Cardboard weed barrier

Cardboard weed barrier

Yesterday we told you how we’re really excited to have our first backyard garden. What we didn’t say is that we’ve actually grown a lot of things in our back yard before … weeds. Womp womp. We may live in Ohio, but our yard has been down right jungle-like in the past. Remember this? Ugh, maybe let’s NOT remember that, ok.

The last thing we wanted going into this summer was to risk having a repeat of previous summers’ weed jungle, and our friend suggested a surprising and totally ingenious thing to us — cardboard. Really?? He runs a local neighborhood garden where he said they lay sheets of plain cardboard down under the mulch to prevent weeds. The cardboard will eventually break down and compost, unlike that popular plastic sheeting that just sort of disintegrates into little pieces. Plus, since you probably already have cardboard on hand, it’s a cheap/totally free option. It isn’t permanent, but it gives us the option of changing things up next summer when we’ll have to do it again (though, I guess we’ve now used up our cardboard collection. I’ll need to make a lot of online purchases before next summer! Um, ok!).

Step One:  We started by leveling the dirt and weeding the area we wanted to mulch and then covered the whole thing in a single layer of plain cardboard — nothing with a coating like cereal boxes. We used old packing boxes and shipping boxes that we had lying around. Try to cover as much of the area as possible but it doesn’t have to be exactly perfect. In this spot next to the deck we have a climbing plant and on the other side there are a couple of trees, so we just put the cardboard around those, leaving them room to breathe.

Step Two: Soak all of the cardboard with a hose. This helps it to stay in place while you put down the mulch and sort of binds it to the dirt below.

Step Three: Spread your mulch, level it and then spray the whole thing with water again. We used black mulch that was on sale at our favorite local garden store, Gale’s (or local-ish since we drove way out into the suburbs, but that place is so fun). I didn’t even know mulch came in black until Alison at Deuce Cities Henhouse recommended it, and I was like WHOA. I’ve never really thought of mulch as “pretty” but this stuff is awesome. I love how the black contrasts with the green grass and the blue pots. And I mean, it’s just cool.

Step Four: We added a border of bricks that we already had. I guess when your house was built in 1890 and still has its original brick driveway, and you can still see the bricks under the pavement on the street out front when there are potholes, there’s just A LOT of bricks hanging around. We had a few in the basement, a few next to the house, a few behind the garage, and just gathered them all and had exactly, like literally exactly, the number we needed for our two mulched areas. Phew. I’ve personally always loved the look of a border on a garden, just to make it feel really “done,” and I like that it keeps the mulch from spreading into the grass, which is just a giant pain in the butt. Moving bricks all day, though, not so fun. But worth it.

Ahh, I just loooooove our little gardens. I know it’s not much and it’s certainly not fancy, but when you look at where we were last year this is at least about a gazillion jillion times better. Next I just want to spruce up the furniture situation on our deck and we are still thinking about building a patio area in the very back of the yard next to the garage, which is sort of a weird no-man’s-land right now. For now I’m just really enjoying watching things grow … and for once we’re not growing a weed jungle!

What do you think? Would you try a cardboard weed barrier? Have you done it before with any success or failure? I’d love to hear your experiences!

— Kerry

P.S. This same spot 8 months ago.

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