Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Weed control or The Best Garden Tip Ever

Control of annual weeds in a garden is easy if you obey the ten day rule. Rake the seed bed before planting, not days before planting but just before planting. Mark your calendar to cultivate the rows in ten days. Chances are you won’t see any weeds and will wonder why you should be running the hoe along between the rows. Take your hoe and drag it along just barely below the surface then look at the hoe. You should see a lot of white or light colored threads. These are weeds that have only had time to put up a slender stem and down an equally slender root. In a couple of more days the root will branch out and start to take hold of soil. Once it does that it will be more difficult to pull and when pulled either by hand or by hoe it quite likely will be able to hold onto enough soil to stay alive. The first ten day cultivation will kill 80% or more of the weeds that will be sprouting from seed.
That is the core of the ten day rule. As a vegetable farmer there have been times when that first cultivation was all that I got around to doing and yet I harvested a crop. Going back for cultivation after another ten days is certainly a good idea and getting down close and personal to complete the job by hand weeding in the row while thinning if necessary is always my goal but I want to emphasize that first ten day cultivation. I make it a higher priority than planting seeds. My first year with a market size garden I kept planting seeds because I obviously wouldn’t get a crop if I didn’t plant. At the end of the year I found there were several plantings that never reached the market because the weeds overwhelmed them. No sense planting something that won’t make it to market so now I make sure nothing I plant is lost to weeds—maybe lost to deer, or porcupines, or woodchucks (groundhogs), or mice, or crows, or turkeys but not weeds.
PS: Deer, porcupines and woodchucks are kept out of my gardens with electric fence. I got a barn cat that seems to be helping with the mice and for crows it is important that they not see me planting corn (I’m serious. Don’t leave any corn seed above ground and if crows do pull up your corn seedlings for the seed, plant deeper next year.) Turkeys did not bother me until last fall when they took a liking to lettuce and arugula. I’m covering these crops with row cover and trying to scare the turkeys with shots, shouts, and firecrackers in the hope they will take the hint that they are not welcome in the gardens. The jury is out on that one. I am reluctant to try putting up a high fence as they could fly over it.