Q: Last fall I mulched a bed with layers of newspaper, compost, and mulch. The newspaper should have decomposed during the winter, but it didn't. What should I do with it when I am ready to plant? – James, New Orleans, Louisiana

A: Roger Cook replies: I have never used newspaper in a bed before. My guess is that the newspaper did not decompose either because it was put down too thickly, or the area was very wet, driving oxygen out of the soil and halting decomposition. If you experienced an exceptionally cold winter decomposition may have been curtailed due to the temperature. If this is the case, why not wait a little longer. If you can't wait I would top-dress the area with fertilizer and either turn the area over with a pitchfork or a small roto-tiller. This should break up the newspaper, mix it in with the compost and mulch, and introduce air to help break down the newspaper.
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