Posted on 05 March 2011 by urbangardencasual.com

Sun Sterilization: Let the Sun Work for You

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

The other day I had a beginning gardener who asked me how to sterilize the soil in the garden.

Well I thought it was quite simple but for my friend it was not.

He had gone out and bought pans to sterilize his soil in the oven.

Then he planned to put it back into the garden. Well all I have to say is there are things that make you go “hmmm” and that is what I did.

To help him out, I went over to his place to show him how to sterilize his garden soil. I told him that the concept to sterilizing one’s garden soil requires thinking smarter not working harder. So we planned our attack on how to sterilize his garden soil.

First we marked off what was going to be the garden area. Then we spread out black plastic over the area and secured it with landscape stakes and bricks. This process works great if done in the early spring and allowed to set as long as possible before planting.

After several months of being covered and cooked by the sun, the grass, weeds, weed seeds and plant diseases will be killed. But some university studies have shown that not only does it kill unwanted pest but also wanted organisms such as worms, and soil bacteria.

As my friend and I were spreading out the plastic, I was explaining this fact to him. His response was one that many gardeners have stated after sterilizing their garden soil and that is “What is the correct approach?”

It is always better to avoid using any type of chemicals in the garden and solar sterilization to reduce the need for this. But to compensate for this, add compost and aged manure to the garden. A nutrient rich environment is very conducive to worms and other organisms so it does not take long for them to move back in. Also a good fertilizer program works to replace any nutrients that may have been lost due solar sterilization.

So until we blog again, gardening is full of nature that is both good and bad. To control the germs of nature, use solar radiation that we all have. Simply lay and tie down your plastic in the killing zone. And replenish the area with compost, aged manure and anything-organic goes. Ring the dinner bell for nature to come running before the garden goes in.

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