Weeds can be annoying throughout the season; using some of the discarded newspapers around the house as a mulch can help to keep the weeds under control.
Any number of other materials can also be used, but old newspapers are free and have some distinct advantages: They break down as the season progresses and can be dug into the soil when they've served their purposes; and you can plant transplants through holes in the newspaper.
Vegetables growing through newsprint will receive moisture for growth. In fact, newspaper mulch will provide water conservation, but soil moisture should be high when the paper is put down.
It's important to use several thicknesses, say a section of eight or ten pages. These will usually withstand rainfall over much of the season. Thin sheets deteriorate more easily.
Some gardeners may object to the unsightly appearance of newspapers spread over the garden, ot the chance that they'll blow around.
To avoid both problems, cover papers with a layer of pine needles, sawdust, wood chips, bark or other decorative materials, preferably organic or capable of natural decomposition, as newsprint is, so it can be absorbed into the soil.
Using a mulch this way will usually provide excellent control of annual grasses and broadleaf weeds, but there are one or two it will not keep down. Nutgrass is one. Its new shoots are strong and spike-like, and will penetrate normal mulches. Using layers of paper several inches thick may do the job, but this is seldom practical. But there is the possibility, even probability, that your garden is not bothered with nutgrass.
Plastic is a popular nonorganic mulch. The black plastic is nearly always the choice as a mulch since clear plastic doesn't inhibit weed growth. But the plastic must be removed when the crop is complete. It does not break down in the soil.
Grass clippings are very good for mulching, if they're mixed with oak leaves first. The clippings have a tendency to mat when they get wet, and the oak leaves will prevent it.
Research at the University of Connecticut has shown that mulches may reduce populations of meadow nematodes, destructive microscopic worms too small to be seen with the naked eye; some feed on plant roots, others on or in plant stems, leaves, buds and flowers.
Compared to unmulched plots, it was found there were 75 percent fewer nematodes in the plots mulched with grass clippings, 53 percent fewer in those mulched with newspapers, 50 percent fewer in the salt hay plots, and 25 percent in the plots mulched with paper bags.