Straw over newspaper. Newspaper keeps the weeds down and keeps dirt from getting on your plants when it rains, straw holds the paper in place and keeps the garden looking nicer. I just don't like the look of newspaper, especially after it's been in place a month or so.
You can top newspaper with any type of mulch; I happen to like grass clippings but have even used wood chips in large areas and it worked very well. In well-established beds, you really don't need the paper layer IME.
When possible, combine grass clippings with straw when tilled in. Straw has very little nitrogen and thus could use whatever green help is available. Ideally, the straw should be just about broken down by the time for tilling but it doesn't always work out that way.
I use grass clippings as much as possible. I didn't mulch as much as I should have this year and I've regretted it since. Newspaper also worked but it doesn't last long unless you cover it with straw or grass, and if you're going to cover it then why bother? It seems like an excess step, plus it's difficult finding newspaper that doesn't use colored ink. You want only black ink ... something to do with the toxic residue in the colored print.
Just avoid those big bags of wood chips you see for sale all over the place. Insect larva loves to reside in those, plus they are bearers of all sorts of bacteria and fungi. It's like inviting trouble to come have a stroll through your garden.
Don't worry about the colored ink on newspapers. Haven't seen a newspaper printing press operator having to wear a "space suit" yet and no skull and crossbones on the ink buckets! If used as a weed suppressant, slick colored paper would last longer. Otherwise their nutritional value is the same as black and white, zero.
Well I was thinking about putting down newspaper for a weed barrier then putting my soaker hose on that and then putting a layer of straw over it all to make it look good and keep in moistier. Sound good or bad?
Sounds like an excellant idea. My garden is covered with newspaper, then the soaker hoses, then litter from the barn. The barn litter has sheep and chicken poop mixed in, so that takes care of the nitrogen draw from the high carbon stuff. It keeps the plants clean, is cushy to walk on, and every time it rains the plants get some manure tea.
I love mulching with grass clippings, although haven't had any for years. Toss hot grass on a weed, and it just gives up.
Better to have the soaker hose, then paper, then mulch.
The old colored ink used to have lead in it. There is no lead used in newspaper ink anymore and even colored print is ok in the garden. Newspaper is still organic material and will provide nourishment to the soil. Worms really like torn up newspaper and I've seen them hiding by the hundreds in big clumps of newspaper. Anything that adds organic material to your soil (yes, except the gross bagged "mulch") is a good thing, especially if you have hard clay or flowing sand.
I'll use newspaper, paper grocery sacks, cardboard, usually some of each in my garden, then hay over the top. Depending on how the straw is grown, it can be very weedy. Pure straw can indicate being grown with herbicides. My garden & soil is doing better with 4 years of mulching, but not many earthworms have moved in yet.
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