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Pros and Cons of Cardboard Weed Barriers

The internet is buzzing with viral videos of cardboard landscaping hacks. There are some tested and proven approaches to using cardboard in garden beds, but this isn’t a foolproof solution. Before you stock up on moving boxes for your garden, check out the pros and cons of cardboard weed barriers.

Pros of Laying Cardboard under Mulch

The biggest benefit to laying cardboard down is that it helps kill an area of grass without completely suffocating the ground below. The cardboard will break down over time, so you have the opportunity to cultivate the soil in the future.

While the cardboard is still intact, it can act as a weed barrier to suffocate weed growth. After it breaks down, you need to maintain a thick layer of mulch to keep the weeds at bay.

Cardboard is also an inexpensive and easily accessible material, making it ideal for DIY landscaping projects. You can quickly cut the cardboard to shape, even if you have complex curves around your garden beds. Spray some water on top and weigh the boards down with dirt and/or mulch. That’s about all the prep you need!

Most cardboard will disintegrate in 6-12 months, so if you lay it down in early spring, it will be ready for soil cultivation next spring. Frequent watering can help break down the cardboard faster and more effectively.

Cons of Cardboard Weed Barriers

Cardboard is far from a maintenance-free solution for garden bed care. It could be a cheap jump start to clearing out an area for landscaping, but it’s not a permanent solution. You’ll still need to top off your mulch as it breaks down to control weeds and nourish your plants.

Speaking of plant nourishment – that’s not something cardboard offers. In fact, the dyes and chemicals on many cardboard boxes can be harmful to your plants. As the cardboard breaks down, it could change your soil chemistry, thereby hurting plants that may have otherwise thrived.

It’s also important to note that corrugated cardboard and cardboard boxes are not the same materials. Corrugated products don’t break down the way that standard cardboard will, so it wouldn’t be good to use in your garden.

Changes in thicknesses and types of cardboard may affect your landscaping. If you’re simply collecting boxes as they come in, you may experienced mixed results. If you’re purchasing boxes for the sake of landscaping, there are cheaper and better options available.

Cardboard can be a food source for termites, just like certain types of mulches. This may not be a concern if you have termite treatment for your home, but it could be if you’ve experienced previous infestations. Consider using cedar mulch on top of your cardboard to deter termites and other pests.

Cardboard vs. Landscaping Fabric for Weed Prevention

Both cardboard and landscaping fabric can keep weeds under control, but often at the cost of other landscaping features. Landscaping fabric lasts longer than cardboard, but it prevents plant roots from properly penetrating the soil. Cardboard breaks down, but it only acts as a temporary base layer for mulch beds.

A better alternative to both of these options is using a 4″ layer of mulch throughout your garden. This is enough to suffocate weeds while still letting plants collect nutrients from the soil. Turn and top off your mulch to maintain that 4″ thickness, and you’ll drastically reduce the amount of weed pulling you do in the growing season.

Get Professional Weed Management and Garden Care from Berns Landscaping

If DIY cardboard landscaping sounds a little too good to be true, it’s because it is. The only way to get hassle-free garden care is to turn it over to the professionals. They’ll do the hard work while you enjoy the beautiful results!

Berns Landscaping offers garden care, landscape maintenance, weed control, plant health monitoring, soil testing, fertilization, and much more. To receive a tailored landscape management plan for your property, please call (586) 756-1145. We proudly serve residential and commercial clients in Southeast Michigan.