As summer approaches, you will need to start preparing your attack with enemy #1:  weeds.  Any gardener, or frankly any homeowner, knows how annoying weeds can be.  Gosh, ask any homeowner who lives in an HOA what they get notices for most often from the association and odds are they are getting warnings that they have weeds growing.  This problem here is not discriminatory based on if you live in the suburbs or the country, but there ARE some waste-less strategies to beating the weeds that will save you time longterm, make your yard look and grow better, and reduce trash all at the same time!

Here are a few of our strategies for reducing weeds around our homestead:

Mulch:  The Original Weed Barrier

This option is kind of a gimme, but hear me out… We recently embraced mulch in a big way in our yard.  The previous owners had planted lots of trees and little pods of bushes, and over the past few years that we’ve owned the house, we have moved a ton of river rocks to make little “beds” around these bushes and trees.  We’ve used the pine straw as mulch where we can and where the plants can tolerate the acidity of pine needles.  But where the plants can’t handle the acidity, the mulch has been amazing.

Now, there’s mulch, and then there’s FREE mulch.  And let me tell you, I am a BIG fan of the free mulch if you can get your hands on it.  Most counties offer a slash mulch pickup and you can go pick up mulch for free.  Our county allows you to drop off your trees and branches too and they’ll mulch them up for you.  There’s really no need to buy new mulch when there’s a option like this.

Build up your mulch to be a few inches and you will dramatically reduce the amount of weeds that pop their way through, and the ones that do will be a lot easier to attack and pull out!

Newspaper As Weed Barrier

This is one the most simple tips for weed barrier, but one that is largely underutilized.  Perhaps it’s because we’re just not reading physical newspapers as much, but using newspaper as weed barrier is a great way to give new life to a paper product, and in a way that encourages natural decomposing.  I actually had to ask around for people to give me their newspapers because this is one consumable we just don’t use in our home.

Now, since newspaper is only a few square feet when spread out, you will still get some weeds popping through, but this technique also allows for a lot of moisture to make it through as well.  So, when you have plants that need a lot of moisture, or plants that have been suffering (like our spruce trees) and need some weed barrier, but also a lot of moisture, this is a GREAT technique.

Cardboard As Weed Barrier

Anyone else like us and shop for nearly everything online?  Yea, over the years we’ve slowly shifted to purchasing everything from books to toiletries to even some clothes online.  Gosh, we are doing some remodeling in our bathroom and were able to order (and ship) our new toilet to our front door!  It’s pretty amazing, BUT it means that we have a ton of cardboard around our place as a result.

The treehugger in me absolutely cringes every time I think about how many boxes we are using up as a result of this shopping habit.  That’s why I love the fact that we can reuse these cardboard boxes and in a way that naturally breaks the cardboard down over time.  We like to use Cardboard around plants that are hardy and are already established.  They also work well for areas where you don’t want plants to grow up at all, like underneath pebble/rock paths, or flagstone patios.  We also like to line the edge of our garden with a few feet of wood mulch as a nice barrier between the grass and the garden bed.  Cardboard works great for this.


  • Use cardboard that has minimal color and dyes on the surface as eventually these dyes and chemicals will seep into your ground.
  • Wet the cardboard before you go to lay it down.  It makes it easier to rip and manipulate to fit the right size area you’re laying down.
  • Keep a few inches between the cardboard and the base of plants to allow at least a little moisture to get direct into the ground.

Feed Bags As Weed Barrier

Call me crazy, but we got this crazy idea a while back when we discovered that we were accumulating A LOT of bags between the goat chow, cat food, and dog food.  What really turned us onto this idea of using feed bags as weed barrier was when we looked at black lawn plastic that people spend mucho dinero on!  There really isn’t a huge difference except that the stuff you buy is a big long roll and not a 4′ piece of plastic.

So, we started saving all of our food bags from the animals’ consumption over the winter and we now have a good 20 or so bags that we can cut to make flat and lay down underneath mulch.  Now, since these down breath as much or let moisture through like paper does, you want to be careful about where you put something like this.  We like using these under walkways in our garden areas, or under our flagstone patios/walkways.  They work great in areas where you don’t want any plants to have a chance at popping up.  And bonus:  you keep the bags from making it to the landfill!