Black Plastic Tarps in the Garden

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?

  1. The black plastic attracts heat from the sun which warms the soil.
  2. The heat underneath the tarp triggers germination of weed seeds in the soil.
  3. Weed seeds germinate! (under normal circumstances we don’t like this but for the tarp technique we do!)
  4. The plastic blocks light and moisture from getting to the weeds.
  5. The weeds can’t survive without the light and moisture and die.
  6. After a few weeks the black plastic can be removed and the soil underneath planted in for your desired crop.
black plastic tarp in the garden to kill off weeds

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.