This week I began testing a new (to me at least) gardening technique! Using black plastic tarps in the garden to kill off the weed growth underneath. The concept is simple and is something that I read about in The Market Gardener by Jean Martin Fortier. I highly recommend his book, especially if running a CSA style garden business is something that interests you. (See my review of The Market Gardener)
What do black plastic tarps in the garden do for your garden?
- The black plastic attracts heat from the sun which warms the soil.
- The heat underneath the tarp triggers germination of weed seeds in the soil.
- Weed seeds germinate! (under normal circumstances we don’t like this but for the tarp technique we do!)
- The plastic blocks light and moisture from getting to the weeds.
- The weeds can’t survive without the light and moisture and die.
- After a few weeks the black plastic can be removed and the soil underneath planted in for your desired crop.
That’s the idea! I’m only now exploring this option and I will report back to you on my findings. I have about 3-4 weeks before planting out my tomatoes in this location. By then the weeds should be sufficiently killed off and I can remove the tarp to use in another location.
What I like about the tarp technique is that I am using only the sun to kill the weeds. No chemicals are being used which I think is very important for in my garden. When selecting a tarp (Am. Aff.) it is important that you pick one that does not allow water through. I am hoping that this will work against my Bermuda grass which continues to creep in no matter what steps I take!
Update on Using Plastic Tarps for Gardening
After a couple years of using the black plastic tarps in the garden I can enthusiastically say that this is VERY helpful. The tarps do kill off the weeds if given enough time and leave a ready to work garden spot.
The tarps help create a clean slate for me to work. Yesterday I was clearing a 12’x 12′ garden area of weeds. It took about an hour and a half and I ended up with a bunch of weed matter. All those weeds were using nutrients from that garden area.
I removed the tarp from another area of the garden and had a completely cleared garden space ready to utilize. The only thing left to do was to form any beds I might want to create. I moved the tarp to another spot to start clearing it for some summer crops.
A Couple Recommendations on Selecting Tarps
To make your tarp use efficient and easy to use I recommend getting tarps around the 10′-12′ size. Tarps of this size and fairly easy to move around and still can cover a good size garden area for most backyard gardeners.
Get several tarps to use for larger areas. Multiple tarps make customization of your weed control simple. If you had a really large tarp and wanted to do a smaller area then you are stuck doing some creative tarp origami.
Select a tarp that is UV resistant! This is important for the longevity of your tarp. Our tarps are UV resistant and are still in great shape after 3 years of constant garden use.
Here is a link to some other Tarps (Am.Aff.). Remember to check the listing to make sure it has UV Resistance.