Organic Weed and Pest Control Through Soil Sterilization

Harness heat from the sun for organic weed and pest control using the organic gardening method of solar soil sterilization.

Solar soil sterilization offers the organic gardener an organic weed and pest control method that leaves the soil free from weeds, nematodes and harmful insects, yet ready to plant with new crops. Soil sterilization harnesses solar power to heat soil temperatures above what weeds and pests can tolerate. Used in June, July and August, and September, soil sterilization creates a weed and pest-free garden bed without adding harmful chemicals to the soil.

About Soil Sterilization and Organic Weed Control Methods

Weed Control

Soil sterilization uses the sun’s rays to heat the soil to high temperatures. It’s totally natural, organic, and uses no fossil fuels. Best of all, it leaves behind no harmful chemical residue. Many organic farms and growers use soil sterilization on a massive scale, but the home gardener can use it on a much smaller scale to the same good effect. Gardeners must pull mature weeds from the treatment area and remove rocks, stumps and branches. Then the soil is ready for sterilization.

Equipment Needed for Solar Soil Sterilization and Organic Weed Killers

In addition to weed pulling equipment such as gardening gloves, rakes, hoes and a wheelbarrow to carry away the weeds, gardeners wishing to try the organic weed control method of solar soil sterilization need a large roll of heavy duty clear plastic and a shovel. Only heavy, clear plastic works for soil sterilization. Dark plastic doesn’t allow the sun’s rays to penetrate the soil and silver-coated or reflective plastic simply bounces the rays back off the soil surface. The idea is to allow as much of the sun’s rays onto the soil through the plastic to bake it like an oven.

How to Use Solar Soil Sterilization for Organic Gardening Pest and Weed Control

Gopher control

To use this method in the garden, follow these steps. Be sure to use this method during the hottest months of the year. In most gardening zones, June through September are the best months, but check with the local County Cooperative Extension office for local questions or general questions about soil sterilization.

  • Determine the area to be sterilized and purchase clear plastic to cover it.
  • Pull mature weeds and remove any plants; soil sterilization kills anything under the plastic, so do not use it near any plants you wish to keep.
  • Remove rocks, roots and any other debris.
  • Gently hoe or rake the soil.
  • Moisten the soil with water or wait until a rain shower.
  • Pull the plastic taut over the area to be sterilized.
  • Dig a little trench around the perimeter of the plastic, and bury the edges to form a tight seal.
  • Allow the sun’s rays to bake through the plastic for at least four weeks.
  • Check daily for holes in the plastic and check the edges. Both allow heat to escape. Fix holes and rebury the edges to recreate a tight seal.
  • Remove plastic after at least four weeks have passed.

Cautions when Using Soil Sterilization

There are a few cautions to keep in mind when using this organic gardening weed control method. The heat generated by solar sterilization kills most weeds but some may germinate. If so, pull them out manually. The high temperatures usually kill insect larvae and insects, but they also kill beneficial bacteria and fungi that colonize the soil.

Apply compost, compost tea, or an organic fertilizer to the area after soil sterilization is complete to encourage colonies of helpful soil bacteria to form again. Do not use this method on or around existing plants; it will kill or damage them. Be sure to remove any tall weeds, since weeds, rocks and sticks on the ground may poke through the plastic and prevent proper soil sterilization.

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About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...

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