Solarizing a Garden Bed.. Finally!!

Garden Solarization 101

So it’s March. Most of you are already in the bed. Ma Nature has been the comedienne lately. But, it’s time again to recover our knowledge. The following diatribe, is about how to Solarize a garden bed. Forsythia is about to pop everywhere in the mid Atlantic. Soil temps are heating up. So here’s the 1-2-3 about Gardening Your Soil.

First, even out the beds. No weeding, just rake out and level, and pull out the debris. If it’s been dry, where you are, lightly water after top dressing with compost, 10-10-10, or whatever.

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Next, top dress with about 1/2 inch compost, or a bit of 10-10-10. You are feeding volunteers, weeds, any seed that may come up later. Water lightly. Then, CLEAR plastic. Not black. Black kills. You want to “promote” growth. Bugs, included.

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Then stretch a clear piece of plastic across, and weight down corners and sides. You just made a terrium, and things will heat up and grow, hatch, germinate. In a few weeks, you will see this. Sometime in early April, watch the weather. “Hard frost” or “Freeze” tonight. Go look at your bed. Lime green weak looking plants, and even insect trails on the plastic.. Take it off that evening, and let Ma Mature fry everything.

Ya did it. Less weeds, insects, chemicals. Yeah, it’s a chance if the weather goes right. Late snow? No problem. It will melt. Just wait for that frost. I mentioned Forsythia again earlier. When it blooms, we have gained 2 hours of daylight, and the soil temp is 58 degrees for 5 days, at 4 inches. Things will explode out. If you saw my post a few weeks ago about thawing out pipes with mirrors, then you will really get it.  You, with this method of solarizing, are hastening the evolution…. See? Oh, BTW, Black plastic is no. Black plastic kills plant life IF there is green leaf. Black is good if you are killing off a spot for a future bed. In your garden, Clear promotes that germination. I know you see it now.

Have fun. Get to work.

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February Is Cold, But How Warm?

February Solar Temps Compared To Ambient?

Here in Richmond, Va., we have finally gotten a Winter Blast that reminds us it’s still, Winter. But, we have also achieved about an hour and 20 minutes of daylight. Check your gained time here at the USNO website, just fill in the blanks. What’s that mean to a gardener? Well, it’s like this. The angle of the Sun is rocketing from low in the South, back to East, basically. The soil temps from this angle is warming up. By the time Forsythia blooms in March, we will have 2 hours gained. But the ambient temp now is around 11, and the real feel is about 0 to -4. Was worse the other day, and tonight, worse yet. But the Sun is helping in this February blast.

Last week I had pipes freeze. No way to get anything to the well house and tank to apply heat. so, I took a digital thermometer and placed in the shade a few minutes, and as it got down to 50 degrees or so, I then put it in the direct Sun. It jumped up to 75 degrees. Now, I have done this next thing before, and it works. I took 3 large mirrors, and pointed them all at the inlet pipe and accumulator tank under the house. Had to readjust every 45 minutes or so, but from around 11:30 to 2:30, the water came back. The well house is on the North side of this old house. I could feel the heat every time I stepped in front of the mirrors, and it was warm inside that pump house. Pic below is of my endeavors. The pipe is behind tank.

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The next thing I had to try after the snow, was to see if on the same North side, if I could use the same method melting an ice dam. Here’s the pics of that chore. Before and after, about 3 hours time. Just an experiment, wasn’t going to do them all!!

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What’s this have to do with Gardening? Everything. For Hoop Houses, Green Houses, Cold Frames, Solarizing your beds, if you can’t get heat to them in an untimely cold blast, find a mirror and use the Sun to your advantage. Place a few jugs of water inside, and point the mirrors at the jugs. They will get to 75 degrees this time of year. There, that’s it. A little work, but save the crops and your work if you get caught in the ice.