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Tackle Weeds the Natural Way
Instead of dousing your yard with chemicals to wipe out weeds, let time and nature work their magic via smothering and solarization
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The last warm weeks of summer and the early days of fall are perfect times to get a jump start on weed and pest control for next spring’s gardens. Smothering and solarization are two methods you can use to prepare garden spaces — both large and small — when time is not a factor. Both methods use simple, inexpensive and chemical-free techniques that result in healthy and nutrient-rich soil for planting.
Smothering is simply an exaggerated form of mulching. A thick layer of paper or cardboard, topped by several inches of organic matter, deprives existing weedy plants of light, thus inhibiting their growth. By using organic materials that decompose quickly, you also get the benefit of composting. Plant directly into the smothered area once the existing weeds are conquered.
How to smother weeds:
Solarization uses radiation from the sun plus moisture to heat soil to 99 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. This treatment not only kills weeds and weed seeds, but also soilborne pathogens such as fungi, parasitic nematodes, insects and some bacteria. Soil solarization also speeds up the breakdown of organic matter in the soil, resulting in more available nitrogen, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It’s a simple, chemical-free way to revitalize an old planting bed or prepare a new one.
How to solarize weeds:
Four to six weeks of solarization during the long, hot days of summer are enough to kill most weed seeds and soil pests. In the cooler days of fall and spring, six to eight weeks may be necessary.
Solarization is especially effective for controlling annual weeds and pests in gardens with plenty of sun and available moisture. It can be used in raised gardens as well as areas slated for new lawns. More detailed research information and technical data on solarization can be found here and here.
5 Ways to Naturally Win the Weed War
5 Weed-Smothering Ground Covers
Ideabook updated on Aug. 25, 2012.
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