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Using Cardboard in the Garden for Weed Management - Part 2

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As I mentioned in my previous post, using cardboard in the garden for weed management is key to a healthy, low-maintenance no-till garden. That post discussed the benefits of using cardboard while this post will discuss how to use it properly.

Finding Cardboard

I am particularly fond of extra large boxes from furniture and appliances for expanding my garden. Look around the dumpster/recycling area of hardware, rent-to-own and furniture stores or call them and see if they will hold large boxes for you. Stockpile leaves, pick them up from friends or neighbors, or weigh down your cardboard with bricks, wood chips, or about anything else to keep the pieces in place. Whole leaves work, but shredded leaves are better. One of these leaf shredders is worth the investment for year after year of free leaf mulch! For added nutrients, you could also add compost on top of, or beneath, your cardboard.

Laying Cardboard

  1. Lay the cardboard, overlapping the edges by at least 6 inches to make sure NO sun can get to the grass and weeds. 
  2. Cover all the cardboard with about 8 inches of leaves. 
  3. Wait for nature to do the tilling.

Timing

For best results, add cardboard and mulch in the spring and summer when grasses are just starting to grow. Covering the soil from fall into winter works, but I noticed with my last expansion that the cardboard started breaking down while summer grass and weeds were still going strong mid-summer. Adding cardboard and mulch in March allows the heavy-duty cardboard to stay intact throughout the summer, suffocating all weeds and grass all in one season. Because Bermuda grass is so invasive, it will come up anywhere there is a crack in the cardboard. Be sure to remove any greens that show through the mulched area. If it gets out of hand, just add a fresh layer of cardboard and mulch. It sometimes takes 2 or 3 occasions of mulching to kill all the grass. Just keep adding cardboard and mulch and the grass will die. To get all the details of how to keep Bermuda Grass out of your garden, buy my book "How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass...Permanently!" on Amazon.com for only $2.99.

Planting in the Mulched Area

To use the mulched area to grow food the same season you mulch with cardboard, follow these tips:
  • Do not use this space for closely spaced crops like corn, lettuce or onions, but this area is perfect for large, vining crops like winter squash or melons. Crops that are spaced far apart like tomatoes can also be planted here. 
  • To plant in these areas, cut a hole in the cardboard, remove all visible grass and roots, loosen the soil a bit, and plant the seed or seedling. 
  • Vining plants are perfect for a mulched area because you only have to dig one hole and the growing vines will help keep the cardboard in place. 
  • Add about an inch of compost to the area under the cardboard around each plant to make sure it has all the nutrients needed.

Other Uses for Cardboard

Cardboard is still useful in the garden, even after all your garden expansions are done. You can use it any time of year in your walkways to keep weeds from growing; just lay it down and top with your desired mulch. You can also lay cardboard in your beds or rows over the winter, topped with leaves or other mulch, to prevent winter weeds. Just remove it in the spring when it's time to plant. This method is particularly useful for chickweed, which will grow in spite of thick layers of mulch!


 Have you ever used cardboard to expand your garden?

 

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The Restoration Garden by Tiffany Selvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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