All good gardeners know that earthworms are our best friends. Mixing organic material – truly “organic,” as in certified, is best, but any natural, degradable substance qualifies – encourages the proliferation of these little critters. However, sometimes it’s hard to find material to add to your soil.
This is where plain, brown, corrugated cardboard comes in. This easily-obtained paper serves two purposes. First, it feeds the worms. Second, it’s a great weed barrier which also helps keep moisture in the ground.
Worms don’t actually eat this stuff. It’s broken down by bacteria and eventually disappears into your soil. The worms actually feed on the bacteria. In the process, they munch through the soil and enrich it as they go.
The process is easy. Go to your favorite retailers and ask for cardboard boxes. Remove all tape and waterproof labels, open them up, and soak them for a few minutes. Then lay them down over freshly-weeded soil. You can put a little compost down first to encourage worms to come investigate.
Cover the cardboard with soil, compost, wood chips (another favorite of earthworms), grass clippings, or other material that acts as a soil enrichment. Then water again to jump-start the decomposition process and make the soil softer for the worms who are sure to flock to their new buffet table.
Another nice thing is that wet cardboard is easy to tear, so you can fit it around existing plants and still prevent weeds coming up. You can also dig through it at any time if you want to set out new plants or bulbs.
You can also use newspaper in this way. However, these days more and more people are depending on television, radio, and computer outlets for their news, and don’t get a daily paper. Fortunately, there are still a lot of cardboard boxes available.
For all of those who love to recycle as much as possible, this is an easy way to reuse any boxes that come directly to your home, thereby benefiting both your garden and the planet. This is much better than adding them to landfills, burning them at home, or even using gasoline to drive them to a recycling center.
As time goes by, the edges of the cardboard may emerge from the dirt. They’re pretty much the color of the soil, so no big deal, but it is a sign that your mulch is getting thin. Add a little more top-dressing and know that things are getting better under the ground all the time.
You should notice pretty quickly that you need to spend a lot less time watering and weeding. Eventually, your whole garden should look better as your plants enjoy the new fertility.