How to garden free and environmentally friendly is always on my mind and I love using newspaper and especially cardboard. For many, using it in organic food gardens is an ongoing debate.
Both have been used widely as a mulch, natural weed killer, and as potting cups.
As newspaper and cardboard breaks down, carbon is released into the soil. Carbon is an essential element to healthy soil.
The golden rule, according to the experts, is to use only plastic-free cardboard without glossy print and newspapers without colored inks. Currently newspapers are printed with safer inks such as soy ink and the general consensus is that it can safely be used.
How to garden free: 8 x Top Hacks with newspaper and cardboard boxes. These make life EASY!
1) Make your own biodegradable seedling pots out of newspaper:
The internet is full of different origame instructions. Or follow the world’s simplest method ever: -Tear the double sheet into 2 pieces. -Roll a longish cone. -Fold the point over the edge, into the wide mouth, to secure the shape and close the bottom off. With this very basic shape is, your pots are meant to sit in a box together until planting day. They will not stand by themselves. -Repeat until you have enough, and place them snug enough into the temporary box, pre-planting. -You now have biodegradable planting pots ready to fill with soil. So go ahead and buy heirloom seeds!
2) sowing your heirloom seeds and raising seedlings without competitive weeds can be done if you start the process with the help of a weed blanket:
-Add wet newspaper sheets to a raked surface. Make sure to overlap them well to ensure great coverage. -After designing your planting scheme, draw or paint the outline design on to the sheets. -Cut out the ‘pattern’ of your planting spaces (the “holes” where the plants will grow through). Secure the sheets down with rocks if it is windy.
Now you can start with your sowing can be done followed by a layer of compost and mulch.
3) Create a perfect 50/50 carbon/nitrogen compost booster:
Add shredded newspaper to the same ratio as foliage to your compost. Tip: run over a few newspaper sheets next time you mow the lawn. Shredded newspaper to the compost bin is like a sprinkling of fairy dust.
4) Trap pests the easy way: Place damp newspaper is an alluring place around plants/trees before night fall, and pick them up the next morning with all the quilty visitors underneath.
5) Lasagne gardening on a base of newspaper:
Create a moistened bed of newspaper (1cm thick layer) and add on top: – layer of small sticks and twigs – layer of foliage – layer of shredded color-ink-paper – layer of compost and soil – repeat all these steps except the bottom base (which you only do once). * Keep moist and covered with a mulch. After 2 months, you will be left with a most fertile, magic planting bed for your heirloom seeds to be sown.
6) Create an instant cost and maintenance-free pathway with cardboard boxes: Open up your plastic-free, non-glossy cardboard boxes and overlap/lay them to form your path. Weigh down with a few rocks here and there. Follow up with mulch, wood chips or gravel. You may need to add a new cardboard sheet every other year. How to garden free includes this very cheap, or free method – plus, you will never deal with a single weed.
7) Instant fix to impossible sand or clay soils: Collect smaller plastic-free and non-glossy carboard boxes such as wine boxes. Dig a hole where you wish to plant, insert the box, but filled with good soil and compost. Plant next with the chosen plant, or sow your heirloom seeds in situs and finally cover the area with mulch so that the box is out of sight. This method works very well! The box will eventually break down, to further enrich the soil.
8) Easiest method to minimize weeds and maximize water: Tear up cardboard boxes that have no plastic or glossy print. Place these around your shrubs and trees, not quite over-lapping but close to. The ideais for water to easily get through the gaps, to the roots of your plants, but to beclose enough to suppressweeds. These cardboard sheets will become soil food in time and putting new cardboard carpets down will be needed now and then. Cover all areas inbetween plants that you wish to keep clean. Cover and hide with mulch.
How to garden organically is 99% logic and 1% patience. Once the garden’s true balance is restored, you will be amazed at the simple genius of the natural ecosystem design.
1) Epsom salt is first on the top 10 list. Use it to boost plant growth in general and when planting seedlings or new plants as they help with transplant shock (1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in the bottom of the hole followed with a thin layer of sand before planting as usual). Epsom salt consists of hydrated magnesium sulfate (magnesium and sulfur) which serves as a tonic booster for flower blooming and enhances a plant’s green color. 2) Keep the cooled water that was used in boiling vegetables or eggs. This water is a great nutrient-rich tea for your plants and depending on what was cooked in it, will be full of specific benefits such as a calcium left over from cooking eggs. 3) The enzymes in honey promote root growth. Dip your cuttings in honey to use it as a rooting hormone while also benefiting from its anti-fungal properties. 4) Hydrogen peroxide can help your seeds sprout, save your plants from fungal diseases and even prevent root rot (1 part hydrogen peroxide to 32 parts water in a spray bottle). It also helps grow healthy roots because of extra oxygen molecules and additionally aid the plant roots in absorbing nutrients from the soil. Make sure to use food grade hydrogen peroxide. 5) Sprinkle Cinnamon over your seedlings, plants and soil as it provides fungus and disease protection. When you make a cutting, dip the stem of almost any plant variety into cinnamon as it will stimulate root growth. 6) Keep pests like snails and slugs, ants and caterpillars away with used coffee grounds and instead attract earthworms. Bonus! This recycling idea for coffee is popular when pondering how to garden organically. An added benefit is that the plants will receive nitrogen from the grounds at the same time and microorganisms love coffee grounds, which is great for soil health. 7) Plant a hole-free terracotta pot near your plants, fill with water and close the top with its own tray. The clay lets water through slowly and as needed. 8) Use coffee filters when dealing with sandy or clay soil. Plant the filter as a container in position and fill with good soil before planting your seedling or seed. The filter will eventually decompose and provide the plant with carbon. Another great idea is to plant small boxes, paper bags or more filters near plants, filled with kitchen waste and topped with soil. These will turn into mini-compost bombs and the plant roots will go mad with joy when they grow upon them. 9) Vinegar kills young, soft-stemmed weeds and ants. 10) Use plastic-free cardboard around your fruit trees to keep weeds down long-term, sprinkle green foliage or soft-stemmed weeds over and add a layer of thick mulch to hide the lot. This combination of mulch, green waste and cardboard will decompose over time and feed your fruit trees for a long time to come.
Got any more tips we did not mention here? Leave them for us in the comment box below.
Growing back the Garden of Eden with the Back to Eden method:
The basics of permaculture, regenerative growing and the back to Eden method is basing all practices on Nature’s own way.
If you are starting a new bed, imagine making a garden lasagne and start with a layer of cardboard or newspaper. Then add your layer of compost (about 8cm / 3″ thick), followed by the same amount layer of wood chips (about 8cm / 3″ thick) and finally animal manure (due to being heavier, keep it to the same weight amount as your previous 2 layers). Repeat. Resist the temptation to work or mix, prepare or till your soil throughout the process.
To existing beds, simply add a covering layer such as composted wood chips. Always make sure to clothe your soil – as you would your body. It wants suncover, warming layer in winter and being able to retain moisture.
Planting seeds in a Back to Eden method: If you are using straw or raw wood chips, pull them open so that you can plant in the material below the wood chips (this would be the soil or compost) and you can add to this nest with growing medium. Keep a little space open around the germinated seeds so that the wood chips don’t touch the stems of seedlings (this can cause rot and other problems).
Feeding your Back to Eden plants: Yellowing leaves is a sign of nitrogen deficiency, so during the first year of your Back to Eden bed you may need to use an organic fertilizer such as blood meal to replace nitrogen lost to the decomposition of the wood chips. Additionally, every time it rains, compost tea is entering into the soil. At the end of your growing season, reapply a new layer of your covering. See below: Paul Gautschi, Founder of Back to Eden Gardening explains it well.
Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!
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