Shredded Paper – Use In Flower Beds?

Q: Can I can use the shredded paper from my desk for mulch in and around flowers?

A: You certainly can! The paper itself is harmless and the ink or toner from printers is mostly carbon. I would recommend soaking a big handful of shredded paper in a bucket of water and applying it around your plants like paper mache’. Scatter pine straw over the top if you don’t like the stark white paper color in your garden.

A related question, though, gains a different answer. I was asked on my radio show last month if discarded cellulose insulation could be used as mulch. In this case, the answer is no. The cellulose has been treated with a fire-retardant chemical which is likely to contain boron. Too much boron in your soil will cause the edge of mature plant leaves to turn white. The boron could be washed out of cellulose insulation before using but the process is likely to leave one with a goopy mess. Re-use the cellulose in an attic but re-use only office paper in your garden.