The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to kill rye without mowing or tilling

Garden solarization

Prepped garden bedsWhat do you do if you cut your rye repeatedly for goat fodder, meaning that it never quite manages to bloom and thus to be easily killable by mowing? Solarize, of course!

It's been so blazing hot here recently that the clear plastic required less than a week to completely bake the rye underneath. Only the most shaded bed (in the foreground) had to remain covered when I checked my solarization beds Monday. The other sheets of plastic moved on to kill some old lettuce that I was too lazy to pull up.

Solarized rye

The solarized rye now looks like a thick coating of straw just waiting to be planted into...but it isn't. As with mow-killed rye, I'll need to wait at least two more weeks for microbes to decompose woody roots before it's safe to set out seeds or transplants into the dead cover crop. If I was in a big hurry, I could instead lay down a heavy dose of compost...but I've got more time than compost at the moment, so I'll cool my heels.

If the links above don't sate your interest, you can read more about solarization (and other small-scale no-till tricks) here and can read more about no-till cover crops here. Enjoy!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Greetings. I love this place! Y'all are livin' the dream for sure. I live in Texas so out climate differs a wee bit from where you are. Down here black plastic is often used to cook the plants underneath it. I know you guys are really thoughtful and careful about not impacting the environment in a detrimental way. I was wondering if there was a reason you find the clear plastic superior or less damaging than black for this purpose. Like doctors that take a vow to first do no harm I strive to keep to natural methods whenever possible and leave the "good guys" alone. Thanks for all y'all do!
Comment by Wendy Wed Jun 15 10:48:38 2016
You can see quite a lively discussion of black vs. clear plastic in the comments section here. It's quite possible that Texas gets so hot it doesn't really matter which you use! But those of us in borderline solarization climates will actually kill weeds faster with clear rather than black plastic.
Comment by anna Wed Jun 15 16:19:13 2016

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