Inexpensive Eco-Friendly Way to Make a Garden Bed Weed Proof

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About: I am a library media supervisor and I love making fused glass and gardening. I have over 500 varieties of hosta in my garden.

Never use fabric or plastic landscaping fabric ever again, with this very inexpensive and eco-friendly way to weed proof and create a new garden!

Step 1: Step 1: Figure Out Where You Want to Place Your Garden and Line It

Begin by collecting some of the following: old boxes, cardboard, newspaper(not colored shiny ads), or paper grocery bags.

  • Mark out where you would like to add your garden. You can do this easily with a garden hose, since they are flexible.
  • Then cover the entire area with items you collected (you can even mix all of these items up). Yes, right over the grass. No need to remove the grass or til the soil. If you are using newspaper, you will want to use several sheets at a time. Make sure not to leave any gaps, as grass will grow in these gaps. I know, because I made that mistake!
  • I then water this area well, or paper sometimes tends to fly around in the wind or birds start digging holes in it.

Step 2: Step 2: Mulch

Step 2 is fairly simple, just cover this area with mulch. A lot of times you can find free mulch at your city recycling building or on sale in bags at big box stores.

Step 3: Step 3: Start Laying Out Your Plants

Now you can start arranging your plants by different colors and texture. Once you have figured out what will look best, water the bed once more to make it easier to dig through paper and/or cardboard. Use a good spade shovel to break through your barrier to create holes to plant your plants. Then once they are all in place water it once again to give your plants a nice drink!

Step 4: Step 4: Then Just Sit Back and Watch Your Plants Grow

There is no need to weed, the paper/cardboard barrier will keep the weeds and grass out and your plants will be happy because it keeps the moisture in the soil. Never have to worry about using landscaping fabric, which is impossible to dig into, ever again!

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    46 Discussions

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    shalnachywyt

    27 days ago

    This is great for starting a new garden . I can guarantee you that after about 3-5 years, there will be weeds coming up between those plants because the cardboard and mulch would've rotted. What I did instead, was to cover over the cardboard with "fake rock" (which I make myself recycled from old foam trays you get with meat and fish covered with a layer of concrete) around the plants. Then I cover the "fake rock" with a layer of gravel. The plants usually cover the "fake rock", especially when I use evergreen ground covers. Now, however, despite having done this 10+ years ago, there are still some small weeds that take root in between the "fake rock" (I love birds, but... ) so I still have some small weeding to do, but it's not extensive. Wish I had a pic to show.

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    Menashalibraryshalnachywyt

    Reply 22 days ago

    I would think the "fake rock" would deter the growth of the plants. For example, with hostas they keep growing wider, which is what you want. If you put rocks or fake rock around them they would probably develop fairy ring, where the middle of the plant would develop a large bare spot.

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    shalnachywytMenashalibrary

    Reply 22 days ago

    The "Zen" garden I'm working on won't have plants like hostas in it. The Hostas are in the north side of the house where they're lots of shade since hostas are shade-loving plants. Most of the plants will be evergreen bushes that will eventually cover the "fake rocks". The problem is that the area I'm working in is approximately 1,000 square feet and was originally cow pasture with (expletive deleted) Johnson grass, crab grass, and other weeds which are almost impossible to get rid of by pulling and I *will not* use herbicides there because there is a small 3ft x 5ft fish pond in the area. Eventually there will be a bigger 8ft x 11ft fish pond next to the smaller pond, taking up a good deal of space. The only way I found to "remove" the blasted weeds and Johnson grass permanently is to cover it with rocks, otherwise the Johnson grass, especially, will find a way to come up through the dirt. Johnson grass is extremely invasive and is a running grass. Even as little as a quarter inch of root will sprout into a holy mess, thus my extreme measures. I did this on a section near the front of my property that was 14ft by 10ft and covered the area first with cardboard, then with plastic, cut holes in the plastic to plant Blue Rug Junipers (I think I planted five in the area about 10 years ago) and it covered the rocks beautifully. Unfortunately, I still get a small amount of growth from the nearby Crape Myrtle coming up which I have to cut back periodically. I have used cardboard to temporarily cover some of that 1,000 foot area, but it decays fairly quickly in this NE TN environment, especially when there's been a ton of rain recently. Your method might work better in cooler environments. It's not a bad idea. It's a great method for someone starting a garden, especially if they're putting in new raised beds; but, like I said, where you have extremely invasive weeds, like Johnson grass, Honeysuckle (which is killing all my trees!), wild grape, etc. the cardboard (unforunately) won't last forever.

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    Menashalibraryshalnachywyt

    Reply 2 days ago

    Have you thought about using old carpet squares or something like that to cover the area and then cover with mulch?

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    shalnachywytMenashalibrary

    Reply 2 days ago

    Oh I tried that about 20 years ago because I saw a local group that teaches farmers how to grow sustainable do it. What a disaster! The blasted weeds and (expletive deleted) Johnson grass just came up in between the weave of the carpet and it took me forever to finally get rid of it all. Then I found some bathroom backboard that was basically concrete slabs about 1/2 inch thick. That has worked very well in between the vegetable beds but is just now starting to deteriorate. Never, ever, NEVER! use carpet. You'll be very sorry that you did that. I have noticed that using the plastic bags from mulch and/or soil that is sold seem to last longer than anything.
    Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the area right now, but I do have pictures of the area where the blue rug junipers were eventually planted. See attached. Since I live in NE TN about 4 miles as the crow files from the Appalachian mountains, the intent was to try to "mimic" the mountains which is why some of the stone (yes I hauled that stuff myself in the back of my car) is upright and some of it is horizontal. I figured that when the blue rug juniper covers the flat rocks the vertical rocks would show through. Didn't happen. The juniper covered everything, but it still looks great and, best of all, I don't have to mow that 14 x 10 foot area that was such a problem to mow!

    Nayan carport rock garden (3).JPGNayan carport rock garden (4).JPGNayan carport rock garden (5).JPGNayan carport rock garden (6).JPGNayan carport rock garden (7).JPGNayan carport rock garden (8).JPGNayan carport rock garden.JPGNayan carport rock garden (1).JPGNayan carport rock garden (2).JPG
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    atreuh

    9 days ago

    Looks good. And the spreading hostas can get through the cardboard layer?

    1 reply
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    Menashalibraryatreuh

    Reply 2 days ago

    Yes, as the hostas grow bigger the cardboard is starting to decompose.

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    doing2much

    5 days ago

    You have a gorgeous garden, Menasha! I covet your hostas!! Mine always get chowed down by snails and slugs... Your method works, and your garden is proof enough!! I too have used this method very successfully. Like you, I think landscaping fabric is more of a nuisance than anything. And as you rightly pointed out, by the time any weeds find their way into that spot, your plants have already become well enough established to crowd them out naturally. You also mentioned using mulch, which considerably cuts down on weeding time. Great job and you have my vote!

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    Menashalibrarydoing2much

    Reply 2 days ago

    Thank you. You can spray a 10% ammonia and 90% water solution on and around the pips as the hostas are starting to emerge, this will help kill off slugs and snails.

    Wow! Such a simple technique but yet it could help save a lot of time and effort on weed-pulling! Thanks for sharing such a useful setup!

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    Vellegazelle

    27 days ago

    I live in SE NC, and fire ants are a problem. I tried this method in a couple of 4'x4' raised beds, but with added home-made Mel's Mix (see Square-Foot Gardening) on top of the cardboard. The ants loved it, and made their way into the soil where I'd planted vegetables. Ouch. Fire ant bites hurt.

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    Lag2019Vellegazelle

    Reply 22 days ago

    Ants love Mel's Mix or the cardboard? Have you tried food grade diatomaceous earth?

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    mrsben

    27 days ago

    Great tip but am wondering, if this would also work to deter weeds for beds of just River Rock (pebbles/stones) ? Thank you!

    6 replies
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    awisner1mrsben

    Reply 27 days ago

    You could put river rock over cardboard. Just keep in mind that eventually cardboard/paper will break down. Landscape fabric will last longer, but also eventually will break down.

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    mrsbenawisner1

    Reply 27 days ago

    Will try the mixture of salt and vinegar. Actually what I have done in the past is spinkle the areas (which I pull weeds from) with 'road salt' which kills just about anything at least for a season however the problem with the 'Creeping Charlie' is; its an underground maze of roots and the da*n stuff even works its way through the landscaping tarp. Again, thanks for your suggestions.

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    Menashalibrarymrsben

    Reply 22 days ago

    I have used a mixture of Borax and water to fight off Creeping Charlie. It was the only thing that worked for me.

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    mrsbenawisner1

    Reply 27 days ago

    @awisnet1: Thank you as appreciate your advice. Currently do have landscaping fabric but weeds still have a tendency to sprout. (One in particular that is sometimes called Creeping Charlie which is difficult to control so was hoping perhaps using a different means might be the answer.)

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    Menashalibrarymrsben

    Reply 27 days ago

    I would imagine this would also work, but I wonder if the paper would start coming up between rocks if a fine enough base wasn't laid. I would recommend using concrete filings on top of cardboard before laying the rocks down. It would also keep your rocks in place.

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    mrsbenMenashalibrary

    Reply 27 days ago

    @Menashalibrary: Thank you for your prompt reply. I just might give it a whirl and do a small portion first.