on which The Stranger is printed and the ink with which it is printed OK for use in organic gardening as sheet mulch? My understanding that I should try to use newspaper that is printed with soy-based ink for this.

Personally, I’m not that picky about this kind of thing (I’d probably grow “nonorganic” vegetables if it was my own backyard), but I don’t want to break the rules, and I want to be able to make a case to our P-Patch minders that newspaper (or yours at least) is an OK mulch.

Regards, David

I talked to the folks over in Distribution and they assured me the paper is printed with soy-based ink. Hooray! However, newsprint has a tendency to clump and harden when it gets wet, so it is best used in areas where you are blocking things from growing altogether. I have had good luck making newsprint barriers on pathways and in garden beds needing a fresh start. Hope this helps and kudos for gardening organically!

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Thanks for the response! I'll probably use it in entire sheets (with a large hole cut out around the plant that is being mulched) in order to suppress weed growth and keep the ground moist. My veteran vegetable growing parents suggested this, so I assume they know what they are talking about.

Hopefully, as long as I don't leave the escort ads facing up, it will be fine with the P-patch.

Thanks again!

Posted by David | May 21, 2007 1:23 PM

You are not Scully. This is a forgery!

Posted by Specialty's Cafe & Bakery Menu | May 21, 2007 1:27 PM

Shall I be first to the obvious Zinger?

Here goes:

Just out to make the Boss Man Steen proud.

Posted by Ari Spool | May 21, 2007 1:36 PM

I have chickens at my place, and I find that old Strangers, passed through a paper shredder, are ideal bedding material. Much cheaper than straw, less dusty than wood shavings, and newsprint covered with chicken shit is amazing worm food. My creatures have never been so happy!

Posted by Gurldoggie | May 21, 2007 2:34 PM

If you're trying to kill grass, make sure you put down a LOT, and overlap like crazy. We're killing some grass that way, and although twelve sheets thick was recommended, that's not nearly enough. I would actually use cardboard if I was doing it again, although you lose the mulch aspect -- the idea with newspaper is that once it's all dead you can just turn it into the soil. Cardboard we're going to have to pull out of there.

Posted by Fnarf | May 21, 2007 4:52 PM

I am far too lazy to pull weeds (I hate grubbing in the dirt!), so I've been using the "bury it" method for years - put down several layers of newspaper, wet it thoroughly, then cover with a couple inches of mulch. I use compost, because it looks nice and enriches the soil. It's the only method that works worth a damn for someone as disinclined to garden as me.

Posted by Geni | May 21, 2007 5:09 PM

I did it using full-size newsprint (Thank you Pee-Eye!) several years ago. It does work very well at keeping the weeds from popping up, but also as noted above it won't really compost on its own. You will need to mechanically till it in somehow.

It could be I didn't do it quite right, and/or was misinformed- I put it down right over the weeds, then put black visqueen down over it, weighed down with rocks. Let it sit all year, and next spring expected rich, thick mulch. While the weeds were dead (the black visqueen absorbs light, and gets nasty hot underneath, killing everything), the newspaper sort of just sat there and got a little mushy.

But I tilled it in, and the garden ended up growing very well.

Posted by Dr_Awesome | May 21, 2007 5:52 PM

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