Weekend Gardening - Solarizing gardens for summer

Many of our local schools have done a great job educating students on gardening but when summertime rolls around, those gardens can go unattended. This week on Weekend Gardener, Randy Seagraves is talking about how teachers can preserve their gardens throughout the summer.

Below are the steps to solarize a garden. You can find photos and more information at jmgkids.us/SolarizingYourGarden.

Remove Plants
Remove existing vegetation(if not possible, mow the area to the shortest setting). Break up larger clods of soil. The goal is to get allow the plastic covering the garden to be on the surface of the soil.

Water Soil
When the vegetation is fully removed, water the soil. Your garden should look something like this…

Prepare Soil
After watering the soil, prepare the soil by using the hoe and rake to mound the soil in the middle so the sides can be covered with plastic.

Cover Soil
Cover the prepared soil with plastic.

Anchor Plastic
Anchor the plastic by placing soil on top of the plastic, along the sides of the garden.

Cut Plastic
Cut the plastic to fit the size of the garden.

Stabilize Plastic
Finally, stabilize the plastic with rocks in the middle. Your garden is prepared for solarization!

More Tips
Allowing at least six weeks of for the solarization to heat the garden will produce the maximum benefit of killing weeds and harmful soil organisms. When you come back in the fall, pull up the covering and you’ll be surprised by the beauty and inspiration of an empty garden canvas that is ready and begging to be planted. At this point little or no soil cultivation will be need. (Tilling the soil, more than a couple inches, increases the chances of bringing viable weed seeds back to the surface.)

Additional benefits to soil solarization include:

– speeding up the breakdown of organic material in the soil.
– releasing of soluble nutrients making them more available to plants.
– faster growing and higher yielding plants.
– improved disease and weed control, the increase in soluble nutrients.
– greater proportions of beneficial microorganisms in the soil.