How to Use Paper Mulch on Strawberries
Newspaper mulch controls weeds, retains moisture, and keeps roots warmer in cool places. As paper decomposes, it also adds organic matter to the topsoil. Cheap or often free, this material is readily available, easy to employ, and environmentally friendly. Strawberry fruit shape and color are improved by employing paper mulch for growing the plants, according to researchers at West Virginia University Extension Service. They also found significant drops in weed growth and bacterial and fungal diseases.
Water that the gardening area thoroughly as soon as you plant your own strawberries. Water enough to evenly moisten the ground, but not so much that it’s soggy or wet.
Spread two thicknesses of paper sheets over all ground surfaces immediately. Unlike most organic mulches, you do not need to wait until strawberry plants are well established to install paper mulch, since it won’t stop the soil from warming. Overlap the edges of the papers by about 2 inches to stop weeds from sneaking up in between the sheets. Catch a 3-inch bare area around the stem of each plant to stop the possibility of rot from retained mulch moisture.
Spray the paper with water to soften it.
Add another layer of 2 paper thicknesses. Spray with water. Repeat until you have at least 12 to 16 sheets of paper thicknesses spread over the entire garden.
Spread as many as 2 inches of organic matter such as hay, straw, grass clippings, pine needles or leaves on top of the papers; natural mulch enhances the paper’s weed inhibiting activity and helps maintain the papers in place. Water thoroughly to evenly moisten the mulch.
Replace paper mulch if it degrades too much prior to the end of this growing season and ceases to function well as mulching material. While the material may last as long as two seasons under optimum environmental conditions, paper can tend to decompose in very warm, moist climates.
Eliminate the paper mulch whenever the last fruit harvest ends in climates that experience winter temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Rake it back in the plants into the regions between rows; this is going to provide the strawberry plants time to harden and acclimate to cooler fall weather. Leave existing paper nuggets in place to help prevent weeds and soil erosion from autumn to spring up in warmer areas.
Duplicate the paper mulch application just before the first called frost locally, to prevent winter damage to strawberry plants in colder climates. Cover the plants completely with paper and include two or three inches of organic material to protect the crowns and roots, and to stop freeze-thaw syndrome and soil erosion.
Till paper mulch into the soil first in the spring or even simply re-mulch over it with new papers.