Making a template with paper mulch

OK. I will be planting my onion plants this week. This is my idea (hear me out here).

Due to HEAVY weed pressure this time of year (the weeds typically even emerge through straw mulch) I am going to use both a paper mulch, and straw on top of the paper when planting my onions. This is a thin, cheap “builders paper” (brown, untreated) that decomposes quickly, typically if under straw with typical moisture, it is gone in 6 weeks. Lasts just long enough to smother any early weeds, then the straw is usually sufficient.

Before I plant, I want to make the paper mulch into a “template.” I am planting in a 4-row-wide “block” - each plant 6" apart and the rows 7" apart (to space evenly across the 35" wide paper). I want to cut holes in the paper for each plant, about 3" wide, so I can lay the paper first, and plant in each hole, rather than the more awkward task of trying to retrofit the paper later. I should be able to carefully use a bulb auger to make the holes for each plant once I lay the paper down.

Furthermore, this is the only way I’ll probably have “even” rows - no matter how even I think they are, I step back and realize “oh cr*p, it’s crooked!” I’m also aware I will still have to watch for weed development in the open 3" circle near each plant.

Does anyone have a quick trick on how to cut all these holes? Is my idea of using a drinking glass and scoring with a knife the best I can do?

How about this: Draw (or imagine) a 3" or so circle. Cut a t or an x in the middle of the circle. Fold the points back under the paper. After the bulb is planted you can unfold the points and let the plant grow through the cut. That might also help with the weeds.

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I would cut the paper in half, cut out notches on one half, plant along the piece without notches and then slide the piece with the notches over the edge of the piece with the straight side. You can mark the piece without notches with a marker to show your spacing and it will give you a straight planting guide. Here is a terrible little sketch that hopefully conveys the idea. The dots are the planted onions. I do this with cardboard for my tomatoes sometimes and use with chips on top to control weeds.


That is a very neat idea!

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