Gardening with Laurie: Use solarizing to kill weeds in your garden
June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.
By Laurie Garretson
June is the time of year when hot, dry weather can hinder our gardening routines. It's just not as much fun to be outdoors. Try to schedule your garden chores early in the morning or early in the evening. Be sure to have your hat on and your water bottle with you at all times.
There is one thing the hot sunny days are good for. Killing weeds. All gardeners have weeds to get rid of at one time or another. One of the ways natural gardeners kill weeds is to apply a strong vinegar to unwanted vegetation. I'm not talking about some salad type of vinegar, which is usually a 5 percent vinegar. I'm talking about the big guns of organic weed control, 20 and 21 percent vinegar. These strong vinegars can kill what they touch, undesirable as well as desirable plants. You do have to be careful how you apply it.
Another thing hot sunny days can be good for is to solarize using a plastic covering. Solarizing uses the heat from the sun to basically cook the soil, which then kills off vegetation and many pathogens. This method won't kill all weeds, but it sure helps get rid many of them.
To prepare an area to be solarized, mow or weed-eat all the weeds down. Next, till the soil to a uniform texture, and then rake the area to smooth out the soil. The smoother the soil surface, the closer contact the plastic covering can be to the soil. This will aid in the heating process and make for a better kill.
Before covering the soil with clear plastic, water the entire area to saturate it down to about a foot depth. Wet soil will respond much better to solarizing than a dry soil.
To prepare the plastic sheeting, cut a clear sheet of plastic to a size that's 12- to 14-inches wider and longer than the actual area. Now, you're ready to lay the plastic in place. Pull the plastic tight, and smooth it out over the soil. Secure the sheet of plastic to the ground with bricks or rocks to hold it in place, or dig a shallow trench around the perimeter of the area. The outer edge of the plastic is then laid in the trench and covered up with dirt, rocks or bricks. The longer you leave the plastic on, the better the kill. Expect to wait at least four to six weeks for a good kill.
For the more deeper rooted, heat-tolerant weeds, you may need a second solarizing treatment. Re-till the soil before putting the plastic back down for the second treatment. When the solarizing is completed, you will need to add some good compost and a natural fertilizer back to the soil. The area is ready to start replanting.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.