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Re: Solarization for the home gardener

Kay writes:
<<Graham would probably know better than I would, but it seems that every
English book I read talks about chemical fumigation to accomplish the same

Not something I have much experience of, I must admit. For many years this
sort of thing has been used by organic gardeners - they have been somewhat
marginalised over here, often ridiculed. Usually, British gardeners refer to
using black plastic rather than clear. I have to admit that I do not think it
would have a great deal of impact on anything other than weeds - certainly
not microbes. Best to use a sterilant chemical - there are several available,
and I would be inclined to check what is available locally. Also check with
your local USDA office for recommendations and safety information - our
Ministry of Agriculture is very helpful - or contact sterilant manufacturers.
Chemicals containing dazomet are popular here - you apply the sterilant
powder to freshly dug moist soil, and then mix it in to a depth of 8 inches
with a rotovator. Then cover the area with plastic (clear) and dig it in at
the edges to seal it. Leave it for two to three weeks. My text books then
recommend removing the plastic, taking a few soil samples in pots and sowing
mustard or cress or some other fast germinating seed to ensure that it is
safe to plant and that the chemical has dispersed. All of this is best done
when it is mild - 60F plus.
If weed control is your primary aim, use the stale-seedbed technique (which
is what we do):
1. clear your planting area well in advance and dig it - the more time, the
2. let all the weeds germinate and develop secondary leaves.
3. kill 'em! Use a contact herbicide like paraquat (not a residual
4. Repeat steps 2-3. Do not cultivate. There more often you do this the
5. Plant as normal - there will be far fewer weeds!

For more information on organic weed/microbe control, contact the Henry
Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) - Europe's largest organic gardening
research organisation:

Ryton Organic Gardens, Ryton on Dunsmore, Coventry, West Midlands CV8 3LG

Telephone (+44) (0)1203 303517
Fax (+44) (0)1203 639229
Contact: Jackie Gear
Subscription (UK): #15 individual

Hope that this is useful

Graham Spencer
Croftway Nursery, UK

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