By solarizing your vegetable garden, you can kill weed seeds and pests in the soil, including nematodes, (tiny worm-like organisms that feed on plant roots) without using chemicals. Basically, you will be covering your garden with clear plastic sheeting to amplify sunlight, raising your soil’s temperature to a point where most pests and weed seeds won’t survive (usually 130 F degrees is the target).
Here are some tips to help you solarize your beds effectively.
- Solarization works best in gardens in full sun, during the summer months of June, July and August when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Clear your bed of weeds, sticks and other sharp objects. Mix your amendments such as manure or compost into the soil.
- Covering the soil the day after rain or irrigation is best. The moisture will help conduct heat into the soil.
- Mound your soil slightly toward the center so that rainwater will run off rather than collect on the plastic sheeting.
- Use clear plastic sheeting that is at least 6 mm thick so that it will hold up to the sun and weather for the time needed. Your plastic sheeting should be a bit larger than your soil bed so you will have a border of plastic to bury under the soil. When installed, the plastic sheeting should be smooth and sealed all around.
- Now is a good time to check your sheeting to ensure the plastic remains sealed. If you develop any small holes or cuts in the plastic, seal them with duct tape. You will need to have your soil covered for 4 to 8 weeks.
When the solarization process is complete you should have fewer weeds and pests for at least the next 3-4 months. For more details on solarization visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in856 or http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html
If you have questions or concerns, check with the Master Gardeners at 671-8400 for additional information that you may need.