Using Newspaper to Combat Weeds: An Effective Natural Solution?

The concept of using newspapers as a weed control method has gained traction among gardeners seeking an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution. Unlike chemical herbicides, newspapers are a biodegradable material that doesn’t harm the environment. But how does newspaper act as a weed deterrent, and is it an effective method? The following sections delve into the mechanisms, benefits, and potential drawbacks of using newspaper to control weeds in your garden.

How Does Newspaper Kill Weeds?

Understanding the way newspaper acts as a weed control agent helps to ascertain its effectiveness. By placing layers of newspaper on the soil surface, the underlying weeds are deprived of sunlight, which is essential for their growth.

Blocking Sunlight

Newspapers, when layered thickly, create a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching the weeds. Without sunlight, photosynthesis is hindered, leading to the gradual death of the weeds.

Suffocating Weeds

The dense layers of newspaper also restrict the air circulation to the weeds, effectively suffocating them. This lack of air further stifles weed growth, contributing to their eventual demise.

Moisture Retention

Interestingly, the newspaper doesn’t just act as a hindrance to weeds; it also has a positive effect on desirable plants. By retaining moisture in the soil, newspapers help to maintain a constant moisture level, benefitting the surrounding plants while still suppressing weeds.

The Benefits of Using Newspaper for Weed Control

The use of newspaper as a weed deterrent offers several advantages over conventional methods. These benefits range from environmental considerations to practical gardening applications.

Environmental Sustainability

Using newspapers for weed control is a sustainable practice. Since newspapers are biodegradable, they break down over time, adding organic matter to the soil. This is in stark contrast to synthetic weed barriers, which can persist in the environment and cause harm.


For budget-conscious gardeners, newspapers present an affordable alternative to commercial weed control products. Most households have access to old newspapers, making this method virtually free. Even if purchased, newspapers are typically inexpensive.

Ease of Application

Applying newspapers to the garden is a straightforward process. By simply laying them over the affected area and wetting them down, you create an effective barrier against weed growth. There is no need for specialized equipment or extensive gardening expertise.

Potential Drawbacks and Considerations

While the use of newspapers for weed control offers many benefits, there are potential drawbacks and considerations that gardeners should be aware of.

Thickness of the Layers

The effectiveness of the newspaper in killing weeds depends on the thickness of the layers. Too thin, and the sunlight may still penetrate, allowing weeds to grow. Too thick, and you may inadvertently block water and nutrients from reaching the desired plants. Finding the right balance is crucial.

Type of Weeds

Not all weeds may respond equally to this method. Some stubborn, deep-rooted weeds may still manage to grow through the newspaper layers. Understanding the types of weeds in your garden and their growth habits will help you decide if this method is suitable for your situation.

Ink and Paper Concerns

Another consideration is the type of ink used in the newspapers. While most modern newspapers use soy-based inks that are considered safe for the garden, some may still use potentially harmful chemicals. Checking with the newspaper publisher or opting for organic or garden-specific paper can alleviate these concerns.

Application Techniques for Optimal Results

To maximize the effectiveness of using newspapers to kill weeds, there are specific application techniques and best practices to follow.

Preparing the Area

Before applying the newspaper, it is beneficial to mow or trim the weeds to ground level. This will make the application process smoother and increase the newspaper’s contact with the soil.

Layering Technique

A proper layering technique involves placing at least 4-6 sheets of newspaper over the weeds, overlapping the edges to prevent gaps. Wetting the newspapers as you layer them helps them conform to the ground and prevents them from blowing away.

Adding Mulch

To improve aesthetics and add an extra layer of protection, covering the newspapers with mulch is a common practice. Mulch further aids in retaining moisture and provides a more natural look to the garden.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Regular monitoring of the area is essential to ensure that the newspapers are effectively suppressing the weeds. If new weeds appear, additional layers can be added, or spot treatments with other methods can be applied.

In summary, using newspapers for weed control is a viable method for many gardeners. By understanding how it works and applying it properly, this eco-friendly approach can be a valuable tool in maintaining a beautiful and healthy garden.