Our next garden-experiment-that-I-may-live-to-regret is solarization. I'm trying all of these experiments for my upcoming soil book,
but this one was also spurred on by my fall oats cover crop not dying
as expected. I suspect the uncharacteristic overwintering ability of the
oats came about because I grazed it repeatedly in the fall, which kept
the plants at a vegetative state rather than ever getting close to
flowering. No matter why
the oats survived, I was left with a conundrum --- how to turn that
area back into plantable ground without tilling up the oats or lots of
Solarization might be the
answer. The idea is that you prepare your beds (in my case by letting
Abigail eat the oats as low as she could and then begging Mark come in
with the weedwhacker to finish off the job), then you stretch a piece of
clear plastic tight over the ground to bake what's left behind.
Solarization only works during the sunny part of the year and can take
anywhere from one to three months to kill weeds and pests in the earth.
Of course, the biologist in me says --- what's to prevent solarization
from killing all of the beneficial soil microorganisms too? And, since
the plastic dropcloths often used for solarization aren't UV-stabilized,
will we end up having to pick plastic out of our soil when the
greenhouse layer disintegrates in the garden?
Mark always rolls his
eyes when I poke holes in techniques I haven't even tried, so I shrugged
and decided to give solarization a whirl. Worst-case scenario, we'll
have a biologically dead bed that I can perk back up with some
well-behaved cover crops and compost. Best-case scenario, we'll have a
bed ready to plant into in June with very little work on my part. Stay
tuned for more details as the experiment progresses!
Update: It works! Check out my ebook Small-Scale No-Till Gardening Basics for more information.
Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.
Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.