Wednesday, May 06, 2009


There seem to be many different kinds of weeding that we do on the farm.  All of them, of course, have the same general objective, which is to remove unwanted plants from the crop beds.  Weeds compete for pretty much all of the resources that the crops need, and keeping them under control is absolutely essential for a successful harvest.  

The first kind of weeding I did was with a tractor that churned up the soil between the rows of young plants, dislodging weeds and exposing their roots and bringing weed seeds up to the surface where they are less likely to germinate.  We started a large, early round of hand weeding yesterday, removing weeds from the actual rows of crop plants.  This is an enormous task!  We have I don't know how many beds of crops, but a lot (60 so far?  Maybe  triple that by the time we're finished planting? These are wild guesses) and it can take a group of 5 of us a couple hours to do a single bed, depending on the crop and the degree of weeding needed (and whether we're thinning as we go along as well).  But hopefully, this monumental task would really get us set well for the rest of the crop plant's life; if we can get rid of all the weeds now, the desirable plants will have a big head start and will be able to shade out the weeds later on.  But there will always be spot weeding throughout the season and I'm sure many times where the weeds in a bed start to overtake the crops again, requiring another big effort.  Last summer when I visited the farm I helped out for a couple hours weeding the green beans; the beans were sizable by that time and getting close to harvesting but the weeds were often just as tall if not taller and would threaten to pull the beans out as you tried to get their roots out of the ground.  Tricky!

One of the interesting things is that many of these weed species are edible.  One of our most common weeds is lamb's quarters which is a tender green when young.  Another one, pigweed, is a type of wild amaranth related to types used commercially for cereal and greens.  For that matter, we were thinning out the beets today, and beet greens are certainly edible, and I thought that maybe there are some fancy restaurants out there interested in young 'micro' beet greens.  I meant to take some home but, well, I didn't (I did make a simple pasta yesterday with some wild dandelion greens).  

I'd like to find a good guide to identifying weeds, and learn a bit more about the things I'm uprooting and throwing away every day.  

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