Newspapers don’t only nourish the mind and keep readers informed of the world around them – they can also be used to enrich your gardens and landscapes as well.

Before we take a look at how they can be recycled and put to further use, I always find it enjoyable to explore a bit of the history behind societal staples such as the newspaper.

A healthy democracy can only exist when its citizens remain connected to each other both physically and in their thought processes. In order to keep everyone informed and on the same page insofar as current events and popular ideals, communication between the masses is key.

Ancient Roman and Chinese heralds were a common sight in the town centers of the first few hundred years AD, when they would unfurl precious scrolls and speak the news of the day to gathering townsfolk.

These early newscasts were heavily edited by the political powers in charge, and usually sought to educate citizens of foreign happenings while also never forgetting to portray those in charge as good and powerful.

This tradition stayed in vogue for hundreds of years, and slowly the use of written texts to educate the common classes spread into Europe as a whole.

By the mid 1500s, the printing press was becoming widespread, and Venice was distributing regularly-printed news pamphlets to anyone who could afford the price of one small copper coin, commonly called a gazeta in Italian (which is where some newspapers get the title gazette).

These first versions of newspapers were heavily based on politics, and they were still closely censored by local governments. In fact, it took a few hundred more years until newspapers as we know them were able to come to full fruition.

Even from its first colonial beginnings, America has always been a country heavily influenced by newspapers.

American newspaper tradition has tended to be much more critical of those in charge than other news outlets – the very first newspaper made in the colonies in 1690 was quickly suppressed (all known copies were burned) by local British authorities for being too inflammatory.

Early American newspapers played a critical role in uniting popular opinion against the British and leading to the revolution.

While most of the newspapers around today are focused on more topics than simply politics, they still clearly play an important role in culturing the literate masses.

Once you finished with the paper, however, there are some easy ways to put it to further use rather than throwing it away.

The thin paper used to make newspapers has usually already been recycled multiple times, and will readily break down into yard food in only a few months.

Interestingly, most of the ink used in newspapers today is soy-based, which means that it is generally harmless to people, plants and wildlife.

Made of mostly wood fibers, newspaper is basically very fine layers of mulch and is able to be used as such.

Placing layers of newspaper 3-5 sheets thick on top of garden beds works wonders at suppressing weeds – simply wet the paper after laying it down and then cover with an inch of soil or mulch. Try not to go thicker with the paper as this can prevent water and soil-dwelling animals from having access to the ground.

Newspaper can also be used to make paper pots for seedlings – shred your newspaper and put it into a bucket filled with twice as much water as there is paper.

Let it sit for a day or two, and then mash the paper together into a pulp. Press this pulp into the inside of a cup or similar structure, allow to dry, and then marvel at your new free pots.

These pots can then be planted straight into the ground along with the seedlings inside, and should decompose before they inhibit any root growth.

Brannen Basham and his wife, Jill Jacobs, operate Spriggly’s Beescaping, a business dedicated to the preservation of pollinators. Contact him at brannen.basham@gmail.com.