When you finish reading this article, your plants would enjoy it, too. No, the wordswon’t mean much to them. But the paper they’re printed on will.A University of Georgia scientist says two or threenewspaper pages can make a world of difference to your garden and landscape plants — andto your water bill.”Recycling the newspaper under mulch is a trick I use in my own garden,” saidGary Wade, an ExtensionService horticulturist with the UGA College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s amazing how much water that canconserve.”Summer is always stressful in Georgia gardens and landscapes, Wade said. But this yearis hotter and drier than normal.”A number of areas around the state are restricting outdoor watering,” hesaid. “In other areas, water rates get higher as your usage increases.”Even where water is still plentiful and cheap, he said, it makes sense in suchdrought-stressful times to help your plants make the most of the water they get.Wade said he mainly uses full-size, black-ink newspaper pages.”Studies now show that even most color inks are made with food-color dyes thatwon’t hurt your plants,” he said. “But I still don’t use the color comics or thepull-out ad sections, particularly around food crops in the vegetable garden.”Use a leaf rake to gently pull back existing mulch, he said. Be careful not to disturbthe plants’ surface roots.”Then place two or three sheets of newspaper on the soil surface,” he said.”Wet it down good, and rake the mulch back over the newspaper. The newsprint will notonly hold moisture itself but acts as an added barrier to moisture loss.”Don’t make the paper layer more than two or three sheets thick. A thicker layer willactually keep water from getting through to the roots.The same newspaper trick works in the vegetable garden, too, he said. There, as in thelandscape, the mulch itself is important in such hot, dry weather.”Three to five inches of mulch will help hold moisture in the soil,” Wadesaid. “It helps prevent evaporation from the soil surface.”Fine-textured mulches such as pine straw, pine bark mininuggets and shreddedhardwood mulch conserve moisture better than coarse-textured mulches,” he said.In the landscape, mulch as large an area around the plant as you can. “The rootsof established woody ornamentals extend two to three times the canopy spread,” hesaid.In the vegetable garden, use mulch between rows. You may want to tape together rolls ofnewspaper pages to make applying the newsprint liner easier.