Question: Solarizing lawn, should saplings/shrubs be removed?

njbiologyApril 15, 2009


I plan on applying 1 mil. thick clear plastic in solarizing my lawn and future garden plots. However, I have a number of small tree saplings and shrubs, all of which are removable; should I relocate them to a different part of the property until next spring, after the plastic has been removed.

I could leave them where they are and extend the plastic coverage short of 2 feet from each sapling's/shrub's trunk (these are new saplings/shrubs that do not have roots that extend beyond 1' from the base.)

The only problem I see with this is a slight loss in benefit where the soil directly around and specific to tree (4 x 4 area) does not get to be treated; and the second issue is that I cannot just lay down a single sheet - I have to subdivide it into multiple cuts to work around the 10 shrubs/trees.

1. Would you recommend that I remove the just recently planted shrubs/saplings and ball-and-burlap their roots and place them in the ground for this year somewhere else out of the way? I want to b&b the roots because I want to be able to remove the plants which, in a few cases have deep tap roots, to assure that they tap root doesn't manage to establish itself this year before I have a chance to put it in its intended place. I have two 5' pawpaw saplings which put forth deep tap roots.

2. Would you recommend I just leave them where they are and not worry about solarizing the soil associated with the holes they have been planted in (for fungus, disease, etc.) since solarizing mostly affects the upper-soil surface and if there are issues in the soil, the deep roots will encounter these unfavorable conditions anyway.



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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Woody plants have a shallow, fibrous root system that would certainly be broiled with solarization (if done properly). In other words, the working part of the root system is most definitely in the upper few inches of soil. Even 'tap-rooted' plants comply to this.

Another factor is that it takes a very short time for newly planted trees and shrubs (as long as they were planted correctly) to establish a root system well into the surrounding soil area, far beyond the trunk.

Since proper solarization requires an air tight fit, I don't think that laying the plastic down piece-meal would be successful. I also worry a bit about the thinness of your plastic. Don't you think that you'll have problems with it becoming brittle and/or ripping? How long are you planning on keeping the plastic on the lawn?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 2:09PM
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Why are you going to solarize this soil? What do you want to accomplish? Since solarizing the soil, the soil needs to reach 120 degrees for a fairly long time for that to be sucessful, will kill off anything that grows int that soil it would be essential that any plants growing there that you wish to save be moved.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 7:12AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Kimmsr, while it is true that solarization can be damaging to soil biota, it's been proven that populations quickly recover. Thus, in those instances where solarization might be truly helpful, it's likely that the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Steve, what are you needing to kill? Just out of curiosity.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 3:40PM
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I will remove invasive, non-native weeds and grasses. I think I might as well just end the plastic 3' from all trunks - these saplings will not put out too many lateral/shallow roots beyond 3' from the trunk this season. just doing this for the summer. if they do cook, it will just prune the roots, not kill the plant - that is: kill the roots under the plastic, not within the mulch ring that is not covered by plastic.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 4:56PM
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