What is Better for Stopping Weeds, Weed Barrier or Newspaper?

“Does laying down newspapers diminish weed growth as well as laying down weed mat?” Question from Barbara of Afton, New York

Answer: It’s an excellent question. They can both work very well. I have a love-hate relationship with mulch cloth/mat that does not organically break down over time. It helps keep back aggressive weeds, like Canada thistle, in the first season, but then it quickly becomes an annoying, useless layer of plastic that weeds grow into. I don’t care for plastic or porous Tyvec cloth getting in the way of my gardening. It’s expensive and has limited efficacy.

Then there’s newspaper, thin cardboard, and burlap weed fabric. I like these options better because they break down over time and create a good, natural base to give mulch extra weed-smothering power. Once they are gone, you simply reapply them once more.

If you opt for newspaper, which is nice because it’s essentially free, use at least three layers of black-and-white print paper and wet them down before applying them to cleaned garden areas. Thin cardboard should also be wetted. Then simply top the paper with a 2-3-inch layer of leaf mulch, bark mulch, pine straw, or whatever mulch cover you prefer. (Click here to learn all about different mulch types.) In my opinion, paper is the best option for smaller garden spaces.

Burlap weed fabric costs money and is slower to break down, but it works. It is also better for covering larger garden spaces. Apply it where you need it and then apply mulch as needed.

In my garden, I tend to prefer products that are natural. And newspaper can even save you money.

I hope that these tips help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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