Thinking about the “stale seedbed” technique

So many farmers who are doing the cutting-edge stuff with organic food gardening are doing this “stale seedbed” thing- you prep, fertilize, water, and then throw down a plastic tarp for however long until you need the bed. The weeds will be dead, the fertilizers and compost mixed in due to macro soil life, etc. I’m talking about Curtis Allen Stone, Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, and Jean-Martin Fortier (I’ve read Stone and Fortier’s books in the last year, and Paul is local and frequently written about). I’m listening to The Urban Farmer with Curtis Stone, Season 2 episode 1 (on the Permaculture Voices podcast  on Soundcloud). I see it’s not archived yet on the website.

I first heard of this in my classes at SRJC, and it referred to tarping weeds for 2 weeks at the hottest time of the year. But prepping the bed first really helps a farmer be ready to put crops in the ground when it’s the appropriate time of year or when they need the crops.

I wonder what the long-term effect of this is on the soil life (especially during hot weather, for example, in a place where the ground is usually dry). How can it not be bad for the soil?

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