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Bake away pests with sunshine and plastic

By Wade Hutcheson
University of Georgia

If you have decided not to plant a fall garden, you can still work your garden spot to reduce next year's pests.

The task has been proven to achieve pest control whether your pest is a weed, an insect or a disease. The practice is called soil solarization.

According to research conducted at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, soil solarization works best when it's done during the summer. Select a time when you don't mind your garden spot being temporarily out of service.

Your next season garden can be planted after the process is complete. Summertime temperatures heat the soil deeply to improve solarization results.

To 'solarize' the soil, till the spot then water thoroughly. Cover the site with a layer of clear plastic and secure the edges.

Small blocks of wood or bricks should be placed on the sheet of plastic in a grid fashion. Then cover this layer with a second layer of plastic and secure the edges again.

The sun will heat the soil through the plastic and the air that's trapped between the two sheets of plastic. This essentially cooks the pests. Leave this in place 2 to 3 months.

Upon replanting, till shallow so as not to bring up weed seeds that are deep and unaffected by the solarization process.

The downside to soil solarization is it can harm beneficial insects, too. Often the trade off is worth it as the beneficials will eventually return.

(Wade Hutcheson is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent serving Spalding, Henry and Newton counties.)

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