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Reusing the News

February 17, 2012

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We subscribe to our local daily newspaper and a couple of Sunday papers, devouring all the sections including the funnies, the TV schedules, the want ads, and the police log.

Even though hard times have rendered newspapers a lot thinner than they used to be, the papers tend to build up.

All the news that’s fit to eat

With two woodstoves in continuous use from late November through April, most of our winter newspapers get used as fire starters. The ashes we don’t use to provide traction on icy walkways, we add as a pH-raising amendment to our garden soils. The papers have other horticultural uses: 

  • During the growing season, we use newspapers as a weed-suppressing mulch. We lay them down several pages thick and cover the paper with a thin layer of hay, pine needs, or wood chips to make aisles between our garden beds.
  • To create a new garden spot without mechanical tillage, I lay down a thick layer of newspapers (flattened cardboard boxes work well, too) top it off with a thinner layer of hay, straw, or leaves, and let the space sit a year By the following spring, the grass underneath will have died and Voila!—a soil ready to fertilize, amend, and plant.
  • I also protect young vegetable seedlings from cutworms by wrapping the lower stem with a tight collar of wet newspaper that extends an inch into the soil and at least an inch above the soil line.
  • To ripen green tomatoes indoors, I harvest blemish-free fruits when frost threatens, wrap each in a piece of newspaper, and set them in a cool, dark cellar. Sometimes they last through Thanksgiving.

During many years of freelance writing for newspapers (and always tending a big vegetable garden), I often joked about the fun of eating my words. But since this isn’t a gardening blog, allow me to share a few of the hundred and one others ways I use newspapers around the house:

Cleaning windows Crumpled newspaper and white vinegar make an unbeatable combo for washing windows and other glass surfaces.

Wrapping paper Very chic, especially if you select the right news for the occasion, or decorate the newspaper with potato prints

Cut-flower holder Torn or shredded, moistened, and stuffed into a vase, old newspapers will hold cut flowers, greens, or branches in place. Add more if you need to.

Shape-holders Crumple newspapers and stuff them into shoes, handbags, and hats you don’t use often to help them hold their shapes.

Funny hats I once worked with a colleague who’d previously spent many years as a daycare worker and was a master of newspaper-hat making. He had a hat for every occasion. Retirements, marriages, promotions, failed budget negotiations—Thom always came out with a news-hat that spoke to the occasion.

Finally, for a peek at the elevation of ordinary newspapers into high art, check out the “newspaper wood” collection of the Dutch design firm Vij5. Inspiring!
 

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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Comments

Great blog. I'd like to try

By Andy Fox

Great blog. I'd like to try the glass cleaning and the mulching method. Questions: If you use newspapers to clean windows or floors, would they get smeary? And if you put in your garden, would you have little pieces of newspaper everywhere that you'd never get rid of?

Andy, the newspaper will not

By Sandi King

Andy, the newspaper will not smear because you don't soak the newspaper in the cleaning solution. Spray you glass with the window cleaner, get one that doesn't streak, then wipe your window down with the wadded up newspaper instead of paper towels or cloth; as for the gardening, newspapers will return to the soil by rotting away completely over time.

As a scrapbooker and family

By J. Adams

As a scrapbooker and family historian, I would also add that you should scan the occasional newspaper. They can give you a great snapshot of a particular time, commemorate an event, even the advertising pages can make a great digital background paper for photos from the same time period.
I would also add that if you have a family member or an ancestor mentioned in an article, that you should donate the paper to the local historical or genealogical society - or at least give them an electronic transcription of the article. I can't tell you how much I discovered about my family just because somebody took the time to copy out the local society column for the Genweb project.
After that, go ahead and use it as a weed killer.

unfortunately if we do not

By polishpat47

unfortunately if we do not put out a green bin (along with a blue bin) they will not take our trash. And you can't put out empty bins because they still won't take your trash. I try to put boxes from cereal etc. instead but being elderly, those are infrequent to empty.

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