Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners


Newspapers and grocery store tabloids can be used as a mulch in the garden. Four or five (4 or 5) layers of paper can be laid around plants and anchored down with a shovelful of soil or rocks/bricks/stones on the corner.

The paper will decompose throughout the season. Additional layers may need to be added to prevent weeds from emerging. Avoid walking on the paper, especially after a rain or soaking. Wet-to-dry paper becomes brittle and tears easily.

Paper remains can be rotortilled in the garden after the end of the growing season.

Shredded newspaper can also be used. Apply the shredded paper in three to four (3 to 4) inch depths.

Newsprint with colored pictures can be used with very few problems; however, avoid glossy colored paper inserts, colored Sunday comics, or sections with heavy colored printing. Chemicals and heavy metals such as lead and cadmium used in the colored printing process can leach into the soil and may cause toxic problems with plants or their uptake.


Walnut leaves, hulls, sawdust or wood chips shouldn't cause a toxicity problem if the material is allowed to compost actively for several months before using. Turn leaves, hulls, chips and sawdust frequently and keep moist during the compost period. An inactive pile should not be used for approximately one year.

Fresh leaves, hulls, sawdust or wood chips may release juglone and injure desirable plants.

Walnut hulls can be added to an active compost pile. Composting heat and bacterial action will destroy the plant-toxic juglone compound. Hulls should be composted several months before using.

The smaller the hull pieces, the quicker they will compost. Break up pieces as small as possible before adding to the compost pile.

See also Walnut Toxicity

Cocoa bean hulls are used as an organic mulch around flowers and trees. The hulls will breakdown within a year, adding organic matter to the soil. Fresh hulls have a "chocolate" aroma.

Hulls may become moldy if applied too thick. An inch layer should be sufficient.

Grass clippings, if at all possible, should be allowed to dry before use as a mulch. Fresh clippings may mold, smell and deplete the soil, resulting in poor or deficient plant growth.

Grass clippings contain more than 90 percent moisture and will dry in several days.

However, if added to a compost bin, they are absolutely ideal for accellerating the composting process.
See also Composting

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Shredded corn fodder, where available, may be used as a winter mulch for strawberries, bulbs, etc. Compare its cost with that of other materials and decide which to choose on the basis of price. It tends to keep strawberries cleaner than straw or marsh hay and is much easier to apply as it can be shoveled and spread evenly. 

Oak branches cut while in full leaf make excellent winter mulch because the leaves cling well and the branches are little displaced by winds. Moreover, they tend to collect other leaves blown among them. Fallen leaves have distinct money value because when used as a mulch, a manure or a compost they save buying similar materials. To burn them is to waste money. 

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