July 30, 2013 by suchandsuchfarm
Earlier this summer, we started solarizing our new garden expansion. Basically, we plowed and tilled up the next section of hay field that’s going to be next year’s garden and laid a bunch of tarps over it. The tarps prevent weeds and hay from re-growing there all summer long. The basic idea is that all that summer sinshine heats up the ground under the tarps and fries all the grass and hay underneath. It also prevents a buttload of cursing next summer when we’re trying to weed. So the tarps were all spread out and so we waited. And waited. And waited. But now it’s time to pull off the tarps and see if this whole solarization thing actually worked, then we’re fixin’ to get our fall garden on!
I’m not gonna lie to you, pulling the tarps off was a pain in the ass! When we laid out the tarps this spring we weighted it down with dirt. It seems that the tarps and dirt have developed a symbiotic relationship since then. They have become like one. So when we were trying to take the dirt off the tarps there was a lot of tarp tearing and such. In hindsight, we probably should have taken the time to collect a bunch of rocks, or brought railroad ties or cedar posts down to the garden and weighted the tarps down with something heavy instead. Oh well.
Zach and Dave had been doing a little experiment with the tarp colors to see what color would solarize the soil better. Dave was on team black tarp, and Zack on team clear tarp. Dave felt black tarps would solarize better because the heat from the sun would be absorbed by the black color better. Zach said clear tarps would create a greenhouse effect and solarize better. Well, we had black, blue and clear tarps and it turned out that they both were right. Clear tarps would definitely work better, however the particular clear tarps we had were clear but also very white in color. Because of their white color, they also reflected a lot of light. And never got as hot as the black tarps. When we pulled the tarps off, everything under the few really clear tarps we did have was completely dead. Then the black tarps with a few stragglers, third was clear/white tarps and in last place, the blue tarps which actually still had a few asshole weeds hanging out underneath them. For the most part, it fried any sort of nasty weed that was even thinking about coming to the surface of the soil. All in all, solarization was about 85% successful. Not too shabby! We also found that the black tarps we could find were also thicker and held up better than the thinner white translucent tarps. Those things tore when you just looked at it funny. So if you can find a really, really thick clear plastic tarp, that might work the best. But when we were looking, the thinnest tarps were usually clear.
In case you’re wanting to do this yourself, we got the white/clear and black tarps from Home Depot/Lowe’s paint section. If you remember from our first solarizing post, we also used some old billboards that we got from Advanced Craftsmanship in Festus, MO. These actually worked pretty well, probably because they were so heavy. They worked better than the blue tarps, however, that puts them solidly in second to last place.
So with the solarization complete and the tarps pulled off, we were ready to get the fall garden ready. It’s crazy to think that in July we’re thinking about frost dates and cold weather crops but it’ll be here before you know it! So we sectioned off a part of the new garden expansion. We have a 25’x200′ section of fall garden to work with. That will give us five 3′ rows with walking paths in between. The rest of the expansion will get cover cropped with sorghum sudan grass.
A few months ago, this fall garden used to be a hay field so we’re gonna need to feed it lots of nutrients and organic matter. Enter BFC Compost in Perryville. We first used their compost in this year’s garden and we can really tell a difference in the quality of our plants. BFC is the only place in the area that’s licensed to do butcher’s waste compost. Meaning, they grind up bone meal and blood meal. Their facility is very impressive, even though it smells the way hell probably smells. Huge piles of roadkill, deceased cattle, deer carcasses and other dead animals. But hey! The plants love it. Death = life. Go figure.
We rented a compost spreader from BFC as well. A lot better than shoveling and raking by hand! Probably saved us 58302010298473929048 man hours.
We spread the compost about 2″ thick and then tilled it all back in.
So with the garden ready to go, we made the beds for our fall garden and mulched the walking paths with straw. The rest of the expansion will get covered in sorghum sudan grass cover crop seed.
Sudan grass is already starting to take off. We’ll keep ya’ll posted!