Cardboard is a cheap and, in the era of online shopping, bountiful resource. It also is a great tool for a gardener. Whether used as a sheet mulch to deter weeds, or using it around a plants stem to deter pests, cardboard can save a garden. Here, we highlight 5 great ways you can use cardboard in your garden.
Step 1: Use Cardboard to Recover a Garden Bed
Many gardening shows on TV or Youtube take great pains sometimes to display an immaculate, perfect, weed free garden. Some of this is through taking intentional shots with the camera to make things look nice and yes some keep very tidy gardens, but I understand that every once in a while, a garden bed can get away from you. If this happens to you, cardboard may be your answer. Try to clear out, mow, or weed whip down any tall plants, and then at the end of your season, lay the cardboard on the surface of your raised bed. Cover it with soil and mulch and you will have a restored garden bed with much less of weed problem the next season.
If it is already Spring and you want to use this trick, go ahead and put the cardboard down on the surface of your soil and poke holes in it just large enough to plant your seeds or transplants. Feel free to add some leaves or woodchips on top of the cardboard to help hold it down, and create a nicer look for your garden.
Step 2: Use Cardboard to Create a Lazy Garden Bed
Pick a spot that you want to have your garden. Put down cardboard to block out weeds and grass and then Cover the cardboard with soil or compost. And then cover that soil with some mulch. Give it some time to break down before you plant in your new bed, but with the use of some cardboard and some compost, you can turn a spot of grass into a brand new garden bed.
Note that I have been told that Bermuda grass will persevere, so if you have that pesky weed around beware.
Step 3: Use Cardboard Toilet Paper Rolls to Deter Squash Vine Borers
Squash can be one of your most bountiful crops during the summer. However, it comes at a price. Those who hate garden pests often wonder whether squash is even worth it. Well for at least one of those pests, cardboard is a great solution. If you put cardboard at the base of your squash plant right around the stem, it will prevent the vine borer from getting inside. Rolls from the inside of toilet paper or paper towels work great for this purpose. So you take your toilet paper roll and cut it lengthwise. Of course, I am doing this in winter, so I do not have any squash growing, not even winter squash. Haha, terrible joke. But I do have a pepper plant growing, so I will use it for the demonstration, although there would be no reason to do this to a pepper plant. So, you place the cut toilet paper roll around the stem of the squash plant. and if you have some duct tape, you might want to just tape it closed. There you have it a cardboard shield to fend off the vine borer.
Step 4: Use Cardboard to Decrease or Eliminate Weeds in Your Walkway
If you are planning to have a wood chip walkway between garden beds, it is a good idea to put a layer of cardboard down as sheet mulch first. This helps to smother out potential weeds. And then you can put down your woodchips. Of course, woodchips break down, so you will have to keep replenishing the mulch layer or new weeds will grow. And this is actually the underpinning of the Back to Eden or Lasagna gardening methods.
Step 5: Use Cardboard Under a Raised Bed to Prevent Weeds
And our final way to use cardboard in your garden is perhaps the most common. If you are creating raised garden beds, you can prevent weeds from growing into your raised bed by first putting down cardboard. So, let me tell you a big tip here: if you are putting down cardboard under your raised bed, make sure it extends beyond the edge of the raised bed, out into your walkways. Otherwise, you will have weeds or grass grown up right on the edge of your garden bed and you will have to keep fighting with that into the future. But once you do have your cardboard down under the garden bed, just fill it with your raised bed soil and you should have limited weeds coming from below.