One of the best barriers between the ground (aka weeds) and your top layer of mulch is paper. Paper suppresses weeds and suffocates weed seeds; however, it still allows heat, water, and air through to your soil.
In addition to my use of newspaper in the garden, I also use paper mulch. Last year, I bought WeedGuard Plus non-fertilized paper mulch rolls, and they worked amazingly well. These rolls are available in a variety of widths and lengths, so you can customize your purchase to your garden size. I like WeedGuard Plus paper mulch because it is heavy grade, easy to apply, effective at suppressing weeds, and environmentally friendly.
Heavy Grade. The paper is the consistency of really heavy construction paper. It can easily be punctured to plant seeds or seedlings but doesn’t tear with every movement. It also held up nicely to rain for the first half of the season.
Easy Application. If you have a really big space, and access to a tractor, you can attach the rolls and just drive in a straight line while the paper trails along the rows. Or, if you’re normal, like me, you can just roll out the lengths you need, cut, and walk the paper to the rows.
Weed Suppression. The paper does its job smothering out weeds. I laid it on top of full-on lawn, and the grass was smothered out in about a month. It also prevented grass and weeds breaking through it for the first half of the season. Once the paper starts to break down, though, you could see weeds come through if you don’t have enough mulch (hay, leaves, etc.) on top of it. I made this mistake last year.
Environmentally friendly. WeedGuard Plus is 100% biodegradable, and the non-fertilized rolls are OMRI listed. Don’t be silly and buy the fertilized rolls. You don’t need chemicals meant for warfare to grow great food!
Justification. The paper broke down before the growing season was over, which means that their claim that it can float on top of the rows isn’t entirely accurate. It needs additional mulch on top or a second application mid-season. I’m going with additional mulch on top because leaves and pine straw are free.
I won’t lie, WeedGuard Plus isn’t cheap. For that reason, when I ran out last year (becuase I failed to order enough to cover the entire garden) and was going to buy a second roll, I shopped around for alternatives. I found several and ordered one from Amazon. Mistake. Read that again. Mistake. Although that company claimed the weight of the paper was the same as WeedGuard Plus, they lied. They sold me craft paper, not heavy-duty mulching paper. It was flimsy and tore with the slightest bit of twisting or dragging when I put it down. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, the first storm managed to rip the rest to pieces.
Over and over again, I learn the lesson that you get what you pay for. That is certainly the case with paper mulch. Spring for the WeedGuard Plus. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and if covered with plenty of other mulch, it should last the entire season and then compost down into your soil for the next year.
This year I ordered two 35 in. x 500 ft. rolls, which should be plenty to cover my garden and even have some left over for next year or other areas of the yard.
If you choose to buy WeedGuard Plus rolls, I suggest laying the rolls out before planting. It is much easier to plant through the paper than to try to pull already-planted seedlings through holes. I plan to cover the garden with paper, then cover again with mulch, then poke holes and drop seeds through and lightly cover with dirt. For the few seedlings I buy, I will just dig bigger holes and plant directly in the paper and pack in the soil around the seedling.
In case you’re curious what this stuff looks like, here’s a picture:
Photo linked to source