‘Smothers them!’ Use ‘cardboard’ hack to ‘effectively’ get rid of weeds – ‘no need to dig’

Gardening expert on how to keep your garden free of weeds

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While this humble material may not appear powerful initially, it is among the most impactful ways to tackle the pesky greenery in your outdoor space and flower beds. If you’re looking for how to get rid of weeds without chemicals, cardboard could be your desired solution. Though, like many weed-control methods, experts do urge caution. Therefore, before bringing cardboard into your garden ideas, it’s important to learn the best technique from those in the know. Here’s what they suggest – for a nutrient-rich, weed-free garden, without the cost. 

John D.Thomas, the owner of Backyard Garden Geek said: “When planning new garden beds, cardboard is key to weed control”. 

Whether your raised garden beds require a new form of weed control or you’re battling weeds on your lawn, cardboard will come in handy. 

John continued: “It is thick enough to smother them, but unlike landscape fabric, it’ll rot over time. 

“This means that your plants will be able to eventually pull nutrients from your native soil while beneficial bugs such as earthworms will be able to make their way into your garden beds.”

The method is surprisingly simple. Fill a large box with cardboard before placing the box on top of the weed you want to control and weighing it down with rocks or bricks. 

Melody Estes, a landscape design gardening supervisor and consultant at The Project Girl said: “Ensure that all sides of the cardboard are covered and that it does not come into direct contact with soil.”

Gardening experts at Garden Organic agreed, they advised: “Slash down weed growth, and put down overlapping sheets of cardboard. Weight them down with a thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure, and leave for six to 12 months. 

“No need to dig. The weeds will die off and become easy to pull out, and you’ll have a rich, well-structured soil to grow in.”

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However, while the process is easy, the expert urged caution. She said: “When using this technique, be sure to place the cardboard carefully so as not to disturb any other plants in your garden.”

It is also most effective when used during the early stages of growth for weeds like foxtails and is effective for getting rid of crabgrass in lawns.

Cardboard can take up to a year to decompose fully, but it does depend on the type gardeners have used. 

Melody explained: “The polyethylene used in most corrugated cardboard is very resistant to decomposition, but a board made from recycled paper tends to break down more quickly.”

The cardboard will break down in the soil, which is another benefit of this technique. Sarah Beaumont, CEO and Content Director of Indoor Home Garden, explained that, alongside tackling weeds, the broken-down weeds will provide necessary nutrients to the soil, making it “the perfect ground for fresh plants of your choosing”.

Experts also warned that roots can grow through the cardboard, however this is only in certain conditions.

Melody said: “Firstly, the cardboard must be moist enough to allow the roots to penetrate it. Second, the cardboard should be placed in a place where there is no light or air circulation for it to be effective.”

This should prevent the plant from drying out before it has a chance to take root and begin growing. 

Lastly, after a plant has started growing through the cardboard, it helps to guide it to more water and light using some type of support structure. This will ensure it doesn’t get too intertwined with other plants while lowering the risk of pests. 

If the cardboard gets wet it will eventually rot. This is because it is a type of paper product that will break down when exposed to water. 

The gardening expert explained: “The water causes the cellulose fibres to swell and separate from each other, making them more vulnerable to bacteria and mould growth. 

“The increased moisture content in the cardboard also aids in these processes by providing a hospitable environment for microbes that cause decomposition quickly.”

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