Organic Weed Control

Oct. 2, 2010

Biodegradable Weed Barriers for Organic Weed Control.

Newspaper and grass clippings make excellent biodegradable weed barriers that are safe for your lawn or garden. There are a few other materials that you can use, but the premise is the same. Lay down a weed barrier to smother weeds and grass beneath your landscape or garden area. Then apply a good mulch on top of your area to control weed seeds that might blow your way.

Newspaper and cardboard are perfect for your bottom layer. Newspaper is printed with soy ink, so its safe to use. Shiny ad pages contain chemicals, so recycle those.
soil For the next layer, add soil. Soil depth depends on your application. For gardens, at least 6 to 12 inches of soil is preferred. If you’re merely killing grass and weeds, a thin layer of soil will hold the newspaper down.
organic-weed-control-mulch Then the top layer is mulch. Grass clippings work great to keep weeds out of your garden. This may not appeal to you aesthetically. You can also use leaves, compost, mulch from a landscape supply company, wood chips (check if your town delivers free woodchips), or even used coffee grounds (free from Starbucks and they smell fantastic)

Forget all that digging, we’re going for minimal effort. Create a nice clean edge, then cover up the rest.

My latest backyard landscape design project was documented as an example of easy organic weed control. This area  behind the house (below) was such an eyesore. Early this spring I found actual landscaping underneath all those weeds. Originally designed with volcanic rock about a million years ago, and by now, it was completely grown over.

Instead of blasting it chemically, I took the organic route and covered it – rocks and all, with cardboard and newspaper. Our woodchips havent arrived yet… so I mulched with what I had. A big pile of leaves!

Organic Weed Control: Before


Organic Weed Control: After


Much Better! And its super easy to do.

Steps for Organic Weed Control:

mark and dig your edge:
organic-weed-control-step-1-mark-edgecover with newspapers, soil and water:


  1. Mow the area to get rid of as much grass as possible.
  2. Mark your edge.
  3. With a spade shovel, dig along your edge. Take out a strip of sod along the edge, say 8″ wide. You can either discard the clumps of sod, or throw them in the middle of the area. For wood framed beds, this step is not necessary.
  4. Cover the area with newspaper or cardboard.
  5. Add a thin layer of soil so your newspapers dont blow away.
  6. Water until everything stays in place.
  7. Add soil to desired height.
  8. Add your plants.
  9. Mulch.
  10. Water in well.

Quick and Easy
Organic Weed Control
For Shrub and Tree Plantings:

  1. Mow the area.
  2. Dig hole to recommended width and depth and plant your plant.
  3. Layer newspaper around the plant starting a few inches away from the stem.
  4. Add mulch layer.

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4 Responses to “Organic Weed Control”

  1. jimmy howe says:

    Wow thanks for the good info, I have been looking for these type blogs and forums

    • Trisha says:

      Hey Jimmy, thanks for the comment. I’m still a beginner at most things here, so I’ll be updating this season with what worked and what didnt… we’ll see how well this particular method actually kills the weeds for good. You seem like more of the expert in this area. Id love to know how you professionally treat a bed for ornamental plants. Looking under the newspaper this spring, it seems as though the organic approach might take some time. I have some beds to prepare this spring for new plants to go in quickly. Hope you respond with your thoughts!

  2. Garden Hoe says:

    Wow that’s great info. I hung a bird house over my garden! I hadn’t expected all those bird seeds to germinate. I them out daily for the last two weeks and there is always more! I’m going to try out your trick.

    • Trisha says:

      Ive done the same thing! Tons of small and large seedlings. Layer the newspaper on thick and heavy, or you can also use cardboard boxes, and cover with mulch, soil or compost. It does work.

Leave a Reply to Trisha