Cardboard As Base Layer and Weed Suppression

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    Bantam Shores

    I’m heading into year 3 on my large allotment and with us heading towards the end of the year I’ve completely cleared the plot in terms of continued crops and I am in the process of prepping to approach the coming season completely No Dig.

    I’ve just received a signed copy of Charles’ ‘Vegetable Garden Diary’ after spending the past 18 months following and educating myself on the approaches via the helpful YouTube videos. My query is, would I be causing harm to my initial base, if I were to cover in sodden cardboard, which would then take a further covering of manure followed by a layer of leaf mould and then finally home made compost.

    I detest plastic so other than to cover the above layers over for the coming months to protect ready for spring I do not want to kick things off with a plastic base layer.

    So is cardboard effective or detrimental to the no dig approach?

    If love to hear people’s views and opinions, whether tried and tested or not.




    I have been using cardboard this year and it is amazing!
    We started off with the black landscape fabric but hadn’t found out about no dig at that stage so put it in as a base layer to prevent weeds growing into bed from underneath.DISASTER! Had to dig it all out again 6 months later. Also tried wood chip as weed suppressant to little effect as bind weed, nettles, thistles and dandelions all over and grew through thick layer of wood chip within weeks in summer. Since discovering Charles have started putting cardboard down and difference is amazing.
    Under hedges I put cardboard with wood chip on top, nothing through at all.
    We also had a weed ridden border which I put cardbaord 1st, then planted heather into holes cut in it, then put peat compost all over as mulch and it is doing well, heather alive and had to pull about 2 weeds in 2 months.
    Where I plan to do beds next year I put some immature compost (pretty thin layer as I didn’t have much, hoped this would encourage worms etc ) followed by cardboard followed by the reused landscape fabric (mainly to hold cardboard in place). This seems to be going great. These beds were used this summer so weeds were mainly under control here I just didn’t want any work weeding over the next few months. No weeds and when I’ve peeked under all looks good.
    Also had a new retaining wall put in due to building work so it is like a raised bed with a hedge at the back. I only managed to put cardboard on half as I ran out. The uncovered portion is now thick with chickweed/ and I can see other horrors getting established! Probably just needs a good hoe but it is all extra work which I find a bit demoralising as it is endless and will keep coming back. the cardboarded part looks pretty ugly but I know the work is all happening without me.
    I think in your case the cardboard will all have decomposed by the time you are planting so will do no harm. My only thoughts are maybe put a little compost or leaf mould under it to encourage soil activity? If weeds are under control in general and you have a thick layer of compost you may not even need the cardboard ( but i’d be safe and stick it down!)
    In fact the only trouble I find using the cardboard is getting hold of it. I have been discovered twice now, rummaging through recycling bins behind the local bike shop. Bit embarrassing!


    Bantam Shores

    Good morning Christine, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    It’s not embarrassing whatsoever having a rummage for cardboard. Rubbish to some, is treasure to others. I don’t know if you’ve tried or already looked, but I’ve found gumtree to be a great source for cardboard. There seems to be quite a few adverts looking to get rid of surplus.

    I’m interested in your advice of laying an underlay of mulch to sandwich and further help the breaking down process of the card. Obviously already I intend to lay it onto my previous growing substrate which is quite thick in depth, as luckily for me, to a degree, the previous tenant spent a fortune on topsoil so I have the depth, but obviously at the same time, that has provided a home for our native weeds to make a home.

    I have a handful of areas where mares tail has become prominent so although I’ll be practicing no dig, I shall take the effort to fork out the big players to give these new layers a fighting chance.

    I’m glad to hear of success in regards to the cardboard. As mentioned I really don’t wish to begin things with a carpet of plastic and plant through because if I’m going to be layering on different mediums going forward, I fear the plastic would end up getting left which wouldn’t be great and if I were to remove later on, id have to dig back what I’ve put down to access it.

    I see in America via YouTube, that cardboard as the initial weed suppression has become very popular but I’m inclined to always be careful before taking up an approach, in case I’m jumping on a negative bandwagon.

    Yesterday I managed to secure regular supplies of coffee grounds and veg scraps from a local coffee chain and also reached out to a saw mill in the hope of taking their saw dust extraction as another ingredient, so going forward with no dig in mind, I’m already laying the foundations to procure enough materials to keep the compost bays topped up enough to break down and offer a worthy amount of coverage.



    i agree making the compost is the vital part in all this. I actually think I enjoy the compost as much as i do the growing! V sad!
    I’ll definitely look at gum tree but I think like you said the best way is just constant gathering of the raw materials so you have a supply of the basics.
    About the Marestail. We had similar problem with bindweed and during the 1st summer we dug out buckets of the parent root but it just kept returning (maybe from the neighbours?) From what I think I learned from the videos, there is very little point in forking out the big stuff, you’ll expose lots of extra weeds to the light and also break up good soil. if time is not a problem just chop it and cover it. No doubt Charles will correct us if we’ve picked this up all wrong anyway!
    Everything that I’ve tried that has come from this site is an absolute charm, I can enjoy the garden without any of the mundane, repetitive housework type jobs.



    Hi, cardboard works really well, in fact I’d say it’s essential. I’ve put 6″ of mulch down without cardboard and mare’s tale and bindweed have both grown through (but it has been easy to weed). Even in areas where i’ve munched with cardboard then compost or chippings some weeds have come through but to a much lesser extent, and, again, easy to weed. I also use plastic to solarise areas of grass or other vegetation, then pull it up once grass dead & lay cardboard etc. Is easy to see and dig out deep rooted weeds like docks before laying card. If you know someone who does wood turning they’re usually more than glad to get rid of the shavings. I use them for pathways or other non growing areas, as well as chippings from a local supplier.


    Bantam Shores

    I’m stuck. I’m really struggling to decide a method on how I want to do things.

    I’ve received a delivery of 5 tonne of well rotted cow manure. The soil I already have is amazing stuff. As mentioned the previous tenant spent quite a few quid then strangely packed in. I know in time that the card will rot and that won’t exactly be a long time really, but if I were to lay a blanket of card on top of the soil I have, and then layer on top with the manure, leaf mold and home made compost, I worry I won’t get the benefits of what’s underneath.

    When I took the plot on, my girlfriend even said, it was like walking on clouds, haha, a sponge like texture.

    I also do not want to dig. I’m adamant that this year is the beginning of a no dig adventure. So preliminary thoughts to drag back the top layer to one side and then use that as part of the layer cake process kind of breaks the no dig rule. I desperately want to get it right and do the best I can with what I have, it’s a hard call as to which direction to choose.



    Seems there is a misunderstanding here… no need to move any soil at all.
    And if there are few weeds, you don’t need to lay cardboard either. I use it only when covering thick weeds eg pasture which includes couch grass and big dandelions. (Docks are the only weed whose main root I cut out first, if it’s big).
    So just mulch on top with that lovely manure.


    Bantam Shores

    Definitely a misunderstanding. I just wanted to make a half decent barrier against weeds if possible. I’ve had trouble with Mares Tail, and wanted to put up a fight if I could. Hence the cardboard idea.
    But it seems I’ve been getting into a pickle for no reason and definitely over thought my approach. I’ve just finished reading ‘The One Straw Revolution’ by Masanobu Fukuoka and he can not advise more if he tried in the do nothing direction in farming, keeping practice simple and common sense.

    Thanks Charles.!!



    Just a thought on the availability of cardboard and possible alternatives. Has anyone any views on using newspaper instead of cardboard? I was thinking that 6 or 7 layers of newspaper should be just as effective as cardboard. Thoughts anyone?

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