The soil is always filled with rich nutrients that can be able to nourish your plants and crops as they grow, but it’s not always a happy world in plant life. There can be weeds and other pests that might be eating away your soil and plant’s nutrition without your knowledge. To easily remove them, a method called solarization is usually done in small gardens. It’s similar to putting up a greenhouse but only on a smaller scale and with cheaper materials.
How it Works?
Solarization starts with the soil being covered by a clear plastic tarp. The tarp stays on the soil for about 6 weeks depending on your climate in which the soil will be heated by the sun. Because the plastic tarp traps sunlight onto the soil, it will heat it up and kill any pests or weeds along the way and make your soil a lot safer and healthier for planting.
Benefits of Solarization.
The method of solarization is beneficial to a lot of things. For instance, if you used to spray chemicals on the soil to keep away pests and stuff like that, you might be worried about the chemicals getting onto your plants and crops. Well, worry no more – solarization method doesn’t leave any chemical residue on the soil, making it one of the safest pesticide methods in home and organic gardening.
As for the soil, solarization is also quite helpful in breaking up nutrients for easier absorption of plants, such as potassium, nitrogen, calcium and others. Because of this, plants can grow healthier without the worry for harmful chemicals.
Steps in Setting up Solarization.
1. Prepare the soil by raking away litter and unnecessary things on the way, making it a smooth, flat bed. You can also do this on raised beds, but flat soils and areas are a lot easier. If you’re planning on raised beds, make them first before laying down the plastic tarp, as making raised beds after solarization might trigger weeds yet again. As much as possible, perform solarization on soil with almost no slopes, or if not available, use southward slopes.
2. Obviously, you should moisturize the soil by watering it to about twelve inches deep. This is because soil that is moist is a lot better conductor of heat than dry soil and draws in microorganisms better to die in the heat. However, do not overwater the soil unless it goes dry because too much water will make the solarization method less effective.
3. Use only clear and transparent plastic tarp so that it absorbs and traps the heat inside the soil to kill the weeds. Depending on your area climate, sometimes you can also use black plastic as a substitute in colder areas because this prevents the weeds from growing underneath. Choose plastic tarps that already have an UV inhibitor and are pretty much designed for solarization purposes. There are different types of plastic tarp depending on thickness.
4. Start placing your plastic tarp. For flat beds, it must be tightly held onto the soil. To do this, you can hold one edge of the plastic with a 6 inch deep trench and cover it with soil, then stretch the other sides to finish covering the whole thing. Remember to keep the plastic and the soil as close as possible so that the heating will be more effective. If you have multiple raised beds, you can just cover everything in one single plastic sheet but it might not be as effective as flat beds but can work if you leave the furrows between beds without covering.
5. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks depending on your climate, but can also be 6 to 8 weeks if your area has an outbreak or problem with pests. Make sure the soil is about 110-125 degrees Fahrenheit using a soil thermometer.
6. When you remove the plastic, do it carefully so that you won’t disturb the soil underneath and form weeds. You may also just cut holes on the plastic and plant if you want and just paint it over. However, plastic may wear and tear after a period of time.