While looking over the stats for my MrBrownThumb garden blog I noticed that someone recently visited after searching for, "cover Chicago garden in black plastic." The gardener must have been looking for information on weed deterrents. I've seen people use black plastic bags, which are different than the landscaping plastic you'll find at your local garden center. There is also a landscaping fabric which works just as well and allows air and water to reach the soil easier. A few years ago I was given a roll of landscaping fabric by a fellow gardener and it has sat underneath the front stairs, unused.
To block weeds in the garden I like to use newspaper, which works just as well and will eventually decompose and it doesn't cost me a cent. During the spring and summer months I take advantage of all those free newspapers available all over Chicago. If I pass by a newsstand at night and see there is still a stack of newspapers in there, I'll take all of them. The way I see it, by doing so I inflate circulation numbers keeping writers employed and they provide me with free mulch. We all win.
By the time fall rolls around I have a good-sized stack of newsprint (no glossy pages or free standing inserts) waiting to be used as newspaper mulch in the garden. When laying out the newspaper mulch I like to apply thick layers around the plants and sometimes stop and read the news I missed because I was too busy surfing the internet to pay attention. Being generous with the layers of paper you set down is key here because weeds will grow through thin layers much faster. You want to prevent sunlight from reaching the soil so seeds don't germinate and plants under the paper can't grow. It is a good idea to either carry a watering can or garden hose with you when laying out your newspaper mulch, wetting the paper as you go to keep it from flying away. Or lay out your garden mulch on rainy days and let nature do most of the work.
When you're done you can cover the newspaper mulch with either top soil or with wood chip mulch to keep your garden looking tidy.
400 city workers were laid off because the City and unions couldn't reach a deal?!?! To whom should I address my letter expressing my belated outrage?