Friday, April 19, 2013

When Cardboard Won the War

A guest post by my friend Regina. She is the talented lady who has shared with us how to save flower seeds, cut out sugar, and cook with natural sugar.

When Cardboard Won the War

It was spring. The air was alive with the excitement of warmer days and new life. My heart beat with pleasure at the thought of once again working in my flower beds. I gathered my hoe and shovel ready to dive into the bliss of dirt, when I was stopped by an ugly sight. My herb garden with raised beds and walkways was overrun with this horrible-refusing-to-die grass, the hard-to-pull kind of grass with long, strong runners under the soil. Hadn't I beat that evil grass with the hoe last year – chopping its roots and yanking its blades? But there it was, flourishing with every passing day. Must I resort to spraying chemicals on my own ground?
A few days later while waiting on my daughter at the orthodontist, I picked up a Birds and Bloom magazine. I read with interest an article about gardening with cardboard.
H-m-m, cheap cardboard. Something we burn or trash all the time. Layering my flower beds with cardboard to smother the weeds, something non toxic – the idea appealed to me. I began to save every cereal box, cracker box, even the butter boxes, and was amazed at how much cardboard I had thoughtlessly pitched every day.
After collecting a bagful of my ammunition I decided it was time to start: Operation Down With The Grass. First, I went against my organic preference and sprayed the grass with weed killer; this was an out-and-out war I was waging. A week later, my husband weed whacked the grass off low to the ground. Now came the cardboard. Dragging out my trash bag full of boxes, I let the children have a grand romp tramping the boxes flat. I laid the flattened boxes in my walkways covering the dead grass. 

 My husband came over to inspect my work and proclaimed it a hill-billy job. I said I was diminishing my carbon footprint. The only problem I encountered was finding out my bag of cardboard ammunition would not near cover my walkways. Where could I get more?
The next day while cruising the aisles at the grocery store, I passed a boy stocking the shelves with cereal. What did I see lying on his cart but lots and lots of large flattened packing boxes!
“Hey,” I said. “Could I by any chance have that cardboard?
“Sure may,” he replied. I'll take it up front for you.
I was as excited as if I had won a door prize. Back home, I carted my boxes out to my garden, ignoring my husbands rolling eyes, and continued my war on the grass.
My next step was hauling wheelbarrows of mulch and dumping on top of my boxes. I spread the mulch evenly over the cardboard hiding my free, hill-billy-like weed cover. I was delighted to let my husband know I did not need to spread my mulch as thick as usual, hence saving him money. I surveyed my hard work. All that could be seen was dark mulch-covered-walkways. Even the husband couldn't find fault.

My Operation Down With The Grass was finished. I hoped. Next spring, I'll see who won. In the meantime, I hope the worms are impressed that Mrs. Paul's fish fillets contains whole pieces of fish.

Authors Note: It is now a year later, and I see that I have won! There are a few weeds, but they are growing on top the mulch. Last summer, I also experimented with layering newspapers in the garden rows topped with grass clippings for weed control – with great success. The newspaper and cardboard dissolve over the months and tilled into the soil. If you have a compost pile, mix your newspapers and cardboard into your pile. Over time, it breaks down and is a great way to recycle your old news! 

Thanks, Regina for sharing your mulching experience. I have used cardboard in my berry rows but never in my flower bed. I think I'll change that this year!


  1. Oh, I'm a cardboard believer! I use it for heavy duty mulching, as Regina described, and to start new beds. I've gotten rid of Canadian thistles and English ivy (pests!) with this method.

    My husband is forever grateful because it makes sod-breaking with the rototiller so much easier. 6 mos. to a year before I want a new bed I cover the grassy area with cardboard and mushroom soil (a locally available byproduct of the mushroom growers) and let the whole business sit. When it comes time to rototill everything is decayed nicely and soft as can be.

  2. I did the same thing Gina. Cardboard then straw, leaves, saw dust and top soil. Made great garden and looking good again this spring.

  3. This is a great idea. I have been battling grass in my vegetable garden. (I'm in Texas so pretty much everything is already in the ground and blooming!) My children and I have been pulling grass like crazy. Only to find it full of grass again in just a few short days. The peppers and tomatoes seem to be the worst.

  4. I have HEARD that this works, but never encountered anyone that had actually DONE it. I may give this a try. We're waiting later to "do" our beds & refresh the mulch as we're having a spinkler system installed & sod laid down. So I am reluctant to spruce up the beds until they run the sprinklers through the beds...


  5. Cardboard is a great way to smother the weeds however they recommend that you not use any that has COLOR printing like your cereal boxes. The inks used for the color are especially not recommended for a veg garden. The recommendation is for corrugated cardboard-the brown/tan stuff.

  6. Newspapers, cardboard for garden: walkways, I cover old cat food bags with gravel, instead of using landscape plastic. Recycling is a way to be creative with what you have. Recycling trash can be beautiful (after you cover it up.)

  7. I grew up with my Mom always using newspapers, with grass clippings spread on top, between our rows of vegetables in the garden. Now I do the same thing and it does wonders at keeping the weeds down all summer long!

    Also, for planting vegetable plants, we use a large roll of black plastic and cut long pieces to make "beds" in the garden. Using a hoe we make trenches in a rectangle shape the length we want and the width of the plastic. After smoothing out the middle of our new "bed" we lay the plastic down with the edges laying in the trenches and with the hoe cover just the edges with dirt, walking along the edge as we cover to make sure the plastic ends up taut. Finally, we cut however many holes we need in the plastic for our plants (depending on how far apart they need placed) and plant them as normal. This has also been a big help with weed control, as well as retaining the moisture for the plants. It works best with plants, although for seeds I have tried cutting two slits the whole length along both sides of the plastic and planting the seeds in the slits. It doesn't do too bad, I just have to put dirt on top of the plastic then because it will tend to catch the wind.
    With a growing family of little children, the less weeding I have to keep after all summer the better! I'll have to remember the good cardboard idea too...

  8. Thanks! I'll be using this idea. We used landscaping cloth and covered it with wood mulch in the rose bed last year. The landscaping cloth was supposed to be weed proof. Ha Ha! I'll layer cardboard and then mulch it this year and see how it does. Sounds great for moisture conservation.


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