Tar paper mulch between raised beds--yes or no??

weedlady(Central OH 6)April 23, 2009

We recently added a new roof over our deck in the process of making a screen porch. After we put the tarpaper over the plywood but before we could get the shingles on, we had a few days of really rainy, windy weather that tore off a couple of the strips of tar paper, tangling them up & making them useless. We re-laid new strips.

As I stood next to my ten l5"-high cedar raised beds (new as of last late summer) and gazed at the grass growing between them (the width of the lawn mower...OR a piece of roofing felt/tarpaper) and hating the thought of sending the paper to a landfill, I wondered...

Although I garden organically, and I instinctively feel tar paper is a nasty no-no, I had planned to scrounge newspaper (we do not subscribe) or cardboard (I've already used up our boxes from moving, using them to line the raised beds, but I expect craigslist folk could come to my rescue there) to lay down between the rows and then hope for a tree-chipping crew to come thru my neighborhood and let me have the chips for free. :-) But those long pieces of tar paper (as well as the bit leftover on the roll that was not needed) are tempting me. We also have a partial roll of that reddish-colored paper that is put down before laying hardwood flooring that I am thinking of using the same way. I do not think I'd have to worry about that, but correct me if I am wrong!

OK--hit me with your thoughts, gang! Yea or nay?

Thanks a bunch! RD

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It's dreadful to think of things like tarpaper going to the landfill but I wouldn't use tar paper in my garden. I'm agin' anything to do with tar or petrochemicals especially near food.

We get a lot of cardboard boxes at the liquor store - they just leave them behind the store for anyone to take. Cuts down on the garbage they pay to haul away I expect.

You might ask around if any of your friends would share their old newspapers. There must be a lot of people who bundle them for garbage pick-up.

If the "reddish-colored paper" is kraft paper that would be fine in the garden IMO altho if it is a specialty paper I can't say as it could have something noxious added.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:01AM
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"Tarpaper" is used as an underlayment under your shingles because it will help keep moisture out of your house. If you put that stuff on you soil it will do the same thing and it will also keep necessary air exchange of the soil from happening and you will then have an anaerobic soil where disease pathogens could grow better (many disease pathogens really like anaerobic conditions). I would not use "tarpaper" in my garden.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 6:47AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

Why cover the grass? It's providing root structure and someplace for rain to go and not become run off. I just built my raised beds and put down straw/cardboard/straw on my paths to keep them from becoming mud. This fall I plan on removing all of that and composting it, while I plant a cover crop of clover and comfry that should hold up to light traffic and remain for my path, also providing root structure/OM for to improve drainage.

Of course I have very poor drainage to begin w/. You could have entirely different reasons, but as kimmsr stated I wouldn't use it either.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 8:36AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I instinctively feel tar paper is a nasty no-no

Trust your instincts. ;)


    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:25PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

OK--the NAYS have it! Off to the landfill (gulp) with the tar paper and down will go the cardboard-newspaper/woodchip mulch that I have used successfully in countless situations in a number of gardens over the last 40 years. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
Thanks, all. RD

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 12:41PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Beyond the impervious nature of it that was mentioned above, I would add that the "tar" in tar paper is asphalt which is loaded with carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Not particularly dangerous up on the roof but not something you should put in the garden.

Leftover building materials, I offer on Craigslist or Freecycle. It's surprising what people will take sometimes. Your scraps would be great for a doghouse, for example.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 3:56PM
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I think it would be horrible to use as a mulch. Tar equals no air and water exchange.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 8:46AM
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