An Update On Our Crazy Method To Prevent Weeds In Our Garden

posted by Andrea | 09/13/2019

Earlier this spring, I shared our “new-to-us” crazy plan to keep weeds out of our vegetable garden

Essentially, we laid a bunch of cardboard over the dirt (around the plants) as a way to block weeds from growing. 

It looked somewhat ridiculous, we got lots of questions from friends and neighbors, and  (I’ll be honest) Dave and I were not super optimistic it would even work… but based on several failed attempts to block weeds in the past, we figured it couldn’t hurt to try something new again. 

Well the verdict is in… and I’m happy to share that this method worked wonderfully! 

Initially, we still needed to weed around the plants we grew from seeds (carrots and beets) but other than that, we did almost ZERO weeding in our garden the entire summer (this is very abnormal for us!) 

I peeked under the cardboard several times throughout the summer, and it was basically bare dirt with a few dying weeds that tried to get through but failed — so yeah, we’re pretty excited about that! 

Of course, it wasn’t the prettiest or most picture-perfect vegetable garden, but we’ve gotten lots of delicious veggies so far — and we don’t really care what our garden looks like at this point since it’s behind our garage and not visible from most places in our yard.

Something to consider if you’re planning to try this method: 

In general, we usually plant mostly “sprawling plants” — zucchini, salad cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, etc. so we are able to leave A LOT of empty space between plants.

This makes it significantly easier to spread cardboard down in the spring. It would be more difficult to do if you had many smaller plants closer together. 

Also, it would be almost impossible to spread cardboard around seeded areas (at least not until after the seeds pop through). 

A Few Things We Might Change Next Year: 

We’re planning to try this same technique again next year… but we’ll probably make a few changes. 

  1. We will use many layers of newspaper in some of the tighter areas as cardboard is harder to cut and squeeze into smaller spaces. 
  2. We will use u-shaped stakes to hold down the cardboard — it got dry one day and started to blow around so we used some of our snow stakes to keep it in place for a while!
  3. We will put the cardboard / newspaper even closer around the plants. 
  4. We will put straw (or something a little more decorative) over the cardboard/newspaper to make it slightly more aesthetically pleasing! 

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All in all, we are VERY happy with how well this weed-prevention worked — even happier with the fact that it was extremely simple, essentially free, and environmentally friendly too! 

Have you ever tried this weed-prevention method in your own garden? 

How did it work for you? 

Do you have any other methods that have worked well? 

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26 comments

  1. Rachael

    09/14/2019

    This is a great method and we used to kill the grass in our front yard when we want to plant a garden. For our veggie garden we built a square foot garden on some cement pavers we already had and added a soil mixture and we had almost no weeds the entire summer. We started small with about only 40 square feet of garden but it yielded SO much food!

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    Andrea Reply:

    that’s awesome — I thought it might be fun to give each of our kids their own “garden plot” and see what they could do with it! Maybe a 40 sq. ft. garden would be the way to go for each of them too!

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  2. Susanne

    09/13/2019

    Yes! We have two large gardens and have used cardboard several times. One of the best benefits is being able to be in the garden right after a rain. The cardboard keeps you out of the mud!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I do love being able to go into the garden without getting my feet filthy dirty!

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  3. David Luhoway

    09/13/2019

    I used the same technique in my raspberry and tomato beds. I wet the soil then laid the cardboard or 6 pages of newspaper down, with a 2″ overlap. I then wet that down and covered everything with a 2″ layer of sawdust, which I also wet. A much more appealing look . Repeat next year. The worms take care of the cardboard and it’s a great way of conditioning the soil. Sawdust is beneficial by retaining moisture in itself and the soil.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good idea — now to find some sawdust next spring… πŸ™‚

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  4. Nancy Johnson

    09/13/2019

    One of my gardening friends uses this method even in winter (we’re in NC). I mentioned I had a corner of the yard I wanted to get cleared of weeds. She said she puts down cardboard and then puts mulch over it, and cOme Spring she has good rich dirt and no weeds.

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  5. Bev Harper

    09/13/2019

    We love the heavy cardboard, and have used it, but here in central Florida we have nutsedge. It comes through or around EVERYTHING, even pavers. (Good thing it pulls easily.) Being in hurricane country, cardboard would blow around, so we cover with 3 to 4 inches of wood chip mulch. We have a tree trimming company we use to thin out our oak trees. When we need a load of mulch, they are happy to deliver, free, as they have to haul it somewhere. Happy gardening! It keeps the body and mind healthy.

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  6. Satindoll

    09/13/2019

    I lay cardboard in rows every Fall and cut out holes or pull out the cardboard from the planting row in Spring. I always put pine straw or mulch over the cardboard. Newspaper alone doesn’t stop the onion grass from sprouting. This has been a great method to totally keep weeds from growing.

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  7. christine Depuydt

    09/13/2019

    I will be trying your method in my veggie garden as well as my flower beds next spring. I plan to put down the cardboard, but top it with a thin layer or woodchips. thanks for the idea!!

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    christine Depuydt Reply:

    should read ‘thin layer OF woodchips’

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  8. Kim

    09/13/2019

    Love that you got such good results from the cardboard. My initial suggestion would have been for Dave to put the grass clippings from mowing on the top to weight it down. But, then I remembered what a large piece of property you have and suspect that Dave does not “catch” the grass as he mows.
    Another suggestion would be to collect all the bags of leaves people set on the curb this fall. We collect at least 100 bags each fall, letting them decopose in their bags all winter, and then use them as mulch in the garden. You cold put them on top of the cardboard and all of it would decompose and enrich the soil. (Or, is it only in Texas that people set bags of leaves by the curb?)
    I think you have a fantastic solution to the weeds with the cardboard, but that you might enjoy the “look” better if you had something on top to hide the cardboard. But, as you said, the garden is at the back of the property, so no big deal.

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    Andrea Reply:

    correct –we do not collect our grass clippings πŸ™‚ We have mulching blades on our mower so we’re essentially composting it back into our yard — which is great too!
    And yes, we definitely want to do something to make our cardboard solution LOOK a little nicer next year — lots of ideas!!

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    Amy Reply:

    Kim! You are a genius!! I’m am trying the leaves thing!! I am always at a loss for what to cover the cardboard or newspaper with in our small vegetable garden. We use mulch in the flower beds but I am concerned about what the heck is in the mulch for our veges! I use compost but I don’t have much. You are so smart!!

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  9. Ann

    09/13/2019

    I like to use DeWitt Pro 5 weed barrier.
    It is heavy duty, sun & rain get through it, but not weeds. Use landscape staples to hold it down. It will last for years. In my experience straw “sprouts” into a grassy weed problem UNLESS it’s very old & aged straw. Your garden looks very productive!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    good to know — I’ll need to look into this! Thanks Ann!

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  10. Melissa Sartori

    09/13/2019

    Were your sprawling plants able to take root along the cardboard? Or did they grow on top of the cardboard? My squash always take root along the vine as they get longer and longer.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I wondered about this too (in the spring), but they seemed to do just fine. We got TONS of cucumbers and squash! The zucchini sort of fizzled out, but I think it got a disease — so it wasn’t because of the cardboard.

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  11. Margaret

    09/13/2019

    I have used this several times to make new flower beds (I’m too lazy to grow veg). I’m getting rid of a regretted and very invasive plant in my main bed right now with a “sandwich” of grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard, and mulch. It all rots down, and enriches the soil.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — not “lazy” just different priorities!

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  12. Bridget

    09/13/2019

    Compost a bunch of leaves this year and by spring they would be a great cover to the cardboard. Straw might give you a lot of weed seeds.

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    Elizabeth Reply:

    One time I put straw on a plant bed, and grass started to sprout from the straw.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, we’ve had this issue too — which is why we didn’t do sraw this year! SO crapy to have even more “weeds” in the areas we were trying to prevent weeds from growing!

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    Andrea Reply:

    we have done this before — and might be what we do again this fall. We’ll see! And yes, we have gotten “weeds” in our straw as well as actually hay growing from the seedheads that didn’t get cut off well enough! So aggravating!

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  13. Joy

    09/13/2019

    We live on a very windy hill in Maine. We have used cardboard under mulch around our sprawling vines for years but our favorite way to mulch is “Garden Mats” from gardenmats.com. They are amazing and last for years!

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    Andrea Reply:

    hmmm… I’ll have to look into those mats!

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