Sunday, September 06, 2009

More Stuff about Weeds

This is an interesting time to be on the farm. We are currently distributing the widest variety of vegetables so far, and probably that we will throughout the entire season. In our shareroom this week we have carrots, beets, red and yellow potatoes, chard, collards, mustard greens, arugula, tatsoi, summer crisp lettuce, summer squash, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, watermelon, canteloupe, tomatoes and no doubt a couple of other things I’m forgetting. Also, in the pick-your-own fields, we have hot peppers, green beans and all sorts of herbs, also flowers. Although maybe the diversity will get even broader if a few of these summer vegetables overlap with the fall brassicas, onions and winter squash which are all moving along quite well (we have harvested most of the onions, in fact, but will let them cure a couple of weeks before distributing them).

I also find it an interesting time of year because as so many crops come of age, so to speak, you can really see how different cultivation practices had their effect in the end result, in the vegetables that we are now harvesting. For instance, in one of our fields of cucumbers we had a couple of beds where we let the weeds get away from us, resulting in a thick, high assortment of grasses and tender annual weeds with rather stunted and hidden cucumbers plants vining half-heartedly in the jungle. We have been valiantly going through these beds looking for cucumbers, but they are few and far between, and are often scraggly little golf balls (that nonetheless are quite tasty), with an occasional jumbo pickler thrown in just to get one’s hopes up. They are probably one-fifth as productive as the beds that were thoroughly weeded at the right time.

Other fields the weeding doesn’t seem to make quite so large a difference, but that’s a dangerous assumption to make. We have three beds of celeriac which we really busted hard to get weeded this last week or so (they were really overgrown and in a spot where the wet soil from June had really compacted), but the celeriac plants seemed to be healthy and vibrant, often with good-sized root balls (which is the part of the plant that is eaten) already, though we won’t harvest them until October or so. Who knows what things will be like then, or how different they would have been if we hadn’t done this weeding. In many fields, we stop weeding once the crop is nearing harvesting, as they are already almost as big as they need to get, and we harvest amidst the weeds. Beets and carrots are like this, and they seem to do pretty well.

Other variables and their results will be of more interest to me next year, when I have one year already under my belt. But really, there are so many variables and so many things that change from one year to the next that it is next to impossible to draw straight-line conclusions from anything on a working farm like this. I suppose you would have to do side-by-side, same time, controlled experiments to really get to the bottom of some of these questions.

Anyway, peace and love to all.

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