Create a new garden with string, newspapers and manure

By Margaret A. BIROSCHAK

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

So you think you want to create a new garden bed? You don’t know if you want to go to the bother of removing sod and starting all over again. Well, this is a method I’ve tried and had great success with in my garden. I learned this method by reading “Weedless Gardening” by Lee Reich.

You start by determining the area you would like to develop. Whether you lay it out with a hose, string or chalk doesn’t matter. Create your boundaries. Then mow, cut down with a scythe, or stomp down with your boots the area within your lines. Or, do all of the above.

Next, cover this entire area with at least six layers of newspaper. You can use any type of paper — brown, landscape or building paper, as long as it’s made with natural materials and dyes. If I’m doing a large area I cover small areas with paper, as the wind loves to strew it around. Then, having made friends with someone with either horses or cows, I bring copious amounts of manure to the area, and shovel it on the paper. I apply 6-8 inches. After covering the entire bed, I water the area, and cover it with a tarp, holding it down with rocks or bricks.I leave this area covered with the tarp and pretend it’s not there for four to six months. When the area is uncovered, it is ready for planting. You will find that both the grass and the paper have disintegrated, leaving an area that is ready to plant.

Needless to say, there are many variables to this method. You can use all types of paper, but newspaper works well and is readily available at the recycling center. You can use other types of mulch, such as straw, leaves, or pine needles, but I found that if you use these other types of mulch you have to then add other amendments to your area to make it ready to plant. You can cut down the burning time, but this is a perfect way to create a bed in the fall and have it ready to plant in the spring! And nothing works better than manure. Not only does it do the job of killing the unwanted ground cover, but it creates a perfect ground for planting. Any weeds that eventually recur are the more domestic type that appear in a typical garden.

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