Charlie MV
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solarizing

If this is in the wrong place, please feel free to relocate it.

Our garden did really well this year. We had bumper crops in spite of having the hottest summer on record.

But the weeds!


I mean dayum, the weeds nearly killed us. I am either going to stop gardening or garden next year without weeds.

I've read about laying clear plastic and solarizing the weeds and unwanted stuff.


If I lay clear plastic in October and leave it until March , will I stop next years weeds?

How wide can I buy clear plastic in rolls?

How do I secure the clear plastic to the ground?

This has to be a relatively cheap process or I can't afford it.

I do know that I wont survive another summer pulling weeds.

So please help.

tedln
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Charlie,

I may be wrong, but I think of solarizing more to control pests than weed seed. The way it is supposed to work is to first be able to apply water to the soil while it is covered. Then lay the clear plastic over it and stake or weight the edges down. Keep the soil under the plastic moist. The sun then heats the moisture under the plastic forcing the hot moisture deep enough to kill pests. I have no idea how well it will work on weed seed. I would think the heat and moisture would cause any weed seed under the plastic to germinate and then die.

I'm going to try another method of solarizing using black plastic next summer. My thoughts are the heat under black plastic in the middle of summer should be even more effective than the winter solarizing with clear plastic. I could apply the plastic for a week between my spring garden and fall garden.

I've learned over the years magic bullets for weeds don't exist. My overall garden design helps me control weeds. My raised beds simply make it easier to control them. I grow green lawn grass between my beds. Many people control weeds with mulch. I don't, but I know it works. My simple method of controlling weeds is to look for weeds every time I go to the garden and pull any I see. I probably pull twenty or thirty tiny weeds every day when they first stick their heads up. I do it without even thinking about it. My beds are planted so thick that it is difficult for a weed to get enough sunlight to grow.

Weeds are one reason, I'm not a row crop gardener.

Ted
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farmerlon
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I agree with tedln ... I think that "cultural practices" in the garden and vigilance is the key to avoiding frustration with weeds.

A 3-tier approach works wonders for me:
1. mulching, mostly with newspaper topped with grass clippings, makes a very effective weed barrier
2. hoeing, occassional hoeing (where practical) to kill newly emerging weeds
3. inspection, daily (or as close to daily as possible) inspection of the garden to remove any visible weeds that are emerging ... weeds are so much easier to control when they are tiny

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applestar
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Have you considered planting a winter covercrop?
If you're going to till, you can use almost any variety. A local farm supply may have what is typically used in your area. Where you are winter kill won't be the solution. but there are no till methods as well (but we've had this conversation before) :wink:

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rainbowgardener
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Any place where you have a lot of sun and it heats up enough, the solarizing will cook the weed seeds as well. It is often recommended for clearing an area of weeds. It will cook out a lot of the life of your soil, earthworms, microbes etc., so when you replant you will want to use a lot of compost to reintroduce some of that.

Another alternative if your space is manageable size (which I guess it is, you wouldn't be talking about covering ten acres in plastic :) ) is sheet mulching. Roughly chop the weeds down, water, cover the area in a couple layers of cardboard or a bunch of layers of newspaper, water again. Then cover everything with topsoil, compost, leaves, etc. By spring the cardboard will be mostly broken down, the weeds will be smothered and you will have a nice bed to plant into.
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soil
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heres a few tips i have come across while solarzing over the years.

- it works 10x better when its hot outside, i.e 100 degree +, the longer the better, the hot temps also make sure weed seeds on the topsoil are now turned into organic matter.
-if its to be a garden, amend your soil before but amend DEEP as the topsoil will be sterilized. 10-12 inches down is good to add your amendments. ( this is where you want your roots anyways)
-DO NOT TILL from when its done. if you do, the weeds will come back.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

Charlie MV
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thanks all.

Soil , I must have missed something in your suggestion. I don't get it.

Others, if I solarize during the summer, I wont have a garden.

Rainbow, I was asking about clear plastic because I think you wrote about it.

I have use opaque plastic for a month. It didn't kill anything. We garden to feed ourselves. We garden about a half acre. I can't imagine the work or expense of raising that much area.

We are not here for the entire week so daily weeding is out. I know it's a lame excuse for a gardener but my boat needs me a few days each week and I need her.

The weeds haven't seemed to have much of a detrimental effect when we stay on top of them while crops are smaller. Once most vegetables get to a certain size, the weeds just don't seem to hurt them. I just don't like them.

We mowed them between the rows after July. It was all we could manage in the heat.

I figured black plastic through the winter would work until I read about solarizing with clear plastic.

3 years ago we added on to our house. During September through February, we placed a 30x30 aluminum carport cover over part of the garden to do the work. It took two years for weeds to creep back in.

If we use black plastic, what's a cheap way to hold it in place during winter winds and leaf blowing? What;s the widest black plastic I can get in a roll?

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applestar
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I read in an old Organic Gardening magazine that you it gets hottest if you double mulch - black plastic or weed mat on the bottom, then clear on top.

I've never solarized before except small patches here and there -- just been reading about it here and there for the past 20 years or so, but I have the feeling you don't want to leave the plastic down all season -- that would really kill all soil organisms because they won't be able to breath, and what you'll have will be DEAD soil.

malkore
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Google solarizing for details...that's where I got this basic info...

You can solarize with clear 3mil plastic for killing weeds and weed seeds in soil, or black 3mil plastic if you're killing off sod to make a bed. (Buy it at Lowe's back in the construction area, not a garden center).

water DEEPLY, then cover 2 weeks. You need 4 hours of strong sun a day, then after 2 weeks, remove and til/dig/hoe, etc the soil.

If killing sod, water again and recover another 2 weeks to be safe.

the watering soaks the seeds, then the sun bakes them from the inside. You wnat to hit a soil temperature of 120F to really pull this off.
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garden5
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Good tip, Soil. If you do go the solarization route, tilling after the solarization will totally defeat the purpose. Tilling the soil will bring more weed seeds to the soil's surface where they can germinate.

Personally, I like the idea of mulching and think it would perhaps be a better bet for you. Once you get next year's garden planted, just spread a layer of hay, straw, or grass clippings around the plants. It will block out most of the weeds and break down, adding nutrients to the soil.
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tedln
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Charlie,

I may winter solarize my beds with clear plastic this fall/winter. I may also summer solarize my beds for a week with black plastic between my spring and fall gardens in the highest heat of next summer.

I will simply spread the plastic film over the beds and weight the edges with boards. Since I use soaker hoses, the means to get the moisture in is already in place.

I already have the plastic film. I keep rolls of it around for various purposes. For example, some of the clear plastic will be used to make a cold frame for my spring plants.

I have no idea how to suggest you can do it effectively for a garden your size other than say, roll it out over the area you want to solorize after wetting the area well. Weight the edges with dirt or rocks. It does need the edges effectively sealed to prevent cooler air entering or heat escaping.

Ted
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Charlie MV
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I'll look at what's available at Lowes. Soil, I meant no disrespect. I genuinely didn't understand what you meant unless you're saying to solarize during the summer which means I cant plant. Or do you mean that I should lay black plastic between rows. Could it be that simple?

Bottom line, I seriously thought I'd die a few days weeding this summer. I pant. My wife gets nauseated.

We wont survive weeding this much garden many more years and we aren't interested in gardening unless we can put up a years worth of food.

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You could hire some help! To till and pull weeds. Might can get cheap help to ;)
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garden5
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LindsayArthurRTR wrote:You could hire some help! To till and pull weeds. Might can get cheap help to ;)
Oh, yeah :idea:! You can find a neighbor kid and give him a couple of bucks once a month or so and have him weed out the garden. Kids are way better at pulling weeds than adults and always eager to make some extra bucks.
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albelge
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solarizing your soil

I've been solarizing my soil since 1972. I was original introduced to it in ORGANIC GARDENING MAGZINE and latter in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Dark plastic doesn't work, clear plastic is the way. The best time is at the end of growing season, take all your grass clippings, autumn leaves chopped up by your lawn mower is good enough, till it in and smooth it out just like you would if you were preparing your bed to plant. Then wait for a good soaking rain (or water over night – soaker hose). Then pull the clear plastic tight over the soil –get help, then seal the edges – I make a V in the soil and tuck it in on the edges. The sun and heat will suck the plastic down tight. The heat generated by the decomposing organic matter and the trapped solar heat will raise your soil temperature 160- 180 degrees F very easily. After doing this for 3 seasons you’ll have almost no weed seeds, nematodes or any other bad bugs. It also gets the soil temperature up so you can start earlier.


If it’s a month or two to go before planting, it’s still not too late, it’s just much better to do it after fall clean-up. You don’t leave it on, it will cook the roots, you pull it off and save it for next year.
I still mulch but only for conserving water and some plants prefer cooler soil. Hope this helps
gardening for more than 40 years (since 14 yrs old)

Bobberman
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I am not sold on this clear plastic method because plants grow fast under clear plastic! The other problem comes from the seeds that are deeper and when you make the garden the seeds are dug up and sprout! Some of the weeds are not seeds but tuff roots that will grow in many directions from one root! Plastic can be bought in 25 by 100 4 mill at most places for about $50 to $60! The compost and clear plastic on top may work to some extent but there are alot of variables it seems to me! I would simply use black plastic or a straw mulch! I have used black plastic for years and one the ground is soaked you can't beat it! There are alot of ways to use black plastic in just sections or with small holes for the plants. Black plastic or colored plastic of different colors works better on some plants. I have even found that once the plants take shape make holes in the black plastic near the plants and put a shovel of finished compost over the hole or just cover the hole with weedless potting soil or better soil mix near the plant!! Tomatoes & vine crops and peppers do great with black plastic. Peppers I would put some white plastic over the black around the peppers when they get bigger!! I use my own method of planting through the blak plastic by cutting the holes in the plastic folds when I roll it out and usually one cut gives 4 uniform holes i only takes 5 minute to cut a 25 foot by 10 roll with 60 or more holes spaced a foot apart!! Cuta half circle or a triangle and it opens up to a full circle or a triangle! When I plant tomatoes in the holesI use the pipe method where I sink the pry bar or pipe a foot or more down and make a 6 inch circle at the top like a funnel going down and place the tomato in the top 6 nches with a six inch or deeper narrow hole below it! This works take my word! 3 to 4 mills of black plastic works great and can be used for two or three years! The funnel shapped hole because of the way its made will have very few weeds showing up along the sides of the hole in the plastic. I feel the holes with a nice compost mix and throw some time release to the bottom of the hole! Gardening is 50 % imagination and common sense! I guess a little luck also helps!
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

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Gary350
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I never have much trouble with weeds. My Grandfather told me hoe the weeds when they are tiny they are easy to cut down. He also told me just scrap the surface of the soil don't hoe deep you want a thin layer of soil to dry out and act like insulation of the surface. I go the garden early in the morning about 3 times a week. It takes me about 10 minutes to hoe the whole 30x50 garden. July it gets hot and dry then I don't have to hoe the garden at all the rest of the summer weeds will not grow.

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GardenRN
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Well as usual I'll throw in my two cents in case my experience is of use to anyone :)

Last year when I was going to expand my garden I took a 30ftx40ft blue tarp and laid it out in the area I wanted to garden. I put hay bales out to hold down the edges and left it for about a month in the dead of summer. When I pulled it back, everything else had been cooked and I didn't get ANYTHING growing there before I got around to tilling it this winter. (which I am happy to say will be the last time I ever till my garden.)

So I'm guessing this is basically the same principle as your solarizing methods. Except you mentioned clear plastic which means some weeds may be able to grow. If you get black or something like my blue tarp it will keep out the sun and stop the weeds from ever getting started. I had a section of clear plastic on the ground for another reason and I can tall you it didn't even begin to stop the weeds. Mine are extremely heat tolerant little buggers. Good luck!

ab
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Inexpensive Help...

If you have an extra room in your home, or a place where people can pitch a tent, you can also list your farm for WOOFers, who are volunteers who want to help with organic farming. I work a few hours a week at an organic farm, and she almost always has WOOFers (even in winter!) who help out and who make a big difference. Many are college or post-college in age, and are interested in travel, organic living, etc. The ones I've met have been very nice, and even though I'm twice their age, I'm thinking about doing a little WOOFing myself, in the Irish county where my mother grew up on a farm.

Hope this information helps!

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Gary350
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I never have much of a problem with weeds. One trick is to get started off right to begin with. I till the garden every day for at least a week this kills all the grass and weeds that are trying to grow. I like to get an early start if I can. If there is a freak warm day but its too early to plant I till. If it rains for 3 weeks then gets sunny and warm again I till. I plant my rows wide enough so I can run the tiller between the rows with 6" to spare on each side. I till as often as I can just to kill weeds and grass. I hoe in the rows by hand about 5 to 10 minutes a couple times each week. Grass and weeds are easy to deal with if you kill them early. After the 100 degree days arrive grass and weeds are no longer a problem at all very few seeds sprout and grow 15 minutes of hoeing once a week is all it takes to deal with grass and most of the grass is too close to the plant to hoe so I crawl through the garden on my hands and knees pulling the grass by hand.

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