Occultation Covers
In The Garden

Dateline: 17 May 2014

One of my garden beds with an occultation cover. Click the picture to see an enlarged view.

As I explained back in Deliberate Agrarian Snippet #13, I have decided (after a lifetime of resisting the idea) to utilize plastic as a mulch in my garden. I was persuaded to give plastic a try because I do not have the time to run my Planet Whizbang mail-order business and keep my whole garden properly cultivated. Besides that, Jean-Martin Fortier's book, The Market Gardener convinced me that black plastic makes good sense.

Fortier uses the plastic in two ways. First, he uses it to cover his 30" wide beds that are prepared-for-planting….


[W]eeds germinate in the warm, moist conditions created by the tarp but are then killed by the absence of light. This weeding technique, described as "occulation," is widely used by organic growers in Europe.

I've never heard of the word, "occultation" and a Google search of the word "occultation" and "garden" didn't turn up anything. Although the concept is nothing new to most gardeners, I think the word is. Here is what else Jean-Martin Fortier writes…


We have been using 6mm black plastic silage tarps in the garden for almost a decade now, and I can say without hesitation that their usefulness is one of the reasons behind the overall success of our operation. This passive and efficient practice takes care of part of the weeding chores while we are getting work done elsewhere in the garden.

I don't have a 1.5 acre market garden, and don't have a black silage tarp, but I decided to use some 48" wide lengths of This High-Quality Landscape Fabric for occultation covers in my garden, as the picture at the top of the page shows. 

The tire sidewalls, which I have been collecting and using in various ways in my garden for years, do a fine job of holding the plastic in place. After being covered a few weeks, the soil under the covers is weed-free and moist. The tilth of the soil under the covers is dreamy-nice.

After using the plastic for occultation covers, I folded it in half and laid it between the beds, as shown in this next picture…




When a bed is harvested and not growing anything, I will re-cover it with an occultation cover to keep the weeds from developing. That is what Jean-Martin does.

Thus far, I'm liking this landscape fabric. I did, however, find out that it will unravel on the ends if not heat-sealed, as this next picture shows…


Occultation covers made with landscape fabric will fray on the ends if cut with a knife. I had to re-cut the ends with a hot knife to get a sealed edge. You can also seal the ends with the heat from a propane torch. 

I'm impressed with the durability of the landscape fabric. It remains to be seen if it will last 10 years, as the manufacturer says it will. But the following YouTube clip is evidence of just how strong and long-lasting the product is…






8 comments:

Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

I use that fabric in my nursery. It's impressive stuff.

Clinton Johnson said...

So no more cover cropping?

Herrick Kimball said...

Clinton,

A cover crop could be planted and then cut and covered for a few weeks prior to planting. Do you think that would work?

Clinton Johnson said...

Sounds logical to me! Would you then be running your tiller over it or go with the lasagna style gardening?

Sheila G said...

I think that the word occulation was just spelled wrong, and the word they were going for was occultation. Not the best choice of words, but I do get the point.
I'm a die hard Ruth Stout and Back to Eden person myself, however not many have the outstanding compost, hay, leaves and straw resources I do either.

I'm looking very forward to seeing how this does in your garden, and I can tell you that MANY have had Fantastic results from this kind of covering in their gardens, and better than anything else they have used too. Hope you get the same results they have.

OtterRose said...

Thank you for your enduring enthusiasm and for your generous sharing!

I also tried a Google search and the word "occultation" turned up... I guess you just misspelled the word. Market Gardener used the word occultation...
Oops, now I see that others may have informed you also...

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for setting me straight on the spelling mistake. Occultation not occulation. But my attempts to edit the word have not been successful. I'll try again....

Unknown said...

Its a french word. I think it just means covering, barrier or something similar.
http://www.gardenprice.com/clotures-et-occultants-naturels-et-plastiques.aspx