Newspaper provides a rich growing medium for your garden soil when it’s properly recycled into compost. Newspaper will break down perfectly well inside a compost pile, offering the carbon necessary for the decomposition process. Newspaper added in the right proportion provides some of the carbon required for a healthy pile.
However, newspaper should be prepared properly before being added to any compost. Generally, newspaper can have different applications, depending on how you shred it. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will undergo the process of decomposition. And how you chose to shred your newspaper largely depends on how you are going to use it.
Compost piles are revered for their fairly quick decomposition. And to boost the process of decomposition, the organic material should have a larger surface area. This creates a conducive environment for microorganisms to easily and quickly break down the material being composted. Simply put, smaller materials break down relatively faster.
Shredding Newspaper For Compost
As I’ve explained earlier, any compost material should be broken into smaller pieces, so that microbes can more easily break them down.
With newspaper it’s the same thing.
You should tear the newspaper into small pieces to help accelerate decomposition. While tearing it manually using your hand is also doable, it may take while, particularly if you have plenty of newspapers stored up.
Personally, I get my newspaper through a paper shredder (link to Amazon) to save both time and the effort.
However, if you are composting only a handful of newspapers, using a shredding scissors (link to Amazon) is also a good idea.
Being a brown material, newspaper should be put in your pile’s carbon layer. Brown is essentially a term used to describe any organic matter that is rich in carbon. Carbon is what provides the ‘energy’ for the bacteria and fungi in your pile.
Still, it’s important to note that browns are generally more resistant to decay.
A layer of fragmented newspaper may potentially create a solid sheet capable of preventing both moisture and air from circulating through the entire compost, so you have to incorporate materials like shredded twigs or leaves into the pile. Doing so will help speed up the decaying process for materials that may be resistant to decomposition.
Newspaper helps preserve moisture content, so it’s a good ingredient for composts in somewhat dry environments. However, it also absorbs moisture from other decomposing organic materials.
While this may help prevent anaerobic conditions, it can also result in an unbalanced layer of water, particularly if the newspaper isn’t spread properly throughout the compost pile.
Still, newspaper is a great material to improve the structure of your pile.
Whereas nitrogen-based or green organic materials provide vital nutrients to the compost, carbon-based or brown ones help improve the overall structure of the soil.
Also brown materials are often hard and bulky and because they decompose slowly, they tend to hold their structure for extended periods. As a result, browns ensure your compost pile has a good texture with plenty air pockets.
Having a good mix of brown and green materials is the most optimal scenario. Failing to do so might cause your compost to heat up in excess, which means it may take relatively longer for the compost to break down into finished compost, and may also produce a smelly odor, which may attracts rodents.
Shredding Newspaper For Vermicompost
Vermicompost is simply an end-product of worm digestion and decomposition (aerobic) through the action of microorganisms at room temperature.
Basically, it’s a process that involves using worms to decompose organic matter. The end result is a finished compost containing beneficial microorganisms as well as a range of vital plant nutrients – also referred to as castings.
Common worms (the ones around your yard) are not great for this type of composting.
They are garden-based microorganisms that are not capable of processing large amounts of organic materials and don’t thrive in confined areas.
The worms referred to as red wigglers or red worms are a great option because they are not only communal but also reproduce rapidly.
Newspaper is an optimal component in vermicomposting, as it offers the bulk, as well as much-needed moisture to create a conducive environment for worms. As these worms feed on the green organic materials, they’ll eventually pull them into the bedding.
Irrespective of the type of bin you choose, it needs to have proper ventilation, with numerous holes at the bottom. This stationary bin (on Amazon) is very affordable and works wonders.
Also, worm bins (Amazon also has an interesting option) should be elevated off the ground to allow a sufficient flow of air beneath the bin.
You should make sure that at least 60% of the bin is filled with shredded newspaper because it will serve as the compost’s bedding.
You also need to incorporate a considerable amount of garden soil to help ‘vaccinate’ the bin while also providing the sand that helps the worms to effectively grind their food.
Finally, make sure to moisten the newspaper before incorporating a few green materials.
Within a few weeks, you should have compost ready to go.
Vermicomposting is very friendly as it doesn’t produce uncomfortable odors, so you can use worm bins that fit beneath the kitchen sink for quick and effective recycling.
Using Shredded Paper For Mulching
Thanks to its ability to retain moisture, newspaper can be a great mulching material.
What’s more, unlike other types of mulching materials, this technique doesn’t involve the use of potentially harmful chemicals that might harm your garden, or cause any health problems for your family. It is also cheap and easy to accomplish.
The main objectives of mulch are to gradually add nutrient-rich organic material to your soil and curb evaporation. Generally, mulch should be between two and three inches in thickness and should last for one year.
Therefore, If you’re using newspaper for mulch, you should shred it accordingly to reduce the speed of decomposition and allow it to effectively retain moisture.
Disadvantages of Using Paper as Mulch
Despite its numerous benefits, newspaper also brings with it a couple of problems when it’s used as mulch. Notable drawbacks include:
- It’s unpleasant: On the surface, newspaper can be an unsightly product. However, you can use it as a layer underneath more attractive materials like cedar chips.
- You need many of them: Generally, mulch should be thick, and this means that depending on your garden’s size, you may be forced to use numerous newspapers to adequately cover your garden, which might be daunting. If there are other mulching materials such as leaf mold, or grass clippings, you can use them add some bulk.
- It can be easily blown away by the wind: Because they are lightweight, newspaper can easily be blown away by a strong wind. Of course, it will eventually settle down to form a solid layer, though this can be time-consuming. If there are strong winds where you live, topping the newspaper with grass clippings may help prevent this from happening. You can also pin them down using stones.
Even though using paper as a mulching material has some disadvantages, it can also be rewarding, especially if you have many at your disposal. It’s not only an excellent way to recycle old newspapers, but a great way to boost soil structure.
Using Newspaper to Thwart Weed Growth
Newspaper is a fantastic way to prevent weed growth in your garden.
It blocks sunlight, allows in water, and is compostable. Whereas shredded newspaper helps prevent evaporation and helps control weed growth, non-shredded paper does a better job at curbing the growth of unwanted weeds.
Using a material that doesn’t allow moisture to seep through it in your garden can be disastrous, as it can kill your plants with excessive moisture.
If the soil doesn’t have access to sunlight, then the weeds will never grow as easily. And this is the reason why you want a light-blocking material that also allows some moisture content to penetrate through as it will help smother weeds.
At some point the newspaper will decompose and it will add vital nutrients to your soil, so it’s actually useful.
However, if your garden soil is clay, it can potentially exacerbate drainage problems. As an alternative, you can use a newspaper barrier on either sandy or loamy soils.
Using paper as weed barrier is typically an easy and straightforward task. After all, you only need to spread the newspapers on your bare soil and in places where you don’t want seeds to germinate. You make the layers as thick as possible and you poke a few holes in to ensure adequate moisture absorption.
As a rule of thumb, a thickness of five-ten sheets will do the trick, and you should moisten the layers as you’re spreading them. If you are only preventing weed growth in a small area, you can pin the materials down using stones. However, If you have a relatively large area, try to include a layer of mulch on top of it.
What Type of Paper is Good for Compost?
Generally, shredded paper will compost fairly well.
However, construction paper, heavy-inked papers, glossy paper as well as any other special paper materials may either prove harmful to your pile or may not decompose as required.
There’s every reason to compost newspaper.
It is not only an excellent way to discard yourself of something that is fading with the rise of new technology, but it’s also a natural and amazing way of boosting the overall health of the soil.
Thanks to its versatility, it can also be used to smother unwanted weeds in your garden, while also giving something back to the soil.