How to Cover a Garden With Plastic to Kill Weeds

Written by thomas craughwell
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Pulling up weeds by hand is time-consuming and labour intensive. Even if you manage to clear every weed from your garden, there are thousands of weed seeds in the soil, not to mention fungus spores and the larvae of other garden pests. You can, however, kill every weed, weed seed, spore and larvae in your garden with just plastic sheeting and the sun.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Heavy-duty clear plastic sheeting
  • Bricks, breeze blocks or heavy wooden boards
  • Automatic sprinkler
  • Garden rake

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  1. 1

    Pull up very large weeds, remove all rocks and sticks. Rake up all garden debris. Make the area as smooth as possible. Using an automatic sprinkler, water the area overnight so that by morning the ground is saturated. Once the plastic has been spread over the garden, the intense humidity generated by the soaking will help kill the weeds and garden pests.

  2. 2

    Spread sheets of heavy-duty clear plastic over the area. Greenhouse plastic sheeting is the best because it is the most durable. For solarisation to work, the plastic sheeting must remain intact through the entire process, so secure the edges of the plastic with bricks, breeze blocks or heavy lengths of lumber. Make the plastic as air tight as possible.

  3. 3

    Leave the plastic in place for four to six weeks. The temperature under the plastic will rise to about 60 degrees C, killing everything trapped under the sheeting. After the sun has done its work, roll up the plastic, rake up the dead weeds and plant your new garden.

Tips and warnings

  • You will not need to add fertiliser or compost to the solarised garden. The heat generated during the solarisation process releases nitrogen, calcium, magnesium and other nutrients that were lying dormant in the soil.
  • Don't skimp on the sheeting. If you opt for a cheaper grade of plastic, the heat of the sun may crack or split it open, or it may be torn by a fallen tree branch. If the intense heat under the plastic escapes, then you must begin the solarisation process all over again.

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