In the previous blog post, we talked about how we were limiting our tractor and tillage usage by using the flame weeder to suppress weeds in our freshly planted beds. This week, we applied that same principle to our low tunnel greenhouse.

We have three low tunnels that are basically temporary micro-greenhouses. Built from galvanized steel and a polypropylene covering, these unheated shelters allow us to bring you tender greens during the depths of winter. However, we must start preparing the soil now in order to ensure a good crop.

This year we’re trying out a new no-till technique called occultation to work the soil in the low tunnels. Occultation comes from verb “occult” which literally means cut off from view and that is exactly what we did to the soil of our three low tunnels. By using blue tarps (from every corner of the farm) and black plastic we were able to cover the soil and cut it off the sunlight.

Over the course of three to four weeks, the tarps will help kill weeds that are hiding in the soil. The tarp traps in warmth and moisture that lures the weed seeds out of dormancy. When they germinate and peek out the ground they are met with the dark, humid environment created by the tarp. Being void of sunlight and aeration the young weeds die, creating food for worms and other beneficial organisms that enjoy the darkness.

In mid-September, once we’ll remove the tarps, we’ll shape our beds, add plastic to low tunnels and plant our seedlings that will support us through the winter. We will also have comparative data as to which material works better, the thin black plastic or the thick blue tarps.​