How to Use the Sun to Control Weeds and Pests in the Soil

Soil solarization is a highly effective, non-chemical method for controlling soilborne diseases that spread in the top 6 inches of soil.

If you plan ahead, soil solarization is an ideal solution for killing weed seeds, controlling nematodes and pests, eliminating soilborne plant pathogens, and improving tilth and soil biology.

Think of it as a solar oven in the garden, baking everything underneath it—and what comes out is sterile soil, free of the problems that used to plague your plants.

1. Prepare the soil.

For successful solarization, the soil should be smooth and flat to allow the plastic to lay snug against it. Till or turn over the soil and remove or break up any clods, rocks, sticks, and hard roots.

Once your soil is smoothed over, set your garden hose or irrigation system over the bed and water deeply. You want the top 12 inches of soil to be moist.

2. Choose the right kind of plastic.

Surprisingly, clear plastic is actually more effective than black plastic at heating up soil. The sun’s rays easily pass through clear plastic, only to be trapped inside to heat the soil.

3. Cover your raised bed tightly and completely.

Cut the plastic to fit, leaving at least 8 inches of overhang on all sides.

You can hold the plastic down with heavy objects (like 2x4s, pipes, bricks, cinder blocks, or whatever you have around the house) placed around the perimeter of the bed, making sure they’re tucked tightly against the inside walls if you’re covering a raised bed.

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