There are many reasons why you may need to take some time away from your garden. Perhaps you have a long trip planned during planting time or you have an incredibly busy activity schedule that will keep you from getting out there very often. Maybe you had a bad year last year with pests, disease, weeds, crop loss, etc and you just don’t have the energy or desire to do it all over again this year. Is it okay to take some time off? Will your garden suffer? Actually the answer is no. Your garden can actually benefit from this break in gardening activity.
Feel free to take the time you need without worrying that your garden will turn into a field of weeds, there are ways to prevent this. Also take comfort in the fact that there are certain things you can do to better the soil while you are on hiatus. That way when you do get back into it full time your garden will be happier and healthier.
So what can you do? You could solarize your soil. The sun’s powerful and energetic rays can be captured and used to control weed, disease, and pest problems in your garden soil. It is an effective method that many people eschew because they do not want to give up their garden beds for an entire season. If you want to take the time away though, this is a great way to tackle your garden issues and improve your soil.
You solarize your soil by placing taught clear plastic tarp over your garden beds. The heat trapped below the plastic can get quite high which can kill weed seeds, insects, and many fungal and bacterial pathogens. Prepare for solarization by first cleaning up the garden area of dead plants and debris that could be harboring pests or disease. Then level the surface and make it smooth, followed by completely saturating the soil with water. Then you can add your plastic and anchor it to the edges of your raised beds. For non raised beds you can bury the edges of the plastic in a trench.
You will want to keep the plastic in place for 8+ weeks. If you live in a colder northern climate you may want to keep the plastic on for the entire summer and use two layers of plastic to increase the heat. Not only will this kill all the nasties that harmed your plants it can even allow you to plant the same crops in the same bed again. Normally you would want to move tomato plants or squash plants to a different area if they suffered from pests and disease but solarization changes that. Studies that have shown that soil that has been solarized actually has more nutrients and beneficial soil dwellers the following garden year.
So now that you know what you can do and how it can be beneficial to take time away…feel free to take a break for a season if you so desire.