Why I started with tarps
Stefan Holt, SCA Farmer
22 February 2018
The fence was falling apart. The horses were gone. Things were not normal in the pasture. There I was staring out into two acres. “So what the hell am I going to do now?” I thought. In the background, you can hear the squawk of a few chickens and the rattle of a few rabbit cages, as two of the four stalls in the barn still had animal life present. But what was I to do with the land? The empty stalls?
The pasture just after first tarp
Photo taken March 2017

What next?

We had already converted one stall into a chicken coop. It was makeshift but it kept the chickens dry and protected. But what next?
I looked out onto the pasture and started picturing some of the things I had seen in a recent video by Curtis Stone, the self proclaimed urban farmer. His neighbor hood farm sites were spectacular with a lot of greens.  Packed ever so tightly in well maintained rows and hoop houses littered the aerials from above. Wait? Hoop houses. What the heck are hoop houses and why are they useful.
I started searching his other videos on hoop houses, plot layout, irrigation, planting, seeds, and more. Needless to say it inspired me to think about what was possible in my own backyard. I looked into Market Gardener J.M. Fortier and his home farm. A lot bigger in design and much greater use of equipment. Namely the BCS tractor. What intrigued me was the use of tarps on his farm.
That’s where I would start. Turning a horse pasture into a vegetable field would start with a single tarp and God.
A tarp, specifically a 40′ x 100′ 5 mil UV-treated polyethylene silage tarp, is a great tool on SCA Farms for many reasons.
1) Low Tech Solution – Requires little effort
Aside from actually ordering and rolling out the tarp, this is about as low tech a solution to turning a plot into a garden bed as you can get. If time is not important, this is about the easiest thing you can do.
2) Kills weeds 100%
More effective than costly, poisonous sprays, this solution is 100% effective in killing weeds, grass, and anything else that needs the sun to grow. The tarp creates a warm environment that kills weeds that are present and it helps to encourage other weed seeds to germinate. When they do, they have not sunlight to support them and thus, a quick death.  The process is called solarization and leaves no chemical residues. Check out this link about solarization and all the great benefits.
3) Tarps mimic nature
Once a one of these tarps was placed over the pasture, mother nature quickly took over. Heat and lack of sunlight kills the green matter and the process of decomposition starts.  I liken it to a forest floor. When leaves cover an area of grass the sun is essentially blocked out. Once blocked the grass starts to breakdown and then come natures’ compost machines. The earthworm. These guys are a farmer’s best friend. The more of these guys you have the better your soil.
In 3-4 weeks depending on the time of year, your green pasture will be a heavily composted stale seed bed ready for the next phase of the farming process. If you want to try using a silage tarp yourself, I recommend using Farmer’s Friendly LLC We bought our first tarp from these guys and did not regret it one bit.
“Aside from actually ordering and rolling out the tarp, this is about as low tech a solution to turning a plot into a garden bed as you can get.”
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