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Solarizing new garden bed

 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Hello,

I am about to re-establish an old bed by turning it into a mushroom/compost wood chip garden bed.  I just put up 2x10 borders, but the bed sat fallow last year and I have a ton of weeds in the old bed.  I am pretty sure that if I put chips on top that the weeds will make their way through the wood chips and re emerge on top in no time.

I was thinking about solarizing the weeds, but having never done this, I am wondering how to do it and how long will it be to kill the weeds.  Also, are there any downsides to solarizing?  In particular I am thinking that if I am killing the weeds I might also kill soil microbes.  

So I am wondering if anyone out there has any suggestions or pointers.

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
pollinator
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Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
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This is a pretty concise overview.

Urban Farmer Curtis Stone has a couple videos on it as well that I think are really good but I'm having trouble finding them.
This one is on tarps and covers in general.


The one I'm really thinking of though is on new site prep. If I remember correctly he will go through an are and use a fork to loosen the soil and then pull out the weeds and root balls. He then soaks it and covers it with a tarp. A week later he comes back and flame weeds it, waters heavily, and covers. He does this for about 4 weeks to basically sterilize it of weeds.

Hope that helps!
 
Eric Hanson
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Caleb,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.  Welll I guess I will be pulling a lot of weeds this weekend as I don’t think I can wait 4 weeks at this time of the year.  I will go out, pull weeds and maybe lay down some paper or cardboard down as a weed barrier before I add in the mulch.

Thanks anyways,

Eric
 
Caleb Mayfield
pollinator
Posts: 173
Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
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I did cardboard last year and it worked well. What I found to be key for me was using the cleanest and thinnest cardboard I could find, soaking the ground before laying it down and after, then getting a layer of dirt/mulch/compost on it right away.
I did use a tiller to basically smooth out the top half inch to inch and break free the roots of the crabgrass clumps. Keeping the cardboard wet was the key to getting it to breakdown.

If you have a Red Wind Shoe store nearby hit them up for boxes. The small and medium boxes that they use to distribute from the warehouses are perfect.
 
pollinator
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Last year I put in about 500 sq' of garden on top of the grass.  I was working out of town so I was very rushed and got a late start.  On some sections I laid out cardboard, on some I put lumber down to smother the grass, and one bed didn't get anything because I didn't have material.

I wet the cardboard at times, but pretty much just let it all sit for 3 weeks (late start).  I then got several yards of compost and used it to build my beds.  I picked up all the lumber and put down about 3-4" of compost for each bed; some on cardboard, some on smothered grass, and some right on the grass.  After 3 weeks the smothered grass was starting to die out.

I then put down weeper hose on the beds and covered all the beds with black plastic I got from Home Depot.  The plastic was 10'X100', so I cut it in half and laid it out 5' wide over my beds.  I used an edger to cut the grass beside the bed, tucked the plastic into the trench, and stamped it down to secure the plastic.  I let that sit for a week (with watering) and then planted my garden through the plastic.

Most of the 'soil' I had was an inch or two deep over gravel where there had been car parking, so I wasn't working with much.  My garden did surprisingly well for such crappy soil, though I did use compost tea on it fairly regularly.  When I planted I found the beds were a worm paradise, with 2-3 worms found in every trowel hole.  About a month after I planted the garden really took off and I think that was at least partially due to the grass finally giving up the nitrogen.  

Personally, I wouldn't remove anything, just cover with cardboard, add compost, put in weeper hose, then cover with plastic.  I didn't have to weed at all, thanks to the plastic mulch.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Timothy,

Thanks for the feedback about the cardboard.  Around my house we never lack for cardboard boxes and this sounds like a perfect use for it.  Like you, I have had good experience using old tests as a weed barrier, and as I am a teacher, I get plenty of tests every year.  I actually stopped recycling tests a while ago because I can use them as weed barriers.

I think I will give the cardboard a shot,

Eric
 
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