Farm Life: Preparing the Harvest, Part 5, Planting and Weeding

May is the month for planting; June for weeding in our garden.  If we can keep up this sequence, July is the lull before the harvest.  We had some help from friends for planting weekend a month ago.  Now, with every day of weeding, we take a poll on who’s arthritis hurts the most.

May Planting

We are experimenting with no-till planting in some sections this year.  In the winter, we put down layers of compost, manure, and straw.  Rather than digging this into the soil, we just pulled back the straw where we wanted to put into the tomotoes, peppers, seeds, etc. and to trench in soaker hoses.  Around tomatoes and peppers, we use red, circular forms, which become water wells for each plant and reduce weed growth near the roots.   Around each plant, we put a wire frame to support the

Cleaning Before Planting

plant growth.  Before setting up the base forms and water frames, we wash each one with water-bleach.  This is labor intensive, but reduces carry over of fungus that could infect this year’s plants.  With the plants in place, we burry a soaker hose about 3 inches under the straw.  We use wooden walkways between plants to allow us to tend to and harvest without compacting the garden soil.

Weeds are essentially plants that grow in the wrong place.   The wrong place might be because of decision that we gardeners have made about where we want flowers, herbs, or vegetables.  The wrong place might be in climates where “invasive plants” grow so well that they smother native or desired plants, such as the infamous kudzu.  The wrong place often occurs when we grow monocultures, such as rows of street trees, lawns, and acres of cash crops.

The typical solution to weeds in monocultures is herbicides.  This might be the old staple of 2-4-D which kills any seedling other than grass.  The past couple of decades, Round Up has been the king of weed killing, as it will destroy just about everything, except “Round Up Ready” genetically modified crops.  The results of spraying and genetic splicing are sterile environments and super weeds.  Many suburban yards host few insects because they lack food and pollen that attract the insects (assuming that they do not just pull out the pesticides to spray around).  After a decade of Round Up Ready corn and soybean, a strain of herbicide resistant pigweed is taking over fields, reducing yields to levels lower than before Round Up Ready crops and requiring hand clearing of fields in spring.  And, this pigweed does just torment corn growers but spreads into soybeans, hay fields, cotton, etc.

Hand weeding is the only way to get to the roots of the weeds.  Put on a pair of gloves and select your favorite digging tool.  The days after rain or watering are easier to work the soil than during a dry period.  Pulling up the weeds in June catches them before the roots get too deep, the days get too hot, and seeds do not form.  Unless seeds have formed or roots survive, weeds can make a good layer in the compost pile (if the weeds need some help to die, leave them in the sun for a few days to dry out before adding them to the compost pile).  Once the gardens are cleared, a layer of mulch, whether shredded bark or straw, will either prevent future weeds from sprouting, or make for weak roots that will be easy to pull out later.

A technique that we are trying this year is flame weeding.  This is basically a gas burner attached to a propane grill tank.  It works on the principle of wilting the leaves, multiple times over a season, until the roots use up their energy and the weed dies.  The flame can also burn up weed seeds, preventing sprouting.  The device works well on pathways, fence lines, rock walls, or other places without a lot of dry material to burn.  It is best to use this in the cool of the morning before the wind comes up.  Remember, your intent is to clean up the weeds, not start a controlled burn or wildfire.

Okay, we have not gotten to all areas of the garden yet.


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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9 Responses to Farm Life: Preparing the Harvest, Part 5, Planting and Weeding

  1. Barneysday says:

    Hand weeding in the plant areas are the only thing that works effectively. We use the round up in walkways and drains. Good luck.

  2. Laurie says:

    Thanks for the news about Round Up resistant weeds. Its good to know about but falls into the “wish it weren’t so category”. When I have left over hot coffee in the morning, I take the pot outside and pour it on weeds in our walkways. It is only good for “spot treating” weeds, but it is effective.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I have heard that hot/boiling water will do plants/weeds in. I have only grounds left at the end of my coffee cup! I also read once that vinegar would kill plants, but never found this happened with my experiments

  3. Laurie says:

    P.S. Good luck with the garden. It looks like it is going to be wonderful.

  4. I Must confess that though I enjoyed the pics and the description of the vegetable garden section, when I scrolled down to what would turn out to be your ‘unweeded’ area, I thought you were just saving the really lovely part of the garden for last. Which tells you a lot about my gardening habits and why Stanley is in charge of the front yard, and I the back. Best wishes for a great harvest.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      My favorite out-of-place plant is that of the 5′ tall chicory. This is a wildflower that grows rampant along roadsides, but after years of trying to get it to grow in our field, I found one plant growing in the middle of a pathway. I mowed around it many times and every year take the seeds to other places to grow. The steel-blue flowers are brilliant in the morning and wilted by noon.

  5. The Vicar says:

    Dad paid us $.25 per grocery bag for wedding the lawn in the pre-Round Up days. No matter how dilegent we were, the dandilions kept coming up all spring and summer. It sounds like no matter what system you use, persistence is the number one ingredient for success in the garden.

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