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Shredded Paper in the Garden

October 6th, 2010

I frequently use newspaper to smother weeds and grass when making a new garden area. I notice that the earth worms LOVE it when I do thes, I always find tons of them under the paper. Even though I was comfortable using newspaper in the garden, I used to be really leery of using regular shredded paper in my compost because of the chemicals used in it. Then I decided I’d rather use it here than send it away to be recycled.

Now I use most of my shredded paper in the compost or in the garden as mulch. I still don’t use heavily colored or shiny printed paper, but just about everything else that can gets recycled into my own garden. I figure if I buy straw to use in the garden it most likely contains more chemicals than my shredded paper since I know it wasn’t grown organically.

How do you feel about using shredded paper in the garden?

20 Comments to “Shredded Paper in the Garden”
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mark mile, Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: Shredded Paper in the Garden #compost […]

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  2. TreeHugginMomma on October 6, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Its my OCD, I will use paper that is printed on non-bleached paper with organic (vegetable ink). I went out of my way to locate organic hay/straw. I will say that I do use newspaper, and shredded paper in my flower beds on the opposite sides of my property from my proposed garden beds. I am also giving up on the compost heap and going with direct compost methods, since I don’t use a compost box and I am concerned that I am losng valuable nutrients to the soil under the compost pile. I know that some of the chemical is leaking into my ground and therefore potentially able to get into my vegies, but I can’t put it directly into them.
    Although there is some evidence behind composting being able to break down most bad chemicals in the soil and balance it out.

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  3. Lisa Brown on October 6, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I too shred my junk mail which has my name & address on it. It all goes into my compost pile. Its a way for me to add “browns” to the pile. Works for me, and feel good about using something else that comes into my possession.

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  4. Renee on October 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I put recycled-newspaper-based rabbit litter in my compost bin, but I haven’t yet put paper directly in my garden. Maybe I should! I’m sure it’s good for weed control.

    Reply to Renee's comment

  5. Justin on October 6, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I don’t know why using shredded paper never came to mind to use as compost/mulch. Perhaps it’s because we just moved and have our first “real gardens” and I haven’t found a place to plug the shredder in yet. Makes perfect sense. I just bought a composting bin so I can continue composting more easily throughout the winter and I’m sure our shredded office paper will make great “brown matter”. Thanks for the idea!

    I have, however, been making use of the copious amounts of twigs and branches around the property as mulch. I’m lucky enough to have access to my father’s chipper/shredder and I’ve been able to chip-up all of the oak and pine branches that drop into the field and backyard. I was initially worried about attracting wood-eating bugs (termites and whatnot) since the wood is untreated and not of a bug-resistant variety, but I’ve kept most of the homemade mulch away from the buildings and haven’t seen a single harmful insect.

    In the front beds, I’ve been using store-bought cedar mulch since it looks prettier, smells nice, and it doesn’t have any dyes in it like that bright red stuff.

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  6. Seren Dippity on October 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I do it in a kind of haphazard way. I shred a lot but we get a huge amount of junk. I send the colored, waxy, shiny questionable stuff to the city to recycle. Most of the rest goes in the compost pile along with things like paper towel and tp centers, fuzz from the dryer and cat fur. I occasionally layer the shredded stuff in my beds but ONLY if I have soil or mulch to thoroughly cover it. Let the winds we have around here get a hold of it and it goes everywhere looking like yuck. Learned that lesson the hard way.

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  7. Jennelle on October 6, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I’m glad you wrote this post! This is something I’ve been wondering about for a while. Currently, I have a big bag of shredded paper in my garage, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’ve heard of using newspaper on the garden to control weeds, but I always wondered if using shredded junk mail was okay, too, since it has lots of types of ink and different types of paper mixed in. Sounds like it is all okay, except for the “slick” paper. Thanks!

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  8. Kathy Morash on October 6, 2010 at 11:36 am

    We own a real estate office where everything gets shredded, and we’ve been using shredded office paper and newspaper in the garden as mulch for years. It needs to be wet down and walked over at first – otherwise the wind will blow it all over the yard. It decomposes during the summer season and there is no evidence of it the following spring. An added bonus is that it’s a great conversation piece when visitors arrive.

    We’re getting ready for chickens, and I’m wondering if anyone has used shredded paper as bedding for chickens? I would welcome any comments, thanks.

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  9. amy manning on October 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I will use newspaper to smother grass, but only if its becoming a problem I don’t have time to pull it all out.

    I find mulches of any kind makes a breeding ground for slugs, which are a horrible problem here in the pacific northwest. But grass and other ground covers are also prime slug habitat…so… I figure that the newspaper will eventually decompose (takes much longer to decompose here) and I will deal with the slugs in another way.

    ugh. slugs. I’m conducting experiments to figure out exactly what will or won’t kill/repel these horrible pests. If you’re interested in reading:

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  10. MAYBELLINE on October 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Never heard of it.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  11. Miranda on October 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    yeah – if i had a shredder i would totally do that. As an artist i use a TON of paper and even though i buy the recycled stuff, i still hate throwing away so much of it. I may do this from now on. I have used shredded paper from work as nest material for the hens’ nesting boxes. They seem to like it just fine.

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  12. Stephanie Suesan Smith on October 6, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    If you use a hot compost pile and compost it for six months, it meets most organic standards. In practice, most newspapers now use recycled paper and soy or other vegetable ink, so it is usually okay. Other stuff gets pretty much neutralized by the microbs, too. Might as well use the junk people send than pay for good wood chips or straw.

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  13. Lisa on October 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I save all of our brown paper grocery bags to use as mulch in the garden. Works great and the worms love it.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  14. melissa on October 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I never would have thought of doing this. BRILLIANT!

    Reply to melissa's comment

  15. Beegirl on October 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    We save newspapers and lay it down in strips (no shredding here) to mulch around the garden as it starts in the summer. Grass clippings go down over the paper to keep weeds down and moisture in. Works great! By the end of the growing season the news paper gets tilled under and you would never know it is there…well…sometimes the chickens dig under it first! Worm and bug haven for them!!

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  16. Fognight on October 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Shredded paper is usually a great addition. This year I tried cross-cut newsprint as a mulch around a few veg plants. It was a failure. Mulched heavily as I would with chopped leafs but the wet paper matted into a hard dry hydrophobic crust.

    Won’t use it as a top level mulch again unless it is mixed at least 1:1 with something else.

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  17. micenkova on October 9, 2010 at 7:34 am

    My husband put some shredded paper into what he calls his “mulch pile”, which is open, not covered. One day I noticed a robin building a nest with the paper in a juniper right outside our kitchen window. It was fun to watch, but I knew rain was in the forecast, and sure enough, when it rained, the nest “melted” away!
    So the moral of the story is, keep the paper covered in a compost bin….but if you are using it for mulch, I guess you run that risk of birds using it for nest building material too.

    Reply to micenkova's comment

  18. Annette on October 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I use shredded paper in the chicken coop; it then goes to the compost for a quick break down. Much faster than wood shavings!

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  19. Lindsay Dianne on November 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Hey! I found your site while researching for a presentation I’m doing on compost. Worms LOVE newspaper as bedding! Right on. :)

    Reply to Lindsay Dianne's comment

  20. Jeph on August 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Shredded paper also makes great bedding if you vermicompost!

    Reply to Jeph's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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