Don’t count your weeds before they hatch: update on occultation vs. solarization for weed suppression in no-till cabbage

Tarps were removed on July 7 and cabbages  were transplanted soon after.

When I last wrote in June, I was really excited about how quickly the clear tarps were killing cover crops and weeds. I even proclaimed “the answer is clear: solarization is outperforming occultation.” Now that the tarps have been off and the cabbage has been in the ground for over six weeks, things have changed. I wanted to give an update, even though this is still preliminary, because the differences between treatments in terms of weed suppression are now so pronounced.

The good news first: the cabbages and weed suppression are looking really good where there were black tarps.

No-till transplanted cabbage in a rye-vetch mulch where weeds were suppressed using a black tarp prior to transplanting.

No-till transplanted Farao (Johnny’s) cabbage in a rye-vetch mulch where weeds were suppressed using a black tarp prior to transplanting.

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The answer is clear: solarization is outperforming occultation for killing cover crops

These are all preliminary results as this experiment is in progress. Things can change. 

UPDATE 8/24/16: Please see follow-up post on this experiment.

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I’ve got some data and I’ve got some pictures. Both are really interesting. If you missed the first post on this project, check it out here. So far, clear tarps appear to be killing cover crops and weeds quickly and effectively- more effectively than black tarps.

Carolyn checks out the difference between clear plastic (bottom) and black plastic (top) after two weeks of the tarp treatments.

Carolyn checks out the difference between clear plastic (bottom) and black plastic (top) after two weeks of the tarp treatments.

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Posted in Cover Crops, Equipment, Rye, Soil temperature, Vetch | Tagged | 1 Comment

Trading tillage for tarps: an effective way to kill weeds and cover crops?

It’s been so long! I apologize for my hiatus from this blog. I’m going to skip the chit chat and get right to the topic though: TARPS.

River the dog inspects the tarp at Fat Peach Farm in NH. Photo: Jennifer Wilhelm

River the dog inspects the tarp at Fat Peach Farm in NH. Photo: Jennifer Wilhelm

I know a lot of small-scale growers have been using tarps as a critical component of weed control in their systems and to facilitate minimum tillage organic production. Some folks call this practice “occultation.” There’s a bit of information online, including some great blog posts from Bare Mountain Farm in Oregon and Spring Forth Farm in North Carolina. A reader also alerted me to some research in Quebec where tarps were applied to cover crops in late fall and then a no-till broccoli crop was transplanted in June. Continue reading

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Phacelia is a bumble bee paradise

In my narrow-minded search for fall-planted, low-residue, winterkilled cover crops, I tried growing phacelia a few times to suit this purpose. It did ok, but I found that with good fall growth, it really isn’t low-residue in spring. More on that later. What I want to share here is that once I opened up my eyes a little (and was no longer being paid to look for low-residue, winterkilled cover crops), I finally discovered what the Europeans have known for a long time: phacelia is incredible as a spring-planted cover crop. Continue reading

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Cover crop mixtures: new factsheet

Selecting, seeding, and managing cover crop mixtures is the topic of a new factsheet from eOrganic written by our colleagues at Penn State. I had a chance to talk with Charlie White recently about their project and I’ll be sharing his thoughts on an episode of the podcast later this year. If you want the full run-down of their work, however, this factsheet is a must-read. Continue reading

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If you can see it, it’s too much

Sometimes, I feel like erosion is a big elephant in the room. It happens. It feels unlucky, it feels bad, and sometimes it feels inevitable. It is also still one of the biggest threats to long-term productivity and soil health that we face today, especially as the weather gets more erratic. Not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away. Soil erosion is not inevitable, nor is it just about luck. With certain management strategies, soil erosion can be dramatically reduced.  Continue reading

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No-till transplanted onions in New England

I met Annalisa Wild Miller at the Maine Agricultural Trade show, but I was rushed with other things on my mind so I didn’t get to talk with her much. I took note that she mentioned something about an article her husband, Joel, had written in Small Farmer’s Journal (SFJ). I don’t get SFJ, so I didn’t know what a fantastic photo essay it was about their trials with no-till transplanted onions until I recently got my hands on a copy. Joel has been kind enough to share his photos with me. Continue reading

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