Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching

I reeeeeally wanted to title this post “So Mulch Fun” but the cardboard technique we used here was too important to leave out of the title. I’ll save “So Mulch Fun” for a future inevitable mulching post and hopefully by then you guys will forget you’ve already heard it mwahaha!

DIY cardboard mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Today we are on the third and final day of working on our front garden beds! (Check out part 1 and part 2 too!) After removing our mega-palms, adding solar lights, removing the old weed barrier, and digging up unwanted grass and bushes, we had a blank slate that was ready to be mulched! Well, almost ready. Before we laid down mulch, we wanted to add a couple things that would make our garden maintenance easier: a weed barrier of some sorts, and a soaker hose.

We had a soaker hose the previous owner left in the garage so we tested the length by winding it around our beds. It was a perfect fit! We thought this step was especially important because one of our little foxtail ferns was not doing so hot.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

We then realized we needed to remove the soaker hose while we put down the weed barrier (we wanted it to be above the barrier but below the mulch), so off it went.

For the weed barrier, we looked into a few different options: traditional fabric weed barriers, newspaper, and cardboard. With the semi-degradable fabric ones you apparently have to remove them eventually (like we did ours) and replace it, but newspaper and cardboard biodegrade after a certain period of time and just become part of the soil, and when it’s time to add more you just add another layer on top. After digging up our old weed barrier, we didn’t want to have to deal with doing that again down the line. And we just so happened to still have a TON of cardboard boxes leftover from our attic clean-out and our Ikea shopping spree. So our decision was made! Plus little earthworms are supposed to love cardboard and that is good for our soil.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

When using cardboard for this purpose, you can’t use any that is shiny or waxy. It has to have that flat “cardboard-y” feel. And you need to remove any stickers, tape, staples, etc since they aren’t biodegradable. After spending some time sorting/prepping the boxes, we had a pile waiting and ready to go.

But before we laid them, we wanted to go ahead and buy our mulch. Partially because we didn’t want the cardboard to get blown away if there was a time gap between cardboard-ing and mulching. And partially because having your garden bed lined with cardboard looks oh-so-classy (not) and we didn’t want it to be in that state for any longer than necessary. So I measured the square footage of our garden beds and we needed to buy WAY more mulch than I would have thought- 17 bags! That would give us 2 inches of coverage, which we were ok with since Google told us 1″-4″ was recommended.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

While we were at Home Depot picking up our mulch, I spotted some little potted foxtails for $6 a piece. Since we dug up our rosemary it felt like we needed something else to fill the space it left. Foxtails to the rescue! Plus I think they’re cute. Like little Mochi tails.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

We’ve never planted anything before so we just followed the instructions they came with and crossed our fingers. So far we’ve kept em alive!

Once our foxtails were in we turned our attention to the cardboard. We made sure to implement tips we had read online as we went. Before we started, we flattened the soil the best we could (this meant filling in the big holes we still had from digging up our giant palms. And we pulled any large weeds/grass that we spotted (we didn’t worry about the little ones though).

Then we just started cutting and laying our cardboard on top of the dirt, leaving 4-6 inches of breathing room around the base of each plant. Everywhere the cardboard met we overlapped it by 6 inches (so the less overlaps you have the better- try to cut the cardboard as little as possible).

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

This also required squeezing into some tight spaces, but hey if we were afraid to get a little dirty we would not have considered spending a day laying mulch to be a good time!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

As we went, we sprayed the cardboard down with our hose so that it would flatten out (and not get blown away by a sudden burst of wind or anything). Also, see how nicely the two new foxtails fill in the space that used to be occupied by the rosemary?

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

After we had fully laid and sprayed (ha! rhyme!) our first layer, we laid and sprayed a second. Most sites recommended 2-4 layers, and we had enough cardboard for about two and a half so that’s what we did.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

This is why we wanted to start and finish this part of the project in one evening: it looked more like a hobo bed than a garden bed (I’ll be here all week)! But by the end of our second layer we had a nice base to start mulching over. Evan used his manly muscles to lift and pour the bags while my hoe and I (‘sup!) smoothed the mulch out over the cardboard.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Of course, as soon as we finished laying all the mulch we realized we had completely forgotten about putting down the soaker hose first. Doh! So we had to lay it down on top of our mulch and then try to bury it.

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

In the end we used 15 of our 17 bags, and since the last two were maybe worth $6 (and they were heavy and messy) we just decided to hold onto them for touch ups rather than return them. Also in total we spent about $50 on mulch and the two additional foxtails (since we already had the soaker hose and cardboard, those were free). It was kind of a dirty job, but it was cheap and so worth the results!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Finally we rinsed off our dirty sidewalk and driveway and took some pretty pictures for ya!

Here is the area in front of the guest bedroom when we first moved in…

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

The same area after the grass invaded…

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

And after we fixed her up!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Here is that same area from a different angle, again when we moved in…

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Then there was so… much… grass…

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

And now here’s the after! Nicely mulched and grass-free!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Here’s the straight on view of the front door before we touched the garden beds at all. Look how closed in and itchy it looks!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

And here’s the nice clean after!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

Lastly here’s a little peek at the area to the left of the front door. Here it is before (notice how that palm looks like it’s eating our doormat).

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

And here it is after! Without all that extra palm and grass, it looks so much cleaner!

I’m thinking about buying some large planters for either side of the door where the palms used to be, but first I need to find a flowering plant that won’t die on me. I just recently learned the term “perennial” so… yeah I have a ways to go before I finish my plant research. Any suggestions about low maintenance flowering plans would be much appreciated!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

We are so happy with how our garden bed makeover turned out, we could just dance!

Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching - evanandkatelyn.com

, ,

12 Responses to Yard is Hard, Part III: DIY Cardboard Mulching

  1. bethanne July 18, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    This post had me laughing so hard! The beds look great! :)

  2. Katelyn Shibley July 18, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    Haha glad we could give you a little lol this morning! And thanks ^_^ We really like how it all turned out too!

  3. Our Wolf Den July 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Looking good. Your hubby looks like he is having way too much fun!

    Manda Wolf @ Our Wolf Den

  4. Katelyn Shibley July 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Haha he was! Thanks :)

  5. Yvonne July 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Looks great! Even better, it didn’t take too many days to get from your before to after. :) I’m wondering about my yard choices now, because I took the nearly non-biodegradable route and purchased 15 year weed blocker and recycled tire mulch. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. :)

  6. Katelyn Shibley July 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    It was a very satisfying and fast project! I think the nearly non-biodegradable route could work too, I’m sure it’s a personal preference thing and depends on your yard. It would definitely work if your weed barrier stays buried! Ours would have been so close to the surface and we didn’t want to actually dig down the dirt, so we were afraid it would poke it’s nose out again down the line like the old one did and we’d have to remulch more often.

  7. Yvonne July 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    :) I love the look you both accomplished. You made thoughtful choices that work for your space; and it was even fun for you. Nothing better than that!

  8. Katelyn Shibley July 18, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Aww thanks :) And I agree, nothing better! :)

  9. Kal July 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Looks soooo much better! I love a fresh-mulching. Haha. Some bright, happy flowering plants you could use are zinnias. They are creeping flowers, and so pretty. If I haven’t killed mine, there is hope for you ;)

  10. Katelyn Shibley July 22, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    Thanks!! It’s crazy what a big difference mulch made. We plan to stay on top of it and spend a few bucks periodically to top it off now that we have a good foundation. And I just looked up zinnias and they are super pretty! I think I have a serious flower contender. Now to find some big planters that don’t break the bank…

  11. Landscape mulch September 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Good for you, Katelyn. A lot of work, but when your beds stay weed-free, you’ll be glad you put in the time! Love the step-by-step pictures and the fun, informative approach you took to this post.
    Another great potential title for a mulch post? “Mulch Ado About Mulch.”
    – Brooke @ Fra-Dor

  12. Katelyn Shibley September 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Thank you! We’ve definitely noticed a HUGE difference. I’ve only had to pull a couple weeds since we did this a couple months ago, and they were on the perimeter where our cardboard didn’t quite reach the edge of the garden bed. Haha and love the title!

Leave a Reply