Newspaper and Cardboard Recycling

There are so many uses for newspaper and cardboard recycling in the garden that I've gotten to the point that I can't live without this stuff. My first yard was built using the 'Layering or Lasagna" method and the yard I'm dealing with now does have some pretty bad areas that were taken over by cinch grasses. Last year was "organic war".  I just snuffed it with layers and layers of cardboard.


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  • How to Grow without Digging

    The Layered/Lasagna approach



    • Bloodmeal and bonemeal
    • Newspapers or cardboard
    • Herbicide-free alfalfa hay
    • Herbicide-free straw (use bedding straw, not feed straw, which has viable seeds)
    • Compost (preferably homemade)

    This method can be used on open ground but many people choose to do this in raised garden beds to help keep it contained.

    Step 1

    Moisten the soil thoroughly with a hose and add a generous dusting of bloodmeal and bonemeal. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.

    (Repeat the watering and dusting step after adding each layer to the pile.)

    Step 2

    Cover the ground with ¼ to ½ inch of newspapers or cardboard. If your dealing with a weed problem area you might wish to make this deeper.

    Step 3

    Place 4-inch-deep pads 
of alfalfa hay on top of the newspaper. Alfalfa is high in Nitrogen.

    Step 4

    Add 8-inch-deep pads of straw on top of the alfalfa hay.

    Step 5

    Top with 4 inches or more of compost.

    Step 6

    Plant vegetable starts or sow seeds in the compost layer. Top-dress with more straw.



    • Don’t skimp on compost.
    • Don’t skip the bloodmeal and bonemeal. Bloodmeal adds nitrogen and bonemeal adds phosphorus to the layers, which is key to fostering decomposition of the hay and straw.

    • Start with shallow-rooted plants in the first month or two.

    • Keep young seeds and seedlings moist. Watering can be cut back significantly after plants are 6 to 7 inches tall.

    For further ideas and inspiration you might like to check out The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book "Secrets of the famous year-round mulch method. 

    • Hi Sheri,  I feel rather greatful that you put this recipe up and I am definately going to try it out.  can i assume you would buy bedding straw & alfalfa hay from RD1 stores & the like?  I get our local shop to hold newspaper for me everytime I go in to get milk & bread, I get a handfull which I use as the start of mulching my gardens.
    • Hi Jane, I collect my cardboard from a lady who runs a home cabinet shop so the pieces are pretty big thus covering a large area. At this time I myself have a problem spot in my back yard and I've connected with a tree service and they are giving me "FREE" tree chips. I lay down the cardboard very thick to snuff out the weeds and then pile the chips on top about 6+ inches thick. This area will be in built-up raised veggie gardens some day and I can put my raised beds right on top of the chips. One thing you must remember, whenever you apply any wood substance (chips, bark) the chips or bark is in a state of decomposition and it takes Nitrogen to decompose the wood product.Vital Nitrogen ( alfalfa, alfalfa meal, blood meal and bone meal) must be given so plants can survive. In my last yard I laid down straw first the applied the cardboard, it entices the worms to come and feed and they are your best garden buddies.

      I get my clean straw out in the Skagit valley so it is locally grown and the man runs it has a "honor system", you just deposit the money into a box. Don't worry if you get some straw that has seeds. When they sprout (don't stress) you can just turn it over and it feeds the soil, hence "green cover".

      I do not just throw alfalfa out on the ground unless it's in a designated area to feed my deer in the winter. I do live in peace with my deer and I do allow them "free range" in my yard in the off season and they bring me the most wonderful manure you can imagine!

      I collect the deer manure, put it into my composter and also put it in buckets and add water and make a liquid manure for my potted plants. Alfalfa is a vigorous grower, so I either compost it first or prepare the soil so that it is buried first to keep the seeds from sprouting. It's very high in Nitrogen and I've read so many stories from people about how wonderful it is to use. It's a lot cheaper to buy a bale of alfalfa (about $11.00) than to purchase a bag of ground up alfalfa. Also, I have done some soil testing this year and the area where I applied alfalfa (where I ground fed the deer) has "more" worm activity. I put down 35 bales of straw in my yard last year  so I had a lot of areas to check and see the difference. 

      A wonderful book to get is START with the SOIL By Grace Gershuny. The organic gardener's guide to improving soil for higher yields, more beautiful flowers and a healthy easy care garden.

      See if you can locate it on Amazon.

    • Wow! Thanks a lot Sheri for explaining your method of composting & layering for me.  I've always been interested in what happens underground &  re- reading this lasagne recipe & your ideas makes me even more determined to give it a try. :O) Now, I've just got to go source all the ingredients.
  • Hello! It's good to see this use for newspaper!  I'm a great fan. Earlier I prevented my new neighbour doing hard labour when she wanted a veg garden. Her's is now flourishing on top of paper and card.

    Last year I ran out of paper and used a thick layer of cabbage tree leaves. That garden is flourishing with corn, beans and cucumbers (The three sisters - google that.  good idea!) It not only solved my problem but got rid of the leaves which take years to decompose.

  • 2170541467?profile=original

    Newspaper Seedling Pots


    It's easy to make your own biodegradable seedling pots. Simply spread open a standard sheet of black-and-white newspaper, then lay a 1¼ -inch-diameter dowel along one edge of the paper. Roll the paper and dowel one turn, then dab a small amount of flour-and-water paste on the rolled portion of the paper.

    Continue to roll the dowel to within 3 inches of the end of the paper, then apply more paste in a zigzag pattern to this remaining area and finish rolling. Remove the dowel and allow the paper to dry overnight. The next day, when the paper is dry, cut the tube into 3-inch lengths.

    When you're ready to start sowing, stand the open-ended cylinders upright inside a planting tray or flat, fill each with seed-starting mix, then plant your seeds. When it's time to transplant, place the pots right in the garden—the paper will decompose. (Be sure to cover the entire paper pot with soil so that the paper doesn't act as a wick, drawing moisture away from the seedling roots.)

    • I plant corn in toilet rolls to get a good start.

        There is a gadget made of wood that makes those tubes. It has a base that is pressed on to the bottom floded up bit to hold it all. 

      You could use the same principle with a baked bean tin, using a strip of paper wide enough to overlap the bottom. Roll round tin the length of the paper and fold under the bottom.  it will hold the thing together with out using paste. Just loosed the bottom when planting out.

      Different containers will make different sizes.

    • Hello Robyn, The tubes are also a good idea for keeping cutworms away from your new plants. You can sink the rolls a bit and you can band with copper to keep slugs and snails off desirable plants they like to attack.
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