In the mid-summer months when you’ve used up your mulch leaves from the Fall and you’ve been stock-piling those newspapers for the recycling, think twice about tossing those circulars. Newspapers and junk mail can be a great way to mulch your garden while being frugal and eco-friendly.
There are plenty of benefits to using newspaper and junk mail as your mulch. The paper blocks the sunlight, not allowing any photosynthesis to take place. What the paper does allow, however, is the penetration of water, meaning no other organisms are compromised in the use of newspaper as mulch. In fact, worms will consume the decomposing paper and in turn feed the soil with nutrient-rich waste. The best way to use newspaper and junk mail, is to spread them piece-by-piece, side-by-side over your garden. Spray down the freshly laid paper to hold it in place, then cover it with top soil or wood chips, whichever you desire in your garden. Here’s a little more detail, a step-by-step blog post from A Garden for the House by Kevin Lee Jacobs.
There is some skepticism about using paper as mulch, though. First off, it’s agreed that newspaper and junk mail are not the best choices for mulch. Salt hay, fallen leaves and straw are at the top of the mulch material list. But while salt hay and straw can get expensive and labor intensive, and fallen leaves are sometimes in short supply, newspaper isn’t a bad alternative. Other concerns about newspaper mulch all pertain to the dyes, inks and bleaches that go into making the paper. While newspaper inks are known today to be non-toxic and biodegradable, there’s still the concern that the chlorine used to bleach the paper can create dioxins, which in high levels can cause health problems. This suggests that using newspaper in your vegetable gardens may not be a great idea, but using it for flower and shrub beds could be greatly beneficial, eco-friendly and cheap!