I need newspapers. Lots of them.
February 8, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Where can I get a big stack of newspapers for free/cheap? Or other garden mulch substrate.

We used newspapers under rice straw as a garden mulch last year and it was the best solution we have ever used to keep weeds down and conserve moisture. I should have done this in the fall, but now I need to get out and mulch our fairly large garden this weekend. The problem is we don't get the paper anymore, and I'm blanking on where to get a bunch of newspapers, other than cleaning out every stand in a two mile radius.

Where could I get a whole lot of them for free/cheap?

Also open to other low cost mulching solutions.

Norcal/Sacramento area.
posted by Big_B to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Do you have a recycling area near you? Back where I grew up there was no recycling pickup service, so everyone took their recycling to the Wal-Mart parking lot. There they had recycling-only dumpsters for newspaper, cans, and bottles (separately). If you have any of those, go check them out. You might get lucky and find a bag of neatly-folded used newspaper like the ones we used to throw out.
posted by phunniemee at 8:42 AM on February 8, 2011

I used to work in a children's museum, where we occasionally needed large quantities of things like newspaper for art projects. Our go-to source was the major newspaper in the city, who would arrange to give us papers that were heading to recycling. Grocery stores and other retail places that sell newspaper are also good, though it depends on their setup - sometimes they send back the copies they don't sell to get a credit, sometimes they're dumped - if it's the latter you can probably scoop up some at the end of the day.
posted by heyforfour at 8:54 AM on February 8, 2011

Newspapers are available on recycling day. They'll be in plastic bins on the curb.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2011

I moved recently, and it involved putting (quite literally) a ton of glass into storage. I used newspaper as packing material. I got it by hitting each of my local newsagents and finding out the day(s) on which they disposed of their unsold papers. Then drove around and picked up papers over the course of a couple of weeks. I got way more than I needed.

Another idea, free local and streetpress papers. Contact the publisher to get distributor details. Then contact the distributor. IIRC my teenage newspaper boy jobs, the distributors were always complaining about people who quit and papers that had to be thrown out because they couldn't get delivered.
posted by Ahab at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2011

Do you have any free newspapers in your area, like with local goings-on and such? I just get a stack of those.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:04 AM on February 8, 2011

"Do you have any free newspapers in your area, like with local goings-on and such? I just get a stack of those."

FYI, wait until these "expire" or are about to before you grab a stack (or better yet, get permission to clear the racks for the publisher) -- they may be free, but grabbing "excessive" free papers can be prosecuted as theft in many jurisdictions.

You could ask around neighbors or even post on Craig's List or a local equivalent and say, "Hey, I need newspapers for mulching, I will pick up a stack from you!" I ask one or two friends to save them for a month for me and I get plenty for spring. I see that you need them really fast; it's still worth asking around friends with subscriptions, even a week's worth that hasn't gone out to recycling yet will help. Send an e-mail.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:10 AM on February 8, 2011

Public libraries typically purge the old newspapers every few weeks/months, so that may be an avenue to check out.
posted by soleilMia at 9:11 AM on February 8, 2011

2nding libraries.

I worked at a university library and the student recycling team was inconsistent about picking up my discards, so sometimes had stacks and stacks waiting to go to the dumpster. I would have loved for someone to take them away for a good use.
posted by erloteiel at 9:37 AM on February 8, 2011

Is there a freecycle group in your area? If so, someone will have stacks of newspaper for you.
posted by theora55 at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2011

Moving beyond newspaper:

I've also used cardboard boxes from big box stores / bike stores / etc. as mulch. Take the tape and staples off first and you've got an excellent grass-killing layer.

Coffeeshops often give away coffee grounds for gardening. They can be quite acidic, you'd want to use them in combo with another mulch or compost them first.

A community garden near me gets bags of litter from a rabbit rescue, and that stuff is pure gold. Small (herbivorous) animal breeders might be another good bet.
posted by momus_window at 10:50 AM on February 8, 2011

I used cardboard boxes too. Works better than newspaper. Also used horse poop from the local municipal stable. My garden was the bomb for two years.
posted by serazin at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2011

The local newspaper in my area will give the end rolls of blank newsprint to anyone who comes by to pick it up. There usually is quite a lot on the end of the roll for non-printing uses!
posted by Swisstine at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2011

SMUD offers free-for-the-picking-up mulch at their corporate yard. I've picked up a truckload there and I won't say its the sexiest mulch, but it -is- mulch -and- free.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:06 PM on February 14, 2011

Thanks all. I ended using a combination of paper grocery bags culled from ours and neighbor's collections, and rice straw on top.
posted by Big_B at 8:07 PM on March 14, 2011

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