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More good solarization results

Soybeans in solarized ground

The photo above shows the results of two different solarization experiments. On the right, two-week-old soybeans are happily growing in ground that used to be a mass of ground ivy prior to solarization (begun two weeks before planting). The weeds have nearly completely decayed into the soil and the soybeans appear to be thriving. There are a few smartweeds coming up from seeds, but none of the perennial weeds have regrown at all.

On the left, you can see a newly solarized area, the ground-ivy debris still lying dead on the soil surface. I could have ripped up those weeds by hand, but the bed would have lost all of that organic matter and my fingers would have been exhausted afterwards. Instead, five minutes of work results in richer soil ready for a round of cover crops.

Preparing for solarization

I've been pretty tentative with my solarization experiments so far because I initially didn't buy into the technique. But with so many successes under my belt, I asked Mark to buy me another roll of clear plastic and am preparing half of our brussels sprouts beds using the lazy-gardener method. The photo above shows a bed that used to be weedy lettuce (full of red clover), which I scythed, then topdressed with soiled goat bedding, and (after the photo was taken) covered with a sheet of clear plastic. I'm excited to see what the soil will look like in three weeks when the brussels sprouts are ready to go into the ground. Maybe solarization will become my fast-and-easy soil prep step in future garden years?



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i have been following this solarization project with interest. i wondered if adding the goat bedding sped up the decomposition process under the plastic. seems like a great way to prepare fall planting beds after an earlier crop.....
Comment by debra Thu Jun 25 19:34:24 2015

I"m interested in this project too! I have only tried solarization for a longer term, like two or three months. Looks like we were reading some of the same sources from the University of California Ag and Natural Resources folks. I was under the impression that the best results would come from almost NO vegetation left underneath the plastic, ground scraped clean and then watered down, with the clear plastic sealed carefully around the edges. Looks like you are trying a different and easier to pull off approach. I am going to have to give your way a try! --Heather

Comment by Heather in CA Sun Jun 28 17:41:21 2015

Heather in CA --- In my head, I'd replied to this interesting comment...but apparently I didn't actually type my answer on the blog. :-)

I suspect that the folks who scrape the ground clean are aiming for solarization that kills all weed seeds. Because my method definitely doesn't go that far. There are weeds coming up as usual in my solarizaed beds. On the other hand, just killing existing plants is pretty good by my standards since I can then plant cover crops to beat out the emerging weeds. Perhaps the ultimate low-work method would be to solarize the way I'm doing, then using ocultation (which I haven't tried yet) to sprout the weed seeds and kill them.

Comment by anna Tue Jun 30 11:55:23 2015