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Can Shredded Paper Be Used as Mulch? (The Pros & Cons)

Can Shredded Paper Be Used as Mulch? (The Pros & Cons)

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Mulching comes with a lot of advantages to your soil. It conserves the soil’s moisture, suppresses weeds, and even absorbs some of the residual pesticides and fertilizers.

The problem with using mulch is that it adds extra costs to gardening, which leads many people to look for cheaper alternatives that can do the trick. One of these alternatives is shredded paper, so does it actually work?

In today’s guide, you’ll have a brief overview of using paper for mulching, including its advantages and drawbacks, so you can make up your mind. Let’s dive in!

Can I Use Shredded Paper as Mulch?

The short answer to this question is yes. You can use shredded paper as mulch for all kinds of plants that would benefit from mulching.

Paper is typically made from cellulose pulp, which is naturally derived from lignocellulosic sources, mainly wood.

This makes it a carbon-rich, biodegradable resource that won’t harm the plant while providing all the mulching functions, such as suppressing weeds, preventing quick soil drying, and absorbing residual pesticides.

What Are the Advantages of Using Paper as Mulch?

Using paper as mulch comes with plenty of advantages. Here’s a quick look at some of them:

Highly Affordable and Widely Available

Shredded paper is a widely available resource that you can easily find around the house, as it exists in a variety of forms. Shredded paper also costs next to nothing if you buy it in bulk.

Organically Rich and Safe for the Soil

As previously established, shredded paper is almost always made from cellulose. This means that it’s fully organic, and in most cases, biodegradable too.

It’s also rich in essential elements for the soil, such as carbon, which is a vital nutrient for the soil microflora.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

Paper is a much safer alternative to the environment than rubber, plastic, and other materials that are used for mulching.

Reusing paper is also a great way to improve your household’s sustainability and resourcefulness.

Excellent Soil Moisture and Nutrient Retention

Paper has excellent characteristics when it comes to mulching, as it’s perfect for retaining soil moisture and prevents the loss of nutrients through eroding.

Shredded paper also makes the soil less accessible to pests, reducing the risk of infestations.

Superior Insulation Against the Weather

Evenly dispersed paper is an excellent way to control the temperature of the soil during extreme weather.

This is because shredded paper and the air gaps between the pieces reduce convection, conduction, and radiation, stabilizing the temperature.

What Are the Downsides of Using Paper as Mulch?

Despite its merits, paper also has some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Here’s a quick look at them.

Can Offset Carbon-Nitrogen Balance in the Soil

The ideal nitrogen-to-carbon ratio in the soil is around 24:1. Using paper mulch with soil can offset this ratio, which can slow down composting and nutrient absorption.

However, you can get over this problem by adding nitrogen fertilizers to the soil to restore the balance.

Added Chemicals Can Be a Problem

While paper is mostly safe, added chemicals during processing can be bad for the soil. This includes artificial inks, dyes, gloss coating, paper bleach, etc. That’s why you should sort the paper you’re using and avoid any suspicious sources.

Can I Mulch With Brown Paper Bags?

The short answer to this question is yes! Standard brown paper bags are perfectly okay to use for mulching.

This is because brown paper, known as Kraft paper, is made from wood pulp and developed in a unique process that doesn’t use bleach. This doesn’t make it recyclable but also compostable and biodegradable.

Can Newspapers Be Used as Mulch?

Similar to brown paper bags, you can also use newspaper, whether shredded or whole sheets as mulch for your garden.

Newspaper sheets are also made from wood pulp, and while it’s processed differently and has ink, manufacturers typically use organic inks, so you don’t have to worry about heavy metal contamination.

How to Properly Use Shredded Paper as Mulch

Now that you know more about shredded paper as a mulching solution, here’s how to properly use it:

  1. Choose the right type of paper by avoiding any type of paper that could potentially contain harmful chemicals, such as glossy or colored paper.
  2. Make sure that the shredded pieces have consistent sizes
  3. Spread 2 to 3 inches of shredded paper around your plants, but don’t cover the stems.
  4. Add some water over the mulch to help the paper stick to the soil and prevent moisture evaporation
  5. Cover the shredded paper with some leaves, straw, or grass clipping.

Final Thoughts

Shredded paper can be an excellent solution for mulching. Besides being cheap and widely available, it does an excellent job of retaining moisture and suppressing weeds in your garden.

That being said, you should check the shredded paper and make sure that it’s devoid of any harmful chemicals that could bleed into the soil and harm the plants.

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