How to Use Cardboard in Your Garden: 9 Ways That Make You Smart

How to Use Cardboard in Your Garden: 9 Ways That Make You Smart

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Got cardboard overload??? Amazon coming “a little too much” to your house? 

Learning how to use cardboard in your garden can really help you eliminate the overwhelm of all the packaging.


You’ll look like a super professional, smart gardener repurposing your waste. 

These 9 ways on how use cardboard in your garden will save you time, money, water, nutrients, and more!

Why Cardboard is Good For Your Garden

Cardboard is mostly made from recycled paper (1), which inevitably comes from trees, so essentially you’re just completing the circle of life. 

It can do wonders for your garden, and I’m not talking just about your vegetables. I’m talking about all-around your garden, the whole space. 

Cardboard can help suppress weeds, retain moisture, and block the elements. Earthworms and other microbes LOVE cardboard! It attracts your beneficial insects and builds up your soil.

Types of Cardboard

Don’t get rid of your recycle bin just yet!

There are certain types of cardboard that you will want to leave out of your garden space. 

The ones you want to keep are the plain Jane ones…brown exterior, no fancy colors, etc. 

Cardboard that has shiny wax on it that is not good for the garden. Ones with too many colors can have different chemicals in the ink that you don’t want in them either.

So toss the cereal boxes and other shiny, colorful ones into the recycle bin and keep the good ones at home.

Amazon has good boxes for the garden…you’re in the clear!

Decomposition of Cardboard

It takes about 3 months for cardboard to break down.

When you’re adding it to your garden, you definitely want to remove any tape or other labeling because those will not decompose.

Companies are getting smart with their packing, not only with their boxes but their tape and labels too. Surely we’ll see a change in this in the future. 

Also, make sure you’re of the mindset that you’ll need to do whatever gardening project you’re doing with cardboard again because it does decompose rather quickly. 

So let’s say you’re using cardboard to suppress weeds in the walk path of your garden…eventually that cardboard will break down, allowing weeds in. You’ll want to maintain this project with more cardboard.

 9 Tips on How to Use Cardboard in Your Garden

Here are 9 ways on how to use cardboard in your garden that get you thinking outside the box!

1. Moisture for your seedlings: Place a piece of cardboard under your newly started seeds to help keep moisture in them. 

How to use cardboard in your garden: under seedlings.

2. Walk Paths Around Your Garden. This significantly helps keep weeds down and allows you to focus only on your actual grow area. When you add it to your paths, make sure to wet it so it doesn’t blow away. 

How to use cardboard in your garden: in the walk paths

You will also want to add mulch to the cardboard path because, even though you’ve wet it to keep it in place, it will dry out and blow away. If you’re looking for a place to get a LARGE load of mulch, you could use a service called Chip Drop. Tree trimming companies, at your request, will drop off a load of their wood chip for free. Mind you, it’s a truckload (so be ready for that) and it’s not the finest chip, but it’ll work perfectly for your walk paths. 

You can also use cardboard around your plants, even planting into the cardboard, for weed suppression in your grow area. But again, the cardboard will require something on it and I don’t know if you would want to mess around with all that wood chip (though the wood chip is fine for your garden, just messy)

3. Lasagna gardening: This is where you have layers of different things in your garden. You could have a cardboard layer, grass clipping, sticks, soil, compost, mulch, and more. This is the type of gardening we used in our keyhole gardens.

Step 3 keyhole garden; layer stone

4. Use Cardboard to Surround Your Compost Pile: We wrapped the compost section of our keyhole with cardboard to keep the soil out of the middle while we were adding it to the garden. It will decompose there and we won’t have to replace it because the soil is now set. But you can add it to your own compost pile, whatever set up you have, to keep the goods in and now splaying out all over the place. 

Step 4 keyhole garden; wrap compost pile and add sticks and leaves

5. Sun Block: Yes, your plants need to be screened from the sun as well! The Texas sun is BRUTAL and can dry out your soil in no time. Using cardboard, not only helps keep moisture in (decreasing evaporation from the sun), but it helps keep the sun away!

How to use cardboard in your garden: sunblock.

6. Chicken Coops: We don’t actively have chickens right now, but when we did we used cardboard all the time for the coop. It’s absorbent, so it took the chicken poop really well. Also, it made the coop easier to clean. And all of this cardboard and poop can be composted when done!

How to use cardboard in your garden: in the chicken coop

7. Container Garden: Yes! You can plant into cardboard boxes and use them as your containers! Remember, they decompose in about 3 months which is the lifespan of a lot of vegetables. If you find that it decomposes quicker than your plant’s life, try adding it to another box!

How to use cardboard in your garden: container garden

8. Storing Sharp Garden Tools: Farmer Pete is notorious for leaving sharp items lying around, so we made these little cardboard sleeves to store his tools in. 

How to use cardboard in your garden: store sharp tools

9. Just Add Cardboard to Your Compost Pile: When you’re composting, the vegetable scraps liquify. Composting requires dry organic material to counter that. Using things like leaves or cardboard helps your compost tremendously. Make sure to break it into smaller pieces so it can break down well and faster. 

How to use cardboard in your garden: in the compost pile

Final Thoughts

Reduce, reuse, recycle.


It’s all about living sustainably and using the resources you have. Keep some of your cardboard at home and give it another purpose.

Your garden will thank you. 

Comment below and let me know how you use cardboard in your garden.