What is Occultation in Gardening? How Controls Weed Naturally?

Over time mankind learned many techniques of gardening to improve the yield and quality of their crops. One of them is an occultation. This technique uses the Sun’s light and shadow to influence the growth of plants. In this article, we will discuss What is occultation in gardening in detail, its advantages, and how to occult a garden.

What is Occultation in Gardening? and How it Helps in Weed Management:

What is Occultation in Gardening
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The term occultation refers to the practice of covering or hiding something from view. In the context of gardening, this means hiding the plants from the sun during the day. Since ancient times, this technique has been practiced and was initially used to protect crops from the harmful effects of climate, pests, and animals.

Occultation in gardening works on the principle that if you protect your plant from direct sunlight, it will not suffer any damage due to heat, cold, or drought. This method also protects the plant against harmful UV rays.

Occultation is a weed control technique that involves covering the soil with a cloth, opaque plastic sheet, or even a layer of mulch for 4-8 weeks to suppress weed growth. This technique causes weed seeds to germinate, but they are then prevented from developing due to the lack of light and heat. As a result, dead weeds will add organic matter back into the soil, helping improve its overall condition. This technique can be used to control a variety of weeds, including dandelions, chickweed, morning glories, and thistles. This technique also helps to reduce evapotranspiration.

What is the difference between solarization and occultation:

Occultation vs Solarization

Occultation is also a process of layering the soil with a plastic sheet, but unlike solarization, this process is carried out by using an opaque plastic sheet to block out direct sunlight. It is basically used to kill weed seeds that germinate underneath the plastic sheet.

There are three main differences when occultation compared to solarization technique:

1. The first difference is that the occultation technique blocks out all light from the sun, while the solarization technique only blocks out part of the light.

2. The second difference is that the occultation technique is used to cool down the soil, while the solarization technique is used to heat up the soil.

3. Another difference between occultation and solarization is that occultation only suppresses weed growth for a period of 4-8 weeks, while solarization can be left on for up to 6 months.

But in the end, both techniques occultation and solarization are used for killing the weed seeds and helping improve plant growth.

Advantages of Occultation in Gardening:

Occultation gardening is getting popular among gardeners because of its excellent results without any significant investment. The significant benefits of Occultation in gardening are listed below:

  1. It is good for the environment because it reduces soil erosion and kills the weed.
  2. It decreases the use of fertilizer and pesticides compared to traditional gardening.
  3. It helps to reduce the risk of heatstroke. When you grow your plants under a shade cloth, they will remain cool even during the summer months.
  4. It reduces the amount of water required by the plant. Since the plant remains shaded, it will require less water than those grown in direct sunlight.
  5. Occultation gardener’s products are more nutritious than those grown by conventional methods.
  6. An occultation is an attractive option for gardeners who are looking to conserve resources because it requires no tillage.
  7. It also protects the plant against pests and diseases.
  8. It protects from extreme weather conditions like rain and wind.
  9. It is an environmentally friendly method of growing food.
  10. It enhances the growth and yield of plants.
  11. It makes it possible to have a beautiful garden all year round.
  12. It is an easy and effective way to prepare garden beds without disturbing the soil structure through tilling or plowing.

Why choose occultation over solarization?

There are several reasons why someone might choose occultation over solarization.

  1. Occultation is usually less expensive than solarization.
  2. Occultation can be done on a small-scale, making it more practical for some people.
  3. Occultation does not require as much equipment as solarization, making it more convenient for some people.
  4. With occultation, you can control the amount of light that your plants receive, whereas with solarization you cannot.
  5. With occultation, you can still water your plants, but with solarization, you cannot.
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How to use Occultation in Gardening:

In order to use occultation in the garden, you must have two things in your mind very clearly. Firstly, the part or area of your garden space where you want to apply this method. And secondly some basic information about the habits of the plants you want to grow with this method.

So let’s go through some easy steps to get started.

Step 1: Choose the right time:

First of all, you should consider the weather before going into your garden to start this process. Because, if the weather is not suitable, means raining or heavy wind blowing, then this kind of weather would not let you start this process. So you have to pick the right day and time to start it.

Step 2: Prepare your tools:

It is very important to prepare all the required equipment before starting the process. You will need some essential tools to start it, like a gardening apron, gloves, boots, etc.

Step 3: Select the suitable material for occultation:

After getting all the required equipment ready, now you need suitable material like the sheet to occult plants and. There are three options available for you:

a) You can use a large plastic sheet.

b) You can use a tarpaulin or black tarps.

c) You can also use a piece of cloth.

All these materials are useful for occulting plants. But you can use whatever material suits you better.

Step 4: Cut the desired length of the material:

Once you have chosen the material, cut it into pieces according to the size of the area you want to cover. Make sure that the edges of the sheet are clean.

Step 5: Place the material:

You need to place the material over the area where you want the weed to die or protect the plant from sunlight. Make sure that the material covers the entire area evenly.

Before applying the shade cloth, remove any weeds or extra plants, spread a layer of compost, water the area, and then put down tarps.

Step 6: Secure the material:

Now, you need to secure the material firmly. You can use ropes, twine, sticks, bricks, sandbags, or anything else you prefer, to weigh down the edges of the covering material.

Congratulations, you have successfully occulted your garden. Now you have to keep an eye on a regular basis as the darkness may attract some insects. Moreover, if you want to make the process easier, you can use some chemicals. But using chemicals is not recommended because they can damage your crops.

Considerations for Occultation:

After completing all the above steps, there are some considerations that you have to keep in mind.

When you want to take off the shade cloth, you must do it gradually. First, remove only one corner at a time. Then slowly pull up the rest of the sheet. Ensure that you don’t leave any part of the cloth hanging down.

After removing the shade cloth, you can now expose the plant to full sunlight. You can either let it bask in the sun for several hours or give it a few minutes of direct sunlight.

After exposing the plant to sunlight, you can again cover it with the shade cloth. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use the same shade sheet twice. Instead, you should wash it thoroughly after every application. It’s always better to use fresh shade cloth rather than old ones. Old shade cloth tends to become brittle and break easily.


In conclusion, occulting can destroy crop residues, heat up the soil, and cause weed seeds to germinate, which then die in the dark. Although occultation will not eliminate weeds in one gardening season, if used regularly for a few years, it will significantly reduce the number of weeds.

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F.A.Qs Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is occultation in gardening?

Occultation is the act of shading plants from direct sunlight. Occultation can be done by using light curtains or black plastic sheets, or by growing cover crops in rotation with other crops. This technique is used in gardening to make faster the germination process of weed seeds, but they are then prevented from developing due to the lack of light and heat.

2. What is solarization in gardening?

Solarization is a process of covering the soil with a layer of clear plastic sheet to increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the soil. This process is used to increase the growth of plants and to improve the quality of their fruit.

3. Is solarization necessary for no-till gardening?

No, solarization is not necessary for no-till gardening, but it can be helpful in certain conditions.

4. How Occultation helps in controlling Weed?

Occultation is a technique used to control weeds by blocking sunlight from reaching them. This process is carried out by using a layer of cloth, fabric, or other material. By doing this, the amount of light that reaches the plants is reduced. This process helps to reduce the growth of weeds and makes it difficult for them to reproduce.

5. How to occlude garden for best results?

There are many ways to occlude your garden for best results. Some popular methods include planting trees or shrubs in front of your plants, using reflective surfaces (such as pool covers) to block out sunlight, and tarps and installing solar screens. 

The easiest way to determine what method is best for your garden is to experiment and see what works best for you and your plants.

6. What are the best materials for occultation?

There are many options available for a garden occultation, but some of the most popular are reflective surfaces, solar screens, black plastic sheets, tarps, and trees or shrubs planted in front of your plants.

7. What are the downfalls of using silage tarps?

There are a few potential drawbacks of silage tarping in the garden. First, they can be heavy and difficult to move around. Second, tarps can trap moisture and heat inside the structure, which can lead to fungal growth and rot.

8. What is the impact of occultation on garden soil health?

Occultation can positively impact soil and plants, as it can affect photosynthesis and water availability. It can be an important tool for controlling pests and promoting healthy plant growth.

9. How to prepare beds with occultation?

When planning beds or gardens, it is important to take occultation into account to ensure that plants are placed where they will be well-suited for their surroundings. This can involve measuring the amount of light that reaches a given area, as well as the amount of shade. Often, the best way to do this is to consult with a local garden expert.

10. How long to leave the tarp on the soil?

Depending on the time of the year will determine how long the tarp needs to stay on. In colder months, it will take longer for the weeds to germinate. In the heat of the summer, it will take a lot less time.

11. What can be used to anchor a tarp?

There are many different ways to anchor a tarp, some common methods include using stakes and ropes or attaching it to nearby trees or structures. When choosing which method to use, it is important to consider the weight and size of the tarps as well as the terrain where they will be used.

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