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Timeline Through Landscape Design - ARCHIVES

Preparing a New Garden Bed

Spring has sprung and the time for gardening preparation is here. If you are looking for an inexpensive and easy way to begin a new garden bed start saving your cardboard!

When installing a new garden bed, I use leftover cardboard from shipping materials or newspaper (six-layers thick) to suffocate existing lawn and vegetation rather than renting a sod cutter or removing it by hand. It is a simple solution and in my experience, I have been happy with the results. The key is to overlap the edges of the paper material and wet it as you move along. Of course, it is preferred to do this on a calm (less windy) day. It is also wise to have your mulch or compost ready to put on top of the wet cardboard or newspaper.

Once the cardboard and mulch/compost are in place, allow approximately one month for the paper to partially decompose so that digging into the bed to install plants is easier. If you get a late start at doing this, rake back the mulch and use utility knife to cut an "X" into the cardboard to allow for easier plant installation.

Cardboard and newspaper weed barriers are a short term solution for landscape beds because they will biodegrade and weeds will be able to sprout in the garden bed. However, it works well for the first few years and then as it degrades you can install landscape fabric, use a pre-emergent herbicide or hand pull weeds as they begin to pop up.

Refer to the photos above to see the work in process and keep the following tips in mind:

- Calculate your square-footage to get a rough estimate of how much cardboard you will need.

- Break down cardboard boxes to one layer and remove tape/staples.

- Overlap edges so that no vegetation is showing.

- Wet paper materials as you go to limit wind carrying them away.

- Have mulch and/or compost ready to be place on top of the wet cardboard.

- Dig a small trench along the edge of the mulch to prevent grass from creeping in.

- Allow enough time for cardboard to partially decompose so plants can be dug and installed.