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May 25, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 8 Faves: 0

5 Ways Cardboard Simplifies Your Garden


My summer vegetable gardening experience is actually quite simple: weeding, planting, weeding, watering, weeding, thinning, weeding, feeding, weeding, pruning, weeding, and lest we forget, a bit more weeding! Who has time for all that, right? Here's how I utilize cardboard boxes to reduce my daily workload in the garden.

I. Cardboard Makes Planting Easy!

Really, it couldn't get any easier.

  1. Lay broken down cardboard boxes on top of garden beds. Make sure they're nice and flat.
  2. Punch a hole through the cardboard (easier if it's a little wet).
  3. Drop in the seed.
  4. Put a small layer of soil on top. (This is totally optional... I don't.)

No need to trowel rows. No guessing what the spacing is. If you like, you can even draw on the cardboard to lay out the entire bed. How cool is that?

II. Cardboard Lets You Plant Earlier!

Speaking of cool, is it a bit chilly for your tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers? It's always better to plant early and get plants established before the summer weeds come in. No problem. Use cardboard!

  1. Break out the floor of your cardboard box.
  2. Dig a square hole the width and length of your box, and about 1/3 of the box depth (or 4-6 inches) into the ground.
  3. Place the box in the hole.
  4. Fill the box with the dirt you removed so the ground level inside and outside the box is the same (or close).
  5. Plant your sensitive plant in the box frame.
  6. On cool nights, flip the top flaps of the box shut to protect your sensitive plants.
  7. When all danger of cold is gone, pull out the box and use it as mulch.

III. Cardboard Makes Watering Easy and Efficient!

Don't you hate how when you water your plants, you're watering weeds too? No more! Just water the cardboard and the plant that stick through get watered. If you're still dealing with seeds, the water only goes through the holes you punched. If you're using the sensitive plant box planting method, don't water anywhere outside of the box and you'll waste nothing.

As a bonus, the cardboard will help keep your seeds moist for longer periods, reducing the overall need for watering.

IV. Cardboard Makes Composting Easy!

The best way to feed your plants is slow and steady, right? Cardboard encourages you to do that in a few ways:

  1. Feel free to heap up leaves and grass clippings at the end of the season and bury them under next year's cardboard. Why under cardboard? Worms and crickets feel safe with something like cardboard to hide under. They VERY QUICKLY break down organic material into useable 'fertilizer' that is great for your plants. They even make the soil directly under the cardboard nice and fluffy.
  2. If you need a quick nitrogen or nutrient boost for your plants, just shove some grass clippings or stuff some banana peels under the cardboard. No rotting grass stink. No problems if you get a weed seed in there.
  3. You'll need less fertilizer and/or compost for your garden because...

V. Cardboard Makes Weeding A Dream!

Oh yeah, as in virtually eliminates weeding. Roman numeral V is THE REASON to use cardboard, the reason I started using cardboard. If you don't care or believe any of this other stuff (yes, I'm super offended), you have to try cardboard for this reason alone.

Pretty simple, really. Plants (weeds are plants) require sunlight for photosynthesis. Take away the sunlight... no more weeds. Cardboard provides an extremely darkening barrier, blocking weeds as good as or better than any commercial weed-blocking products I've tried.

Breaking It Down

These tips are, of course, based on personal experience using cardboard boxes I've nabbed here are work. Maybe you won't love it as much as I do. Just keep an open mind about it's appearance. Go ahead an mulch over it if cardboard is too unsightly for you or your snobby rich-kid neighbors.

Cardboard rocks! Use it. Love it. Fight co-workers for it.

When you're all done with it for the season, compost it or bury it.

More from sprouty Others Are Reading


  • So, do you think that I could just cover my yard in cardboard? It is mostly weeds at this point anyway. Maybe I could create a nice dustbowl in downtown hastings that way!

  • Not sure your neighbors would love that, but you wouldn't have to mow if you covered it right.

  • Love it. What a great way to re-purpose card board. I have an organic garden. I'm wondering if there is such a thing as organic card board?

  • I'm sure you can find cardboard that hasn't been bleached or dyed or anything like that. Of course, most post-consumer cardboard is treated to make it look pretty again. If we could just change everyone's expectation of what beautiful is, that cardboard boxes don't have to be that perfect uniform brown cardboard color, we wouldn't have so much waste.

    I do grow my garden MOSTLY organic. I don't use pesticides or herbicides. I build my soil naturally, with food scraps and yard waste. I interplant and rotate crops so as not to deplete any particular nutrients and prevent disease. Sure, the cardboard isn't 'organic' but neither is the paper or junk mail that we should all be composting.

  • rex seriously just cover your yard in concrete and make it a basketball court lol

  • If the city didn't own the first 10 feet I totally would! I would salt the earth and nothing would ever grow there except awesome basketball skills!

  • Great idea on using cardboard - do you have any pictures to show us?

  • I'll try to work on some pics, maybe this weekend

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