You Can Have A Weed-Free Flower Border – For Awhile At Least

I thought I’d share with you the method for creating a (somewhat) weed-free flower border that has made life so much easier for me (well, that part, anyway!) since I started it a number of years ago. And if I did it regularly when I’m supposed to, it would be even better- but, alas, life sometimes interrupts my garden time (drat).

And let me tell you, EVERYTHING was easier on my 50′ x 100′ city lot. Sometimes I wish for those manageable borders….

Then I look at my view and relish the quiet. And get back to work.

I’m starting by showing you a before picture of one side of the front border. I was determined not to have so much flower maintenance at this house- I wanted my time spent on food production- but I had to deal with what I’d inherited.

And my plant lust. But that’s another story.

Anyway, the front border is bisected with the path to the front door. This is the left side that has been weeded 2-3 times already this spring, but has not gotten the “treatment” after weeding. As you can see, the weeds just come back within DAYS, it’s quite frustrating.

Don’t mind the leaning tower of Dame’s Rocket – I haven’t cut it back yet, nor staked it, because, well, I don’t stake things. I’m awful that way. I should learn not to grow things that need staking.

This is the right side of the front border with the portion right of the “stone” path (actually recycled concrete chunks from our old driveway) having received the weed-free method. I might get a few little weeds on the edges (seen in the foreground), but they’re easy to dispatch.

I always use compost, not bark for our topping. It feeds the soil and, most importantly, I like how it looks. Nice and dark like fine soil – not all orange like bark.

Another portion of the front. This was done about 1-1/2 months ago and you can see they are very few weeds. Some may come up around the bases of plants (so much for “shadowing out the weeds”), and I just pull them as I’m out watering, etc. It’s never an hours-long job.

The back border before. I haven’t mulched this in a couple years, and it’s bad, really bad.

This is a part we just recently finished.

Please ignore the brown grass. I’m trying to keep it watered, really.

This is where we ran out of mulch. It will look much nicer when complete.

Curious or have you guessed what we do?

Here’s the secret: Newspaper!

Weed once, lay a thick layer of newspaper (I use whole sections, unopened), cover it with the soaker hoses and 3-4 inches of mulch (again, I like compost) and you won’t have to weed again for the entire season. I kid you not- it really works! You can also use brown paper grocery bags or pieces of cardboard, too.

I started doing this (and no-till beds) after reading Lee Reich’s book, Weedless Gardening and I’d highly recommend it to everyone who doesn’t want to spend hours weeding only to turn around a few weeks later and have to do it all again.

If I did this every year like I’m supposed to, I wouldn’t even have the before pictures to show you. The weeds that are able to take root are less and less each year.

AND you’re feeding your soil and creating a layer to help keep moisture in at the same time.

This is a win-win situation!

Anyone else practicing this technique? I’d love to hear your weed-beating strategies…






  1. says

    Geez-Louize…Where the heck were you a few weeks ago when I spent hours/no, days, weeding my gardens….only to find a week later that it looked nearly as bad as when I started!!!
    I am going to get on this asap!

  2. says

    What a great idea! We have a few beds that could really benefit from this idea. I love learning new tips.

    I’m here from Gayle’s blog and am tickled to have been selected as well! Such fun :)


  3. says

    We just tried this this year, and I am loving it! what weeds we do have are so much easier to pull because they can’t get a good “hold” and they just come right out.

  4. Anonymous says

    Stumbled on your site while looking for ways to keep weeds out of the cracks between the patio pavers.

    We’ve been using the cardboard covered with composted soil technique for several years now and it’s been a God send. Your photos could have come from our yard.

    Having said all that. I must admit that my wife is the main architect and construction manager of all things garden. I help with the heavy lifting and quietly observe.

  5. Lisa says

    I very much enjoy your blog and have tried many of your awesome recipes! I would like to try the newspaper weed barrier idea, but our local newspaper uses a LOT of colored ink. Do you know if colored ink will harm plants? Thank you for your help!

    • says

      I’ve never read anything that says that it will, Lisa. I just avoid the shiny advertising inserts, but there’s colored ink on the regular pages, too, and my plants are all doing fine. :) So glad to know you are enjoying the recipes, too!

  6. Anna says

    Hi Jami, first off let me say I LOVE your blog. In fact, one blog seems to lead to another and I seem to be in blog heaven at the moment.

    I live in the French Alps so of course timings for plantings etc are way different (I guess that’s true for us all of course). But I have a question for you, when you use newspaper do you use any old newspaper – or something classy like “The Times” (just kidding)! But seriously, do you use standard newspaper ONLY. I ask because I have a vague feeling that advertising flyers (with the glossy covering etc) are NOT suitable for this purpose. Indeed I seem to think I read somewhere that the chemicals used to give them this sheen are not good for the garden. I may have dreamt it but wondered if you knew. Likewise for cardboard – standard brown boxes or the glossy cornflakes boxes etc. I kinda like the idea of using up everything though. I currently have my living room covered in sawn-off plastic milk bottles (one litre), full of soil and poking out with seedlings. Lovely. Anyway, keep up the good work. Anna

    • Anna says

      Wow who would have guess that the question before mine would answer my question. Sorry, must have missed it. Anyway, off to bed now (midnight here) so will check in again tomorrow. A

    • says

      Thank you, Anna! I just flew over the French Alps last week on our way home from Greece. :) As you saw, I don’t use the shiny inserts – I also only use brown cardboard (it’s okay if it has some writing) – not cereal boxes or coated, colored cardboard. I just want to keep things as close to nature as I can – I don’t know any science behind it. :)

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