Using black plastic can be an easy way to start a garden. It helps control weeds and conserve moisture. By growing your vegetables in plastic, you can save time by weeding and watering much less often.
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If you want to use black plastic in your garden, you need to purchase a roll of thick black plastic (at least 4 mil). (If you aren’t sure whether using black plastic in your garden is right for you, read this post to help you make an educated decision.) Most home improvement stores carry it, but it can also be purchased on Amazon.
You want to roll out the plastic over your garden area and cut it to fit. I use raised beds and only put plastic on the growing beds, not in the walkways, but you can certainly cover your whole garden if you would like. I covered my whole garden with the plastic when I had a much smaller garden.
As you are rolling out the plastic, anchor it down with rocks, bricks, or boards to keep it from blowing away. You can also purchase gardening staples to hold the plastic in place.
There are several methods to use, depending on what you are planting, to put your plants into the plastic. If you are transplanting plants, the easiest way is to cut an “X” in the plastic where you want to put your plant. (See pictures below.) The “X” needs to be large enough to get your trowel in to make the hole for your transplant, but you don’t want to make it any bigger than necessary.
Once you have your “X” cut, dig out a hole wide enough and deep enough to put your plant in, piling the dirt on the plastic beside the hole. Gently place the plant in the hole and use the dirt to fill in around the plant. I usually fold the plastic flaps made by my “X” down into the hole just a bit and cover them with dirt also.
Planting individual seeds or “hills” of seeds
If you want to plant individual seeds, such as marigolds or peppers, you will need to cut an “X” in the plastic like above. Dig a hole however deep your seed packet says you need to. Drop 2-3 seeds in each hole and cover with dirt.
When planting things like melons or squash the seed packet will usually say plant 3-5 seeds per hill. I use the same method I just described, but drop 3-5 seeds in the hole. Then cover with dirt as usual.
Because the produce rests on the plastic and not on the dirt, it usually stays much cleaner. Since I don’t usually spray my produce either, I’ve been known to eat many things right from the garden.
Planting a Row of Seeds
If you are planting a row of something, beans or peas for instance, it can be a little trickier. I always plant wide rows of veggies so I cut a flap in the plastic (see photos below). Then I dig a trench with my trowel or a hoe and sow my seeds quite thickly. (This is not what the back of the package is going to tell you to do, but I’ve done it this way for years without any trouble! You get more veggies in smaller space this way.)
Cover the seeds with dirt and anchor the flap of plastic with a few rocks or a board so it does not cover the newly sown seeds and prevent them from germinating. Once the seeds are several inches tall you can remove the board and tuck the flap of plastic up against the base of the plants if you wish.
Using black plastic in your garden is a great way to manage your garden with the fewest weeds and the least amount of water. If it is very dry, you can water the plants occasionally. Seeing my garden after a two week vacation and no rainfall, sold me on this method. I also had very few weeds to pull on my return. For me, this was an easy way to simplify my life (no watering or weeding). It actually allowed me to spend more time growing delicious veggies to eat!
Have you ever used black plastic in your garden? Is this a method you would be interested in trying?