Good Gardening: Cardboard Can Ease Planting

Jan 7, 2019

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

It is cold, wet and gray outside. But if you can get out there for five minutes now, planting a tree or new shrub in the spring will be much easier.

Just put down a three foot circle of corrugated cardboard on the grass or weeds where you want to plant, and the grass and weeds will die. Letting the sod decompose under the cardboard is better for your tree than removing the nutrient rich grass.  

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

Last spring I put in a 60 foot row of fruit trees in a spot where I had put down a three foot wide swath of cardboard a few months earlier. Planting the eight trees took about an hour. If all the grass- and in my case weeds- had been intact, the job would have stretched out to a day or more.  The cardboard might need to be weighted down so it doesn't end up in your neighbors yard, and those same neighbors, or even your spouse, might appreciate a layer of leaves being put on the cardboard for aesthetic purposes.  When you plant your bare root trees in in early March, roll back the cardboard, plant the tree, and then replace the cardboard and leaves to keep the weeds down, and the water in. A reminder- Don't amend the soil where your tree will be planted. The tree or shrub will do better in the long run in the native soil. I prefer bare root trees over potted plants. If I must get a tree in soil, I gently wash off most of the soil before planting the tree. Having the roots exposed gives you a chance to spread them out in the hole.  Corrugated cardboard is permitted in organic agriculture. I peel off the tape and pull the staples. And if you choose to put the cardboard down without a leaf overlay, let the worms read the labels.