Since we’ve had high temperatures, high humidity, and frequent rain all summer, I was expecting to find the school garden full of weeds. When I checked it this week, I was surprised and pleased with the condition of the garden. There were plenty of weeds around the garden but not in the garden itself. Our preparation for summer in Florida was successful.
In early June at the end of the school year, we solarized the upper level of the garden. The purpose of solarizing is to trap the sun’s rays below a layer of plastic to heat the soil enough to kill the pests, especially the nematodes. To prepare to solarize we pulled out the last of the tomatoes, peppers, and the few weeds that were growing. We raked all of the mulch from between the rows and added it to the lower level butterfly garden. Next we thoroughly wet the soil in the upper level before covering it with clear plastic. The edges of the plastic were anchored in the soil and weighted with a few bricks. The plastic remained intact all summer and is still anchored on the edges, so there are no weeds in the upper level of the garden.
Last year we didn’t seal the plastic as well around the edge and used a thinner plastic, so we had gaps around the edge and in the middle where the plastic had failed. It was full of weeds at the end of the summer last year. Since our garden soil is still covered with the layer of plastic this summer, it doesn’t just mean the weeds couldn’t grow, it also means that the solarization process will have killed more of the nematodes than last year. That is good news and should result in healthier plants during the coming year.
The butterfly plants in the lower level has mulch between the plants. The purpose of the mulch is to help hold the moisture in the soil and to prevent the growth of weeds. At the end of this summer our lower level has healthy looking butterfly plants that have thrived in the summer rain and sunshine. There are a few weeds, but the mulch has done what it should to prevent most of the weeds from growing. It will just take a few minutes to get rid of the weeds to have the butterfly garden in good shape again.