Notes from the Field Week 6
Notes from the Field: In the Weeds
This week, we are spending most of our time in the field weeding. Besides the unsightliness of a weed to a farmer (trust me, most farmers are carefully framing their Instagram photos to crop out the weeds–I know I do!), weeds present a number of problems on the farm. They can slow down our harvest when they grow amidst red Russian kale or arugula. They compete with our crops for nutrients, water, space and light. They also can be host plants for insect pests and plant diseases. Their lush growth can even provide habitat for rabbits and woodchucks to hide from natural predators. Lately when walking around the farm, all I see is weeds! My eyes gloss over the healthy abundant crops. Instead all I see are weeds to be dealt with!
What is a weed? A weed is a “plant out of place.” A weed is any plant that grows in our field that we did not intend to grow. We have oh-so-many of them at LexFarm. Stay tuned for next week’s notes to learn more about individual weeds and what they can tell us about the soil!
We manage our weeds in a variety of ways. Last winter we put silage tarps (thick black tarps) over a few fields. One of their effects is to encourage weed seeds to sprout in a moist, warm environment, and then die from lack of sunlight. When we pull back the tarps, we can plant into beds that have no viable weed seeds in the very top layer of soil. This worked so well we didn’t have to weed our first several plantings of lettuce at all! Unfortunately they need to be on a prepared field for 3-4 weeks before planting, and we often don’t have that long in between one crop coming out of the field and the next being planted.
We use plastic mulch in our onion, eggplant, tomato, pepper, winter squash, watermelon, and sweet potato beds to block weeds from growing due to lack of sunlight as well. We use salt marsh hay mulch in our garlic and flower field.
For everything else we use a cultivating tractor, hoes, and our hands to pull weeds. In winter, I think about how each crop will be weeded so we have a management plan before we even plow our fields.
Sometimes the weeds get ahead of us when we’re busy doing other tasks, so this weekend our monthly volunteering event will be weeding with anyone who wants to join! Handweeding is the most satisfying task on the farm–we see direct results in a matter of minutes and the more hands we have, the faster it goes! Sign up here to pitch in this Saturday from 10:00-12:00 and help us weed our fields!