9 Ways to Use Newspaper in the Garden

Planted seeds in rolled newspaper containers
Francesca Yorke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Gardeners often look for ways to stretch their dollars by using household items in the garden. When households toss their newspapers in the trash, they contribute to the waste stream made up by newspapers in landfills. Newspaper can take decades to decompose in such an anaerobic environment. Using newspapers in the garden is frugal and environmentally sound. These recycling ideas will have you looking forward to a hefty Sunday paper so you can accomplish more in the garden.


When using newspapers for any task in the garden, skip the glossy advertising inserts. They do not break down well.

Newspaper Pots for Starting Seed

Gardeners can make newspaper pots for seed starting by purchasing a wooden form that twists the paper into small containers. Or, you can create paper containers made with newspaper pulp. This is a fun activity to do with children who are learning about recycling and gardening.

Cut newspapers into one-inch strips and soak them in a bucket filled with water. Use a ratio of one part paper to two parts water. After one day of soaking, the wood fibers can be pulverized by beating the mixture with an eggbeater. Squeeze all of the excess water from the pulp, and press a half-inch layer inside a plastic cup. After three days, take the handmade planter out of the plastic cup and use it to start a cutting or seed.

Newspaper for Container Gardens

Gardeners can cut newspapers into circles that custom-fit their flower containers to slow moisture loss in pots. Three layers provide an effective barrier against weeds while still allowing oxygen and irrigation to pass through. Disguise the newspaper with organic mulch or decorative moss.

Newspaper is also handy as a pot liner for terra cotta containers, which tend to dry out rapidly in hot dry weather. Line the entire pot with a few sheets of newspaper before adding soil, and watch your porous pots become more efficient at holding moisture than before. Tuck the ends of the paper over the soil surface, and hide with standard mulching materials.

Newspaper in the Compost Bin

As summer progresses, gardeners often find their compost bins emitting a strong ammonia smell, due to an excess of nitrogenous materials. When added to the compost bin, newspaper functions as a carbon-rich ingredient that sweetens the pile when too many kitchen scraps and lawn clippings make it odoriferous. Mulch the newspaper by running over the sheets with the lawnmower and bag the paper and grass clippings together to create the perfect mix of nitrogen and carbon for the compost bin.

Newspaper Gets Worm Bins Started

Shredded newspaper makes ideal bedding for the worm compost bin. Gardeners should run the paper through a paper shredder, excluding shiny advertising pages. Add enough water to the newspaper so that it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. The worms will feed on the newspaper along with the food scraps, so replenish it regularly.

Newspaper Kills Weeds in the Lasagna Garden

Lasagna gardening involves layering newspapers or cardboard, soil, and compost over a planting space to create a new garden bed. Newspapers make an excellent first layer in the lasagna garden bed, as they make an impenetrable mat that smothers weeds. The papers should be about one to two layers thick and soaked with water. Too many layers of newspapers can slow down oxygen transfer in the soil, causing root rot and drainage problems. If you have an abundance of newspapers, shred them to keep the layer light and fluffy, allowing you to make a layer up to a foot thick.

Newspaper Protects Plants From Frost

Gardeners in temperate climates can stretch the gardening season using cold frames, but sometimes these aren’t enough to protect even hardy annuals from freezing temperatures. Lining the cold frame with newspapers further insulates the structure, providing a few extra degrees of protection on frigid nights.

Newspaper Stores Tender Bulbs

Use newspaper to loosely wrap frost-tender flower bulbs like dahlias and gladioli for winter storage. Newspaper is an environmentally-sound alternative to storing bulbs in peat moss, which is an exhaustible resource. Don't stop with the flower garden; use newspaper to individually wrap your harvest from the vegetable garden too, including tomatoes, squash, and eggplants. Veggies keep longer when their skins aren't touching one another in dry storage. 

Newspaper Keeps Garden Tools Clean

Don’t let rust shorten the lifespan of your favorite garden tools. Wipe the working end of your tools with a few sheets of newspaper to remove dirt and debris, then plunge the tools into a bucket filled with sand and a cup of oil.

Newspaper Traps Insect Pests

A section of damp newspaper is an alluring place for nocturnal pests like slugs, pillbugs, and earwigs to hide beneath during the day. Place damp papers around garden areas at dusk, and collect the papers with their hitchhikers in the morning.

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