3 Simple & Clever Ways I'm Using Cardboard in My Garden

Once Upon a Tiny Farm
by Once Upon a Tiny Farm

Lately, I have started finding multiple ways for using cardboard in the garden. Cardboard is the one resource that I hadn't used that much in the past. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of using it sooner, but I’ve been finding many uses for it now. Here are three different ways you can utilize that free resource.

Killing weeds with cardboard

1. Killing weeds

The first way that I am utilizing cardboard this year is as a way to kill weeds. In the past, I have used a lot of tarps. I would buy these things called silage tarps. They're a thick black plastic that I simply put on top of my soil.

In the heat of summer, the weeds or the previous crop residue can get wiped out within a couple of weeks. Then I was able to take off that tarp and plant right into the soil.

Using tarp on a farm

The issue is buying those tarps can be expensive. It adds up to a few hundred dollars very quickly depending on how much you need and how much ground you have to cover. I had the tarps that I already bought and set up covering lots of different plots of my property, but I didn’t want to buy more.

I did have cardboard, so I decided to use that because I realized that it can do the same job as the tarps. As the weather starts to warm up, I'm going to use this cardboard to cover the soil so the weeds don’t get any of the sunlight. This will hopefully knock out a lot of weeds before I'm ready to plant my onions.

Cardboard is also a more environmentally friendly option that you could use to kill weeds because it will break down and essentially become worm food. The worms will eat and chew through this stuff. So that is one way that I'm using cardboard this year. 

If you're just getting into gardening and have a spot picked out that you want to use for growing, cardboard is a great way to prep that soil. It will help you get rid of any grass or weeds that might interfere with crop growth. Put down cardboard for a few weeks early on this spring as it starts to warm up. 

Then you could take it off and maybe till or broad fork or loosen the soil. Add some soil or compost and start planting right into it without any of that weed pressure. Cardboard is a great thing to consider using because it's a free resource and it gets the job done.


2. Start a new garden row

Another you can use cardboard on the ground is if you are starting a new row. Say you have an area that was grass or something like that, and you wanted to put in a garden row, you could leave cardboard on that row.

Wet it down, and then bring in your compost, soil, or whatever you want to use. Put a thick layer of it on top of the cardboard and you can start your garden row just like that. It will give you a brand-new raised bed essentially on top of the cardboard. 

After the first season, it would disintegrate and probably be gone by next year. That's a great way you can get an instant garden right now using cardboard. It’s a great option to consider.

Using cardboard in compost

3. Use it in compost

Another great way to use your cardboard is in your compost pile. This use is one that I had never even considered before this year. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it because cardboard is considered a brown carbon material. You want a mixture of those browns and greens in your compost piles.


Your cardboard will count as a brown material that you could add. What you really want to do in order to speed up the breakdown process is to tear the cardboard down into pieces.

You will want to do this because the large pieces are going to take forever to break down, or a lot longer at least. Just break it down into pieces and add it to your compost pile. Try to make a compost pile this year and create your own soil for free.

Using cardboard in the garden

4. Use it as a grow bag

The last suggestion I have for cardboard use is one that I'm going to try this year. You can use it as a planting box. I’m going to turn this box into something like a grow bag. I've been using grow bags for growing my potatoes. Then I realized I could totally grow potatoes in something like this.

If you don't have garden space using a cardboard box as a grow bag is a great option. You could put a lot of soil in there and maybe plant some tomatoes in there, or something like that. 

It even looks like a planting box that you can plant straight into the ground. Plan for only being able to use it for one year. It'll start to disintegrate. It's kind of a porous material so it would be good for drainage. That’s another great use to consider.


Using cardboard in the garden

I wish I had realized sooner how many practical uses there are for cardboard in the garden. In any case, I’m glad that I know now because I’m going to be using it a lot. It’s eco-friendly and free, making it a pretty valuable material for gardening.

Do you know of any other uses for cardboard in the garden? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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