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Solarizing a Garden Bed

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Written by, Kevin Cutlip

Photos by Caroline Martin

Mid February to a gardener brings around a list of things to do to get ready for the coming season. One of the most overlooked is the project of Solarizing your soil. Solarizing is important to promote the growth of weeds, the hatching of insects and even to bring about a few common types of fungus. It only takes about an hour of your time.

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What you need to do is simple: First,  rake out the old hills and ruts, making the soil as even as possible. Some of your Winter weeds will come out easily, but you don’t need to remove all of them. Bloom tops will fall into the soil.  These are seeds so don’t worry, you are fixing to take care of that.

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Apply either an organic fertilizer, a light cover of compost, or 10-10-10. Then wet with a hose.

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Cover with a clear plastic and put stones or timbers around to hold it in place. You want it to be like a “cold frame”. This will allow your things to emerge for about 6 to 8 weeks.

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As the days go by, the soil underneath the plastic will get unbelievably warm. I have seen the soil get up to about 65 degrees at 4″ inside. You will also see bugs crawling under the plastic as well as weak looking plant life. DO NOT UNCOVER!!

In early April, after about 6 to 8 weeks of “things” happening inside of your covered garden bed, keep an ear out for the weather forecast. Most times, they will tell you to “cover your tenders” because of a killing frost. That evening, go out and uncover your bed, letting Ma Nature fry what’s inside, starting you off with clean soil, and no chemicals.

Clear vs Black plastic. Clear will allow the sun in, help with the germination of your “un-wanteds” and promote growth. Black plastic kills what’s there. You don’t want that, you want to grow.  If you need help getting started solarizing your own garden bed, stop by or give us a call.  We’d be happy to help!

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