While driving past the farm you may have noticed a large black tarp out in the field. This handy-dandy tool is called a silage tarp. A silage tarp is a large, thick sheet of black plastic that is impermeable to water. It is rollable, foldable and very easy to store. With proper care, this silage tarp will last us several years and can be used again and again.
Here at Gateway, our farming practices do not include the use of herbicides. We also very much pride ourselves on our low til approach. Using the silage tarp is tremendously helpful in staying true to these practices, as well as maintaining better soil health.
For a long time, it was thought that the best way to keep weeds at bay was to use an intensive tilling method. However, over time this aggressive approach degrades the soil structure and leads to loss of organic matter and moisture from the soil. That is why these silage tarps are such game changers!
Arguably one of the most important benefits of the silage tarp is its ability to suppress weeds. Once the soil has been lightly tilled and the tarp has been laid and weighted down with sandbags this is when the magic happens. Due to the thickness and dark color of the tarp existing weeds are smothered while future weed seeds are fatally encouraged to germinate. Without sunlight and airflow, these little weed seedlings won't grow much and will be very easy to remove once the tarp has been lifted.
In addition to weed suppression, silage tarps prevent leaching of nutrients and conserve moisture while lightly heating the soil. These qualities make the area beneath the tarp essentially ready-to-plant and more likely to yield successful crops. That's a win-win in my book!