The summer harvest is in full swing with cucumbers, tomato and peppers continuing to ripen on a daily basis.
This years summer garden was an experiment. If you have ever driven by a strawberry field in southern California you always see black plastic covering acres of soil. Strawberry growing fields are usually fumigated with Methyl Bromide before the strawberries are planted. Fumigation is used to rid the soil of soil born plant pathogens, insects and weed seeds and I always assumed this was the only purpose for the plastic.
Although I didn’t fumigate my garden soil, I did line half the garden with 14 mil black plastic sheeting. I used the plastic mainly to keep the weeding to a minimum.
At the California Lifestyle Farm the last frost is usually around mid April. Tax Day, April 15th is usually my targeted planting date for tomatoes, peppers and other summer vegetables.
The first benefit I noticed from the black plastic was increased soil temperatures which got the tomatoes growing much faster this year.
Another benefit provided by the plastic was the prevention of early blight on the tomato leaves. Usually when the spring rains fall, soil is splashed onto the lower leaves of the young tomato seedlings and early blight infects the plants. The plastic prevented most of the infection because the rain fell on the plastic instead of the soil. The plastic prevented splashing of pathogens onto the young tender leaves.
The third and fourth benefits provided by the plastic was the prevention of soil moisture loss due to evaporation and competition from weeds. Weeding the garden has been limited to the few areas I did not use the plastic. Next year I will line the entire garden with plastic!