Tip from the test garden

Soil solarization is an effective nonchemical way to control weeds and many diseases in planting beds. You trap solar heat under plastic sheets; the soil bakes, killing weeds and disease organisms.

If maximum air temperatures stay between 85° and 95°, the process takes 6 to 8 weeks; if it’s cooler, 8 to 10 weeks. (The process won’t work at 70° or below.)

1. Cultivate the soil in beds at least 30 inches wide. Rake to level the surface. Soak the soil to a depth of 12 inches using a hose or sprinkler.

2. Cover beds with 2-mil clear plastic sheets, bury the edges in soil, and stretch the plastic tightly to prevent air pockets.

In windy areas, use bricks to help hold it in place.

Seal any tears with transparent tape.

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