How long to compost cardboard?

elisa72(9)February 28, 2011

If I put cardboard over my garden plot and keep it wet, how long will it take to compost enough to run over it with a rototiller? I've never used cardboard in the garden before and am having a terrible time with weeds in the veggie plot so want to try this method.

Thanks!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
robertz6

It won't 'compost' enough to break down, rather it will slowly separate enough after a period of wetness. How long will it take small pieces of cardboard to break down to the compost level when mixed in soil -- a few years I expect.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 4:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

The more you till, the more weeds you will get.

If you put the cardboard down and bury it under mulch, my estimate would be one to two years depending upon how much life you have in the soil.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
elisa72(9)

"The more you till, the more weeds you will get." How so?

"It won't 'compost' enough to break down, rather it will slowly separate enough after a period of wetness." Indeed, "compost" was not the right word. So how long to soften enough to till? I was hoping that someone had actually done this before and could tell me from experience, although I'll take guesses too!

Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pjames(8/LA)

Tilling after putting cardboard down defeats the purpose. If your goal is to break up the soil so you have a deep area of 'fluffy" soil and insist on tilling, then till first. Smooth out the soil and put down cardboard or newspaper and then cover that with compost and plant in the compost. Personally, I think you are adding work. I'd just put down the cardboard, put compost on top and plant. I am going to do that in a couple of new beds this year.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
elisa72(9)

I'm putting down the cardboard to kill the grass and weeds. I can't till now because it's too wet, and I want to build tall rows for planting. IOW, I'll be reshaping the plot from flat to trenches and rows.

Perhaps I should just plan to pull off the cardboard as planting time approaches, reshape, then lay the cardboard down again and cover with mulch. Or something like that.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 6:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jonas302(central mn 4)

You can till most spots after the cardboard has been down for a summer won't even know its there the wetter it is faster it will break down
the no till crowd has a good point but in the end its your garden to do as you please in it

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Tilling soil brings up to the surface more long dormant seeds of plants that could be "weeds" which is why tilling after laying down cardboard is not necessary. Just how long it takes cardboard to be digested depends on how active a Soil Food Web you have.
I have numerous time made new beds by laying newspaper down over the grass, and any "weeds", that were growing there and in a few weeks was able to plant that area without tilling. Cardboard and newspaper deprive and plants they cover of access to sunlight, which they need to grow, so they die. If any seeds are there and do germinate they also die because there is none of the light they need to grow.
Put the cardboard down, cover it with some mulch to hide it and hold it in place, and in a few weeks you can plant there without the hard work of tilling, and you may find the soil is very workable not hard and compacted.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 6:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
annpat(5-Maine)

Putting down cardboard and then tilling it in would be pretty similar to not putting cardboard down and tilling.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ceth_k(11)

Nothing is better said, annpat. I'm totally with him/her, elisa.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
elisa72(9)

Ah, NOW I get it! Thanks very much, everyone!

Correct me if I've misunderstood, but since I need to make rows and trenches and want to use some of the native soil to make the rows, I'll remove the cardboard, skip the tilling and just make my rows.

Then I'll re-use the cardboard in the trenches, where it will stay permanently.

Sound good?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

May I ask what are you growing that needs rows and trenches?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 2:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

pjames, it's nice to see you here again. I haven't seen you on this forum in a long time. I was sorry that HGTV didn't renew your show. Any plans for future shows, books???

elisa, ditto what others have said. Put down cardboard and leave it in place to smother weeds. Just mulch over top of it.

Karen

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
annpat(5-Maine)

Here's how I do it in a vegetable garden. I plant non-row plants---like tomatoes, peppers---and mulch around them immediately. I far prefer newspaper to cardboard. Newspaper sucks itself to the ground, cardboard slips around. Where I'm going to plant carrots or beets or spinach, row stuff, I either plant first and then snuggle my newspaper and upper mulches up to the row after the seedlings are up or I, sometimes, lay the newspaper down and leave a gap for seeding. The second method is harder.

If you insist on rototilling, you would till prior to laying down your mulches. A lot of us (including me) are opposed to tilling, although I still have mixed feelings about it.

Cardboard and newspaper degrade differently in different climates, but your goal with mulches is to keep them intact. Not you, but other people seem to think that the cardboard needs to degrade. On the contrary, the longer it stays intact, the more effective it is.

Other people may do it differently. You're going to love a paper mulch, whatever you use, I can tell you that. Your weeding days will be over.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 9:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tifbee(7)

If you do use cardboard, remember to remove the tape, staples, and shipping labels...they will be there fooorrreeevvver.

I agree with annpat on using newspaper instead of cardboard in the garden especially this close to planting time. The worms in your soil food web can break through the newspaper to get to the compost goodies on top better than with cardboard. Definitely use cardboard in your walkways as a weed barrier.

Since cardboard does stick around longer than newspaper, I still use it outside the garden to lay down mulch, when I'm dealing with just choking out grass and weeds. Also, use cardboard in your walkways as a weed barrier.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 10:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
MsShelley(8b, and 18)

I'm a little bit confused. I certainly agree with newspaper and cardboard as excellent material to kill weeds etc What I am confused about is-- "growing right in the mulch." I have always thought that incorporating mulch with the natural soil would create a more balanced mix. Depending on what mulch you use, it can be very strong for new plants.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
annpat(5-Maine)

Mulch is never incorporated into the soil. Mulch, by definition, is always on top. As soon as you turn something into the soil, it becomes an smendment, not a mulch.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:17PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
how would one add / help mycorrhizae
On another thread (very long and informative - why...
louisianagal
Compost is wet and soggy. Can I use it? It's not done yet..
Hi there. My first compost is almost a year old now....
Mikkel Nielsen
Hate new GW
I hate the new Garden Web! I cannot figure it out!
annpat
Is non-organic compost OK?
Hello, I am wondering if buying compost from a small,...
kebenn2
Composting gone cold
I've been composting for decades, but this winter,...
apg4
Sponsored Products
Safavieh Hand-hooked Chelsea Tabriz Ivory Wool Runner (2'6 x 12')
Overstock.com
Serena & Lily Rowe Nesting Tables
Serena & Lily
15736CO Copper 12.9 in Kichler 6 LED Hardscape Light
EnvironmentalLights.com
Off The Vine Wine Table
$299.99 | Dot & Bo
Salbakos Luxury 600 GSM Turkish Cotton 12-piece Towel Set
Overstock.com
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Safavieh Rugs Newport Olive/Ivory 4 ft. x 4
Home Depot
Reflection Shine Rug 3'6" x 5'6" - IVORY/TAUPE
$249.00 | Horchow
Colonial Mills Twilight Braided Rug - Oatmeal Multicolor - TL90R024X036
$22.98 | Hayneedle
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™