Manscaping, Phase 2 : A Guest Post from Aaron

Friends, I’ve been ready to wrap up this landscaping project since about four minutes after I began it. And lo, the time is nigh! We are just a few finishing touches from completion (for now, of course, since…you know…plants die and stuff), so I badgered Aaron to write his Manscaping follow up and guess what? He only complained a little bit. What a sweetheart.

If you missed the first installment, check it out here. If you’ve been dying to read how it ended, I’ll let Aaron take it from here.

——

When we left off, we had all of our blocks in place and then we brought in extra dirt to level things out.  Things were starting to take shape and the thought of the finished product’s lush splendor had given me my second wind.  Now I could move on to adding mulch and transplanting the four dwarf hollies and the rosebush. Because we could only work on this project on the weekends, transplanting was tricky – especially for the rose.  As you can see, I left it in place while I started mulching so that I could plant it as soon as I had removed it.

If you have ever done any gardening you are probably familiar with that terrible black “weed-stop” fabric that is often used. If you have ever had to remove a flower bed or just do a little renovation, this same fabric has probably been on the receiving end of an impressive string of four letter words. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, suffice it to say that after a nuclear attack, the only thing that will exist besides cockroaches and Twinkies is this fabric. Ironically, to be so durable it doesn’t stop weeds all that well. Go figure. Because I hate this fabric so much, I was excited to learn that a considerable number of people avoid it by using newspaper instead. I put the newspaper over the dirt 3-4 pages thick and then covered it with mulch. The newspaper will prevent any grass and weed seeds from germinating, but unlike fabric, it will decompose after about 18 months. By that time, any grass and weed seeds that were present in the soil on planting will be dead.  It’s green, it’s cheaper than fabric, and when you decide to remove or redesign the bed later on, you will not have the headache you would with fabric.

And so it went.  Lay down newspaper…drop on a bit of mulch to keep it from blowing away… newspaper… mulch… newspaper… mulch. Mulch is actually the best means of preventing grass and unwanted weeds from germinating in the bed. In order to get the most protection, we applied the mulch 3-4 inches thick throughout the bed.

Here is the old arrangement with the four holly bushes cornering the rose bush.

The holly bushes found a new home on the opposite end of the bed surrounding our new Jane Magnolia, commonly known as a “Tulip Tree.”  In the spring the tree’s blooms resemble purple and white tulips.  To round things out we had to purchase a fifth dwarf holly.

The rose bush was moved to the center of the bed and is flanked by two new pink knock-out roses. Between the roses you can barely see a couple of Indian Hawthorn. These are evergreen shrubs that have small pink blooms in the spring.

To line the outside of the bed we chose Trailing Verbena. Our bed gets full sun almost all day long. This limited the choice of annual we could use. This variety of verbena will spread and eventually spill over the edge of the bed while blooming through the summer.

Finally, the bed was finished!  Admittedly, it looks a little sparse, but after all that time and effort, we were proud.

The finishing touch were the two planters we decided to use to frame the front steps. The planter in the foreground will eventually be placed in the area currently occupied by our immortal violas. We planted them last fall and they lived through the mild winter. We’ve been expecting them do die for the last month, but they just keep hanging on. Most likely, to get both containers at equal height, we will need to build up that little square three stones high and fill it with dirt and mulch.

Here’s a rough ariel drawing/example of Rosemary’s artistry. This fall, we plan to finish things off by planting some bulbs in transition areas on either side of the roses and in the “island” in front of the steps.  We are going to plant bulbs that bloom in both spring and summer (possibly fall or winter too!). This should give us some color throughout the year. And that, my friends, is manscaping.

{Aaron is my boyfriend. He owns this house I’m constantly tearing apart. And sometimes he’ll write blog posts about things I do not enoy or understand, and therefore, am not qualified to blog about. Read his other guest posts here and here.}

**TWO YEAR UPDATE**

It’s been two years and the newspaper has completely biodegraded. We’ve had little-to-no weed pulling thanks to our newspaper trick! We will probably replace the newspaper next year, but for now, the few weeds that we have tend to pop up right at the base of the plants, where I originally had to dig a hole through the newspaper. 

We never had a problem with squirrels or birds digging up the newspaper and shredding it everywhere. The newspaper’s gone now, but even at the beginning, that wasn’t a problem, even though we do have birds that dig little holes all over the bed to find grubworms. If it was a problem for you, I might suggest putting a thicker layer of mulch down next time.

Lots of commenters have asked if this would work in a vegetable garden, and though I have personally never tried it, a nice commenter informed me that it does, indeed, work great in vegetable gardens!

And finally, I feel like I need to mention that I am NOT a gardening expert. This project was the first time I’ve ever built or even fully landscaped a flower bed. I’m happy to answer your questions if I have an answer, but please know that I’m probably not the best person to ask for gardening advice! :) 

Best of luck and thanks for reading!

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93 Responses to “Manscaping, Phase 2 : A Guest Post from Aaron”


  1. 1 k mehaffey May 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Would the newspaper idea work in a garden too? We have an insane amount of grass growing in our garden, would love something this cheap and easy to help control the grass.

    • 2 rosemaryonthetv May 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      I think so. We put mulch over the newspaper, then when we went back to plant flowers, we just tore a small hole in the newspaper to fit the flower or plant in. That way, water could get to the plant roots but grass seeds couldn’t grow. So far, we’ve only had a couple of sprigs of grass get through! However, we are by no means professional landscapers or gardeners! This was just a trick we learned on the internet. :)

    • 3 dee July 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

      I have a friend who said her dad use to take old carpet and lay it face down over the plowed up area. He then cut holes where the plants would go in. The only grass they had to pull up was right around the hole that was cut for the plant. when they were done he would pull up the carpet. You could see if there were any snakes in the garden or other dritters and it was easier to harvest

      • 4 Susan JunFish May 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

        I would be cautious about using old carpeting in a vegetable garden since carpets usually contain chemicals that help resist stains and water.. these have been linked to reproductive toxicity in males to name one chronic health problem that exposure can trigger. It’s also important that the stuff biodegrades over time, and carpets will not be good at doing that.. it will leave a big mess for years if not a toxic soup. I’m a public health educator and an environmental health scientist… so the info I have tends to be focused on first doing no harm to people and environmental health. I’m no expert in gardening.

    • 5 Trish Tatum March 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      this works great in a vegetable garden. We’ve done it for several yrs now. Wish I had known about it even sooner! It saves alot of weed pulling time.we plant, then cover right up to the plants w newspaper & then wet it down well. Cover the paper w a layer of mulch topsoil mixed..

      • 6 rosemaryonthetv March 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        Thank you Trish! Lots of people were asking this and I’ve never done a vegetable garden, so I didn’t know!

      • 7 Corinne February 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

        We soak our newspaper in buckets of water before laying – it makes it easier and quicker & saves water :)

  2. 8 DEB KEITH May 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I ALSO TRIED THIS BUT IT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME GUESS I DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT…

  3. 9 leigh May 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    and using the local newspaper to line your flower beds keeps our journalists employed!

  4. 10 Stephanie May 25, 2012 at 11:48 am

    As we say here in Massachusetts, “Wicked smaht!”

  5. 11 Steph May 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

    will your bulbs be able to grow through the newspaper or do you leave a little hole where you think the bulbs are? I would LOVE to try this but I don’t want to smother are pre existing bulbs

    • 12 rosemaryonthetv May 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

      We didn’t have any pre-existing plants, since this was an entirely new bed. When we do plant bulbs (or anything, for that matter), we will tear holes in the newspaper where the bulbs go.

      • 13 Lacey June 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

        No need to tear holes over bulbs. They grow right through! I planted bulbs, layered newspaper (6pages thick), then about 4 inches of mulch and up they all came :)

      • 14 Maxine August 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm

        Great to know the bulbs will come through. Now I am even more interested in doing this. The house I am renting has the stupid black plastic stuff.

  6. 15 Amber May 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Bed looks great. I too have grown to hate the fabric. I started using newspaper and paper bags in my garden & beds. I cover the paper in the garden w straw. I usually have very little weeding to do. I love that it decomposes by next year when its time to do the planting again. I still have a few spots w fabric and it will all be gone by the end of the summer.

  7. 16 Nicole May 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’ve done this as well, but an elderly neighbor suggested lightly spraying the paper with water when you first put it down. This helps to hold it down under the mulch and also makes it easier to break a small hole in when planting.

  8. 17 Kathy May 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I have done this fairly extensively – just trying to be green! It works great and reuses your daily newspaper. Start saving the papers well in advance of commencing the project. You will use a lot of them. My advice would be to go pretty thick with the paper, more than 4 pages and to wet it down very well as you go along. It lays flatter, won’t blow away and gives you a bit more time to put the mulch down. I have even done it over top of grass when extending a xeriscape bed.

  9. 18 Libby Guthrie June 4, 2012 at 11:05 am

    As a gardener in the south, with a husband who does a bit of landscaping for customers, I have grown to hate the ground cloth. I use the newspaper and builders straw ( about 4 bucks a bale). I use about 10 sheet layers though and do wet thoroughly. Happy Gardening!

  10. 19 Kelsey June 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for the newspaper tip! We are getting ready to mulch and I was thinking we would have to buy the black fabric stuff!

  11. 20 Alicia June 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

    So with the newspaper after your two layers of newspaper and mulch, didi you just dig holes through it and plant flowers?

    • 21 rosemaryonthetv June 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Yes. We just sort of pushed the mulch out of the way and used a spade to dig a hole to plant the flower – straight through the newspaper! That’s why you want to be sure and wet the newspaper before you start planting flowers. When the flower was planted, we pushed the mulch back around it.

  12. 22 Miss Jan June 21, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Can I just say that if you are doing this in Australia make sure there is a gap between the garden and the bricks … a very easy way to let in termites/white ants otherwise. Learnt the hard way!

    • 23 Miss Jan June 21, 2012 at 5:16 am

      By that I mean the house bricks too by the way

    • 24 certifiablegirl June 8, 2013 at 4:03 am

      I, too, was thinking that there should be a run of the landscaping bricks at the rear of the bed to separate it from the exterior wall of the house. This would not only prevent insects (especially termites) from invading, but also minimize the possibility of water damage to the house that could cause foundation problems in the future. The landscaping is very well designed & executed otherwise. Made a very pretty bed withe lots of color.

  13. 25 Heidi July 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Looks like a great idea! We have tried various types of landscape fabric, but still dislike it. Are there any issues using the newspapers with all of that ink around plants that produce food? I’m thinking we might purchase some end rolls, which wouldn’t have any ink, from our local newspaper to use around the “edible” garden areas.

    • 26 Wendy July 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      I went on a local garden walk today and one of the gardeners said it was ok to use black/white print but not color print newspaper

      • 27 cindy January 5, 2013 at 8:16 am

        that’s what I was told too! I’m reading through this slew of comments to see if the blogger responds to this……oi.

    • 28 Susan JunFish May 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Our local paper uses soy ink, so 100% biodedradeable, but not sure if they use 100% soy ink.. would probably have to check w/ the source of the paper to be sure.

      I learned that cardboard paper is treated with bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor, and it primarily comes from the ink being used on the cardboard.

  14. 29 Crystal Hicks July 18, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Do you think you could use cardboard from pop cases?

  15. 31 Amber July 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    We put newspaper under our tomato plants!, best thing ever.

  16. 32 Katherien July 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I tried this and it didn”t work well at all. Maybe the mulch wasn’t thick enough or something but It looked awful after a few months.

  17. 33 Mary August 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Hey, could I use rock with newspaper? I have so many centipedes with the mulch. Thanks!!!!!!!!

    • 34 rosemaryonthetv April 8, 2013 at 10:16 am

      I’m sure a small pebble would work with the newspaper! At least, I don’t see why not! We haven’t had centipedes, but living in the south, we did get an influx of waterbugs (cockroaches) in the beds. :(

      • 35 Patti April 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm

        I will have to try this this summer. I have a hard time with mulch also as the voles love to use it as bedding.

  18. 36 hajnal September 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Eszter, ez nagyszerű ötlet. :)
    (remélem, beszélsz magyarul)

  19. 37 Adrian - Outdoor Furniture Centre September 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Really like your newspaper ‘weed-stopper’ solution because you’re right; the commercial weed block fabrics can be expensive and intrusive. Does the paper actually work well enough though at keeping the weeds at bay?

    • 38 rosemaryonthetv September 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Adrian! So far, we’ve had very few weeds make it through! Definitely not any more than we had when our beds had weed-stop fabric instead of newspaper.

  20. 39 Dottie Williams September 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

    will the newspaper help kill poison ivy? We have oodles of it where we live, due to the over abundance of trees shading our yard.
    If not, has anyone any recommendations?

    • 40 rosemaryonthetv September 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      Hi Dottie! I honestly don’t know…We don’t have poison ivy in our yard. Maybe if you used a very thick layer of newspaper or even cardboard it would kill the poison ivy. You’ll just need to cut holes where you want your plans to come through.

    • 41 Marion buday September 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      I find that if you put the paper and mulch down in early spring before weeds have begun to grow, it works well. Use many of layers of paper.

      • 42 pam watt September 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

        google “lasagna gardening” and you can see how using news paper, leaves raked from your yard..coffee grounds, coffee filters,,cardboard, etc, will crate an unbelievable garden soil over just one winter..your hands will just sink deep into the soft airy dirt when you’re ready to plant!

  21. 43 Frances January 29, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    You might want to check how large your Jane Magnolia will get. I think it will not be long and you will have to remove it because it is too close to the house.

    • 44 rosemaryonthetv April 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Frances! We plan on pruning to keep it small for awhile, though we have discussed moving it out into the yard.

  22. 45 ENVIROCON Pest Management Sdn. Bhd. February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am

    My spouse and I stumbled over here different web address and thought I may as well check things out.

    I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking into your web page yet again.

  23. 46 Kala Collins February 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Hello, I was just wondering if the newspaper would work in a veggie garden?

    • 47 rosemaryonthetv February 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Hi Kala! The newspaper should work for vegetable gardens too. You just dig a hole through the newspaper to plant your seeds/bulbs/plants. The newspaper also helps the dirt retain moisture so it should work well.

  24. 48 Jenni March 21, 2013 at 6:36 am

    This looks great. Nice tip with the newspaper. Thanks!

  25. 49 LK April 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I used newspaper in a small area, (thank goodness), around bushes. Two days later I had shredded newspaper everywhere! It was a big mess to clean up. If you have a lot of squirrels I wouldn’t advise using newspaper.

  26. 51 kate petersen April 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

    i have grass by the buckets in my garden and its TOUGH. do you have to use mulch? or can you put soil on the newspaper? ((would that defeat the purpose? i don’t have a green thumb :-( ))

    • 52 rosemaryonthetv April 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Hi Kate!
      We put a layer of soil, then newspaper, then mulch. The reason you do that is because not only does mulch help your soil underneath retain its moisture, but weeds can’t germinate in mulch. They can, however, germinate in soil. So if you put soil over your newspaper you are, in fact, defeating the purpose, since weeds will just germinate in the soil on top of your newspaper and pop up everywhere.

  27. 53 DeAnn Dye April 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I also did this but had a bunch of big paper bags, so I used them. When I ran out of paper bags, I used butcher paper. so far it’s all doing really good! This is a great idea I hope!

  28. 54 WendyW April 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    If you’re doing this in a veggie garden, especially if you want organic or chemical-free veggies, you don’t want to use newspaper than has colored ink on it. Black ink is non-toxic and not a problem. Our local paper puts color ads on nearly every single page, so I’ll get paper end rolls from the newspaper office instead.

  29. 55 Kathy April 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Have you had any experience with Florida betony? I tried to control it with newspaper (as well as a lot of other things), but it grew over, under, around, and up through it.

  30. 56 husfrugan April 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Wondering if it’s possible to put newspaper, new soil and sand and then put new grass on top (the one you just roll out)? We just removed our old grass in our backyard (a small one) and are planning to buy new grass when the snow’s gone (living in Sweden) but we have a lot of weeds and are just wondering if this technique would work??

  31. 57 danielle April 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I tried it too but it didn’t work for me. The weeds are growing right up through the newspaper. Either that or they newspaper and mulch is beginning to mound up. Also, when I laid the newspaper, there were very few weeds. After a big rain, it seems like the newspaper encouraged the growth b/c it is worse then before!

  32. 58 Lindsay M April 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Is this something you have to redo every year? The newspaper and mulch I mean? If the newspaper disintegrates?

    • 59 rosemaryonthetv May 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Not every year. The newspaper kills any weeds that were in the soil upon planting. So once we put the mulch on top of the newspaper, even when it disintegrates over a year later, weeds can’t get through the mulch and down into the soil to germinate. Regardless, the actually application of the newspaper took less than half an hour. I just laid down a few pieces and Aaron scooped the mulch over it. It was actually the easiest part of this whole process, so I wouldn’t be too bothered if we did replace it annually. We’re still weed-free one year later, though!

  33. 60 Maggi A. April 28, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Great idea with the newspaper, but entirely wrong. We’ve had weeds grow through wood. There’s no way a few layers of newspaper would stop them.

    • 61 rosemaryonthetv May 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Actually, a year later we’ve had basically no weeds. It’s worked splendidly.

    • 62 Susan JunFish May 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      I have spoken to many different landscapers, and they say that cardboard works better since the newspaper comes apart too soon. It really does not kill the seed bank. The way to kill the seeds without using the very dangerous pre-emergents is “solarization.” Look up how to do this step by step on the UC IPM Cooperative Extension website. Basically, you place plastic sheet over the area you want weeds gone, and it has to get hot enough and usually takes at least 4 weeks if not a few more, depending on the temperature.. but it kills the seedbank. I recommend this method for school districts, parks, and homes where children and pets are likely to frequent. It definitely kills all smaller weeds, but not sure about poison oak or ivy.. the website may have more info on that.

  34. 63 Jordan May 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Such a great tip!! And much more fugal than weed cloth! Would you link this up to our blog hop? I think the readers would LOVE it!
    xoxo, Jordan

    http://www.lilywhite-designs.com/2013/05/frugal-crafty-home-blog-hop-22.html

    • 64 rosemaryonthetv May 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Done! Thanks Jordan!

      • 65 Lyn June 8, 2013 at 3:37 am

        The trick is to put a thick layer of newspaper, wet it with the hose so it won’t blow away, then put a very thick layer of mulch ( at least 15-20 cms) on top. Dont put is so thickly over tree roots as it can heat up. Reserve some mulch for repairs if it is disturbed by animals. Re-top with fresh mulch every 2-3 years as necessary

  35. 66 Peggy Jacobs May 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I have done this for years. But I put my plants in the garden or plant the seeds and let them germinate. Then take black and white newspaper only about 4 layers around the plants leaving about a 2 inch opening for the plants. Cover with a few handfuls of soil to weigh it down and then mulch such as straw or grass clippings deep enough so you can’t see the paper. Weeds are smothered. Where I live the paper is decomposed by the next year but this is simple to do and saves a lot of weeding in the garden, keeps the soil moist in hot weather and costs nothing.

  36. 67 amber May 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    How do you plant flowers with the newspapers?

  37. 68 deb June 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

    question:
    do you put a layer of newspaper and then the mulch and repeat the process. or do you put three or four layers of newspapers at the bottom and then three -four inches of mulch on top of 3-4 layers of newspaper?

    Thanks!

    • 69 Nana's House and Garden June 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      I believe that the process is to put down three or four sheets of newspaper and then 3-4 inches of mulch. The thick layer of paper is similar to cardboard, and is also the process used in lasagna gardening (both mentioned in previous comments above). Hope this helps.

  38. 70 carriebec@gmail.com July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am

    hi guys! what did you use to ‘stick’ the landscaping bricks together when you stacked them? i am getting ready to build a raised bed, and i’m trying to figure out this dilemma. i’m not getting mortar out!

  39. 71 Deb March 29, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I tried this last year, and, yes, it certainly helped keep weeds out of the garden. However, the birds and/or chipmunks and/or squirrels kept trying to dig in the garden and made a huge mess. I had newspaper everywhere! I took some of it out, but this year I will just put on more mulch to, hopefully, cover it. I’m sure I didn’t use 3-4 inches of mulch, though. I’m not sure if cardboard would have better, but I definitely won’t use the newspaper again.

    • 72 rosemaryonthetv April 1, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Oh no! We have a lot of squirrels and birds, but this didn’t happen to us. Maybe using a very thick layer of mulch is key?

  40. 73 Angela May 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Would this work to kill weeds that are coming up through our kids playhouse deck that just sits on the grass since I wouldn’t be putting mulch over the paper under the deck then?

    • 74 rosemaryonthetv May 29, 2014 at 9:41 am

      It’s definitely worth a try! The newspaper is the weed blocker, not the mulch. Just pull up any weeds that are there, and (if you have it) put down a new layer of dirt, then cover that with a few layers of newspaper.

  41. 75 Peggy Barrette June 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    It worked great in my strawberries.


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