Reusing Newspapers in the Home and Garden


How to Reuse Old Newspapers

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We subscribe to our local daily newspaper and a couple of Sunday papers, so even though hard times have rendered newspapers a lot thinner than they used to be, the papers tend to build up. Here are a few ways we like to reuse our newspapers around the home and garden!

How to Reuse Newspapers

In the Garden

With two woodstoves in continuous use from late November through April, we use most of our winter newspapers 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, too: 

  • 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 needles, 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 voilà!—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.

In the Home

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—Tom always came out with a news-hat that spoke to the occasion.

What do you do with old newspapers? Recycle or reuse? Let us know in the comments!

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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