Monday, June 3, 2013

Soil Solarization

When I was preparing the garden plot for planting the sweet corn and at the same time digging and pulling out the dollar weed, the idea of soil solarization occurred to me.  It seemed so promising.  Wouldn't it be quite marvelous if it would work and destroy the dollar weed in particular as well as soil borne pests and insects that are not beneficial for the vegetable plants?

The idea of soil solarization is to "reduce pests, diseases, and weeds." and even nematodes, a foe for Florida gardeners. Solarization is the process of using heat from the sun to solve, "to kill," soil problems by prolonged exposure to high temperatures.  To be most effective in North Florida, this procedure should be carried out during the hottest time of the summer.  Not only that, but it will take six to eight weeks to be successful.

To prepare the soil for the solarization process, all plant debris need to be removed, the area should be tilled, smoothed out, and moistened.  After this is done, the area is covered with a clear plastic and the edges should be tightly secured.  The thinner the plastic is, the more heat will penetrate.  Clear plastic produces higher temperatures faster than black plastic.

We tried this at the Back Forty a few years back.  We had a small area in the garden free of vegetables--a bare spot with nothing growing.  We followed instructions for soil solarization and removed debris, tilled the area, smoothed it out, and wet it down, and covered it with clear plastic.  To make sure that the plastic would stay in place, we covered all the edges with dirt.  We let it sit for at least six weeks which is a long time.

I overheard a lady at the hardware store with the helpful people telling a salesperson in the garden department about soil solarization.  She liked it very much and thought that it was working for her.
She highly recommended this process.

Soil solarization may not be necessary or advisable in color climates where pests and disease may not be as prevalent and obnoxious as in humid and warmer/hotter areas.  Some claim that vegetables or any other kind of plants will grow better in soil that has been treated by solarization.  What do you think of this idea?

Source:  "A New Leaf," a publication sponsored by University of Florida IFAS Extension, July/August 2006.

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