Garden Types - Created Date : 29.8.2019

Manscaping, Phase 2 : A Guest Post from Aaron

Manscaping, Phase 2 : A Guest Post from Aaron

Manscaping, Phase 2 : A Guest Post from Aaron

Friends, I’ve been ready to wrap up this landscaping project since about four minutes after I began it. And lo, the time is nigh! We are just a few finishing touches from completion (for now, of course, since…you know…plants die and stuff), so I badgered Aaron to write his Manscaping follow up and guess what? He only complained a little bit. What a sweetheart.

If you missed the first installment, check it out here. If you’ve been dying to read how it ended, I’ll let Aaron take it from here.


When we left off, we had all of our blocks in place and then we brought in extra dirt to level things out. Things were starting to take shape and the thought of the finished product’s lush splendor had given me my second wind. Now I could move on to adding mulch and transplanting the four dwarf hollies and the rosebush. Because we could only work on this project on the weekends, transplanting was tricky – especially for the rose. As you can see, I left it in place while I started mulching so that I could plant it as soon as I had removed it.

If you have ever done any gardening you are probably familiar with that terrible black “weed-stop” fabric that is often used. If you have ever had to remove a flower bed or just do a little renovation, this same fabric has probably been on the receiving end of an impressive string of four letter words. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, suffice it to say that after a nuclear attack, the only thing that will exist besides cockroaches and Twinkies is this fabric. Ironically, to be so durable it doesn’t stop weeds all that well. Go figure. Because I hate this fabric so much, I was excited to learn that a considerable number of people avoid it by using newspaper instead. I put the newspaper over the dirt 3-4 pages thick and then covered it with mulch. The newspaper will prevent any grass and weed seeds from germinating, but unlike fabric, it will decompose after about 18 months. By that time, any grass and weed seeds that were present in the soil on planting will be dead. It’s green, it’s cheaper than fabric, and when you decide to remove or redesign the bed later on, you will not have the headache you would with fabric.

And so it went. Lay down newspaper…drop on a bit of mulch to keep it from blowing away… newspaper… mulch… newspaper… mulch. Mulch is actually the best means of preventing grass and unwanted weeds from germinating in the bed. In order to get the most protection, we applied the mulch 3-4 inches thick throughout the bed.

Here is the old arrangement with the four holly bushes cornering the rose bush.

The holly bushes found a new home on the opposite end of the bed surrounding our new Jane Magnolia, commonly known as a “Tulip Tree.” In the spring the tree’s blooms resemble purple and white tulips. To round things out we had to purchase a fifth dwarf holly.

The rose bush was moved to the center of the bed and is flanked by two new pink knock-out roses. Between the roses you can barely see a couple of Indian Hawthorn. These are evergreen shrubs that have small pink blooms in the spring.

To line the outside of the bed we chose Trailing Verbena. Our bed gets full sun almost all day long. This limited the choice of annual we could use. This variety of verbena will spread and eventually spill over the edge of the bed while blooming through the summer.

Finally, the bed was finished! Admittedly, it looks a little sparse, but after all that time and effort, we were proud.

The finishing touch were the two planters we decided to use to frame the front steps. The planter in the foreground will eventually be placed in the area currently occupied by our immortal violas. We planted them last fall and they lived through the mild winter. We’ve been expecting them do die for the last month, but they just keep hanging on. Most likely, to get both containers at equal height, we will need to build up that little square three stones high and fill it with dirt and mulch.

Here’s a rough ariel drawing/example of Rosemary’s artistry. This fall, we plan to finish things off by planting some bulbs in transition areas on either side of the roses and in the “island” in front of the steps. We are going to plant bulbs that bloom in both spring and summer (possibly fall or winter too!). This should give us some color throughout the year. And that, my friends, is manscaping.

{Aaron is my boyfriend. He owns this house I’m constantly tearing apart. And sometimes he’ll write blog posts about things I do not enoy or understand, and therefore, am not qualified to blog about. Read his other guest posts here and here.}


It’s been two years and the newspaper has completely biodegraded. We’ve had little-to-no weed pulling thanks to our newspaper trick! We will probably replace the newspaper next year, but for now, the few weeds that we have tend to pop up right at the base of the plants, where I originally had to dig a hole through the newspaper.

We never had a problem with squirrels or birds digging up the newspaper and shredding it everywhere. The newspaper’s gone now, but even at the beginning, that wasn’t a problem, even though we do have birds that dig little holes all over the bed to find grubworms. If it was a problem for you, I might suggest putting a thicker layer of mulch down next time.

Lots of commenters have asked if this would work in a vegetable garden, and though I have personally never tried it, a nice commenter informed me that it does, indeed, work great in vegetable gardens!

And finally, I feel like I need to mention that I am NOT a gardening expert. This project was the first time I’ve ever built or even fully landscaped a flower bed. I’m happy to answer your questions if I have an answer, but please know that I’m probably not the best person to ask for gardening advice! ??

I think so. We put mulch over the newspaper, then when we went back to plant flowers, we just tore a small hole in the newspaper to fit the flower or plant in. That way, water could get to the plant roots but grass seeds couldn’t grow. So far, we’ve only had a couple of sprigs of grass get through! However, we are by no means professional landscapers or gardeners! This was just a trick we learned on the internet. ??

I have a friend who said her dad use to take old carpet and lay it face down over the plowed up area. He then cut holes where the plants would go in. The only grass they had to pull up was right around the hole that was cut for the plant. when they were done he would pull up the carpet. You could see if there were any snakes in the garden or other dritters and it was easier to harvest

I would be cautious about using old carpeting in a vegetable garden since carpets usually contain chemicals that help resist stains and water.. these have been linked to reproductive toxicity in males to name one chronic health problem that exposure can trigger. It’s also important that the stuff biodegrades over time, and carpets will not be good at doing that.. it will leave a big mess for years if not a toxic soup. I’m a public health educator and an environmental health scientist… so the info I have tends to be focused on first doing no harm to people and environmental health. I’m no expert in gardening.

this works great in a vegetable garden. We’ve done it for several yrs now. Wish I had known about it even sooner! It saves alot of weed pulling time.we plant, then cover right up to the plants w newspaper & then wet it down well. Cover the paper w a layer of mulch topsoil mixed..

Bed looks great. I too have grown to hate the fabric. I started using newspaper and paper bags in my garden & beds. I cover the paper in the garden w straw. I usually have very little weeding to do. I love that it decomposes by next year when its time to do the planting again. I still have a few spots w fabric and it will all be gone by the end of the summer.

I’ve done this as well, but an elderly neighbor suggested lightly spraying the paper with water when you first put it down. This helps to hold it down under the mulch and also makes it easier to break a small hole in when planting.

I have done this fairly extensively – just trying to be green! It works great and reuses your daily newspaper. Start saving the papers well in advance of commencing the project. You will use a lot of them. My advice would be to go pretty thick with the paper, more than 4 pages and to wet it down very well as you go along. It lays flatter, won’t blow away and gives you a bit more time to put the mulch down. I have even done it over top of grass when extending a xeriscape bed.

As a gardener in the south, with a husband who does a bit of landscaping for customers, I have grown to hate the ground cloth. I use the newspaper and builders straw ( about 4 bucks a bale). I use about 10 sheet layers though and do wet thoroughly. Happy Gardening!

Yes. We just sort of pushed the mulch out of the way and used a spade to dig a hole to plant the flower – straight through the newspaper! That’s why you want to be sure and wet the newspaper before you start planting flowers. When the flower was planted, we pushed the mulch back around it.

I, too, was thinking that there should be a run of the landscaping bricks at the rear of the bed to separate it from the exterior wall of the house. This would not only prevent insects (especially termites) from invading, but also minimize the possibility of water damage to the house that could cause foundation problems in the future. The landscaping is very well designed & executed otherwise. Made a very pretty bed withe lots of color.

Looks like a great idea! We have tried various types of landscape fabric, but still dislike it. Are there any issues using the newspapers with all of that ink around plants that produce food? I’m thinking we might purchase some end rolls, which wouldn’t have any ink, from our local newspaper to use around the “edible” garden areas.

Really like your newspaper ‘weed-stopper’ solution because you’re right; the commercial weed block fabrics can be expensive and intrusive. Does the paper actually work well enough though at keeping the weeds at bay?

Hi Dottie! I honestly don’t know…We don’t have poison ivy in our yard. Maybe if you used a very thick layer of newspaper or even cardboard it would kill the poison ivy. You’ll just need to cut holes where you want your plans to come through.

google “lasagna gardening” and you can see how using news paper, leaves raked from your grounds, coffee filters,,cardboard, etc, will crate an unbelievable garden soil over just one winter..your hands will just sink deep into the soft airy dirt when you’re ready to plant!

Hi Kala! The newspaper should work for vegetable gardens too. You just dig a hole through the newspaper to plant your seeds/bulbs/plants. The newspaper also helps the dirt retain moisture so it should work well.

I used newspaper in a small area, (thank goodness), around bushes. Two days later I had shredded newspaper everywhere! It was a big mess to clean up. If you have a lot of squirrels I wouldn’t advise using newspaper.

Hi Kate!

We put a layer of soil, then newspaper, then mulch. The reason you do that is because not only does mulch help your soil underneath retain its moisture, but weeds can’t germinate in mulch. They can, however, germinate in soil. So if you put soil over your newspaper you are, in fact, defeating the purpose, since weeds will just germinate in the soil on top of your newspaper and pop up everywhere.

If you’re doing this in a veggie garden, especially if you want organic or chemical-free veggies, you don’t want to use newspaper than has colored ink on it. Black ink is non-toxic and not a problem. Our local paper puts color ads on nearly every single page, so I’ll get paper end rolls from the newspaper office instead.

Wondering if it’s possible to put newspaper, new soil and sand and then put new grass on top (the one you just roll out)? We just removed our old grass in our backyard (a small one) and are planning to buy new grass when the snow’s gone (living in Sweden) but we have a lot of weeds and are just wondering if this technique would work??

I tried it too but it didn’t work for me. The weeds are growing right up through the newspaper. Either that or they newspaper and mulch is beginning to mound up. Also, when I laid the newspaper, there were very few weeds. After a big rain, it seems like the newspaper encouraged the growth b/c it is worse then before!

Not every year. The newspaper kills any weeds that were in the soil upon planting. So once we put the mulch on top of the newspaper, even when it disintegrates over a year later, weeds can’t get through the mulch and down into the soil to germinate. Regardless, the actually application of the newspaper took less than half an hour. I just laid down a few pieces and Aaron scooped the mulch over it. It was actually the easiest part of this whole process, so I wouldn’t be too bothered if we did replace it annually. We’re still weed-free one year later, though!

I have spoken to many different landscapers, and they say that cardboard works better since the newspaper comes apart too soon. It really does not kill the seed bank. The way to kill the seeds without using the very dangerous pre-emergents is “solarization.” Look up how to do this step by step on the UC IPM Cooperative Extension website. Basically, you place plastic sheet over the area you want weeds gone, and it has to get hot enough and usually takes at least 4 weeks if not a few more, depending on the temperature.. but it kills the seedbank. I recommend this method for school districts, parks, and homes where children and pets are likely to frequent. It definitely kills all smaller weeds, but not sure about poison oak or ivy.. the website may have more info on that.

The trick is to put a thick layer of newspaper, wet it with the hose so it won’t blow away, then put a very thick layer of mulch ( at least 15-20 cms) on top. Dont put is so thickly over tree roots as it can heat up. Reserve some mulch for repairs if it is disturbed by animals. Re-top with fresh mulch every 2-3 years as necessary

I have done this for years. But I put my plants in the garden or plant the seeds and let them germinate. Then take black and white newspaper only about 4 layers around the plants leaving about a 2 inch opening for the plants. Cover with a few handfuls of soil to weigh it down and then mulch such as straw or grass clippings deep enough so you can’t see the paper. Weeds are smothered. Where I live the paper is decomposed by the next year but this is simple to do and saves a lot of weeding in the garden, keeps the soil moist in hot weather and costs nothing.


do you put a layer of newspaper and then the mulch and repeat the process. or do you put three or four layers of newspapers at the bottom and then three -four inches of mulch on top of 3-4 layers of newspaper?

I believe that the process is to put down three or four sheets of newspaper and then 3-4 inches of mulch. The thick layer of paper is similar to cardboard, and is also the process used in lasagna gardening (both mentioned in previous comments above). Hope this helps.

hi guys! what did you use to ‘stick’ the landscaping bricks together when you stacked them? i am getting ready to build a raised bed, and i’m trying to figure out this dilemma. i’m not getting mortar out!

I tried this last year, and, yes, it certainly helped keep weeds out of the garden. However, the birds and/or chipmunks and/or squirrels kept trying to dig in the garden and made a huge mess. I had newspaper everywhere! I took some of it out, but this year I will just put on more mulch to, hopefully, cover it. I’m sure I didn’t use 3-4 inches of mulch, though. I’m not sure if cardboard would have better, but I definitely won’t use the newspaper again.

It’s definitely worth a try! The newspaper is the weed blocker, not the mulch. Just pull up any weeds that are there, and (if you have it) put down a new layer of dirt, then cover that with a few layers of newspaper.

It seemed to work for a short period of time, but over the long haul, the planted appeared depleted and the soil, suffocated. Any sort of barrier that prevents natural flow of microorganisms from the surface to the substrate seems to create a stagnant garden biosphere, in my experience. I have not seen this work for long term. Best of luck to you all.

I was wondering, after you put the newspaper, do you put more soil and plant flowers and then mulch, what I’m trying to understand is how to plant flowers after I put the news paper in?. Thank you for your answer

Oh Rosemary, you are a Gem of a Gardener! I am looking at a backyard ‘full of weeds’ in my flower beds and just found a site on how to get rid of them w/o hours of backbreaking pulling… and now this wonderful Tip! Your flower bed looks amazing, and the Newspaper ‘weed barrier’ will definitely be my new ‘weed killer’! Hint for a ‘to do’ for Aaron, turn the one pot around so the price tag doesn’t show? And since the violas are still hanging in there, maybe put that pot on the porch landing? Would look great being offset. Your house is gorgeous, where are you at? I’m in California and medically Housebound so the back gardening is done when it is really ‘dusk’ so I don’t go into panic attack. But I get to see them during the day! Can you send a ‘year after’ photo? Or post one? Thank you for the great Tip!


You just need one layer of newspaper and one layer of mulch. Dirt, newspaper, mulch. The end! And yes, when you’re ready to plant flowers, just dig a hole like you normally would through the mulch and paper.

So happy I found your post, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking to do in my yard!! Thanks for all the pictures and details. I read through all the comments(quickly)and saw that someone else had he same question as I do but didn’t ever see an answer…possibly I just missed it. What did you use to hold your stones together?

Garden Care Tools

Equipping yourself with knowledge of care goes a long way in your DIY garden project. Continue reading the following for basic tips you will need, including weed control.

Having the necessary tools

Your hands are not the only tools you need for gardening, but you don't need to buy too many tools at once. Instead, focus on the basic tools to help you with your gardening.

Gloves: Without the right pair of gloves, you may have to deal with splinter shortage. Do not buy large gloves because they are difficult to use. Also, be sure to keep yourself away from insects and water when storing.

Hand trowel: Perfect for digging around and planting.

Spade: It makes it easier to dig holes and move mounds from one place to another.

Rake: It is a very important tool if you want to keep your garden clean from debris and leaves.

Hoe: Choose an anchor according to your garden type. If your garden is perennial, you may need a finer hoe.

Loppers: If you have something to walk around in your garden, you need a couple.

Long hose: Select the one with rain bar and adjustable nozzle.

Wheelbarrow: If you use compost or have a backyard with more soil, you need it. It can help you take a pound and pound.


Cutting off overgrown or dead trunks and branches is a fundamental task to keep your plants free from infections and diseases. Other garden plants such as shrubs, trees and roses need to be cared for and pruned.

Tip: When pruning trees, you should not remove 30% of the leaves of a tree at once. You can ask your garden experts to determine the pruning method you need for the task at hand.

At the end of winter, damaged shrubs and trees buddha. Never wait until spring. Keep in mind that damaged or injured stems and leaves can become infected and make the disease even stronger. It is better to trim the pruning or pruning of the broken limbs, even if the storms in winter cause other damage.