Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A weed is a weed is a weed

I knew a fellow who use to work his wheat fields at night. Said he'd done his research and the weed seeds needed to be exposed to the sunlight in order to start growing. I was intrigued of course! Turns out weeds need light period in order to sprout, sunlight, moonlight, flashlight, tractor light, any light! Other weeds need to be exposed to air in order to start growing.  Weed seeds can stay dormant in the ground for years! That's why some gardeners like Ruth Stout believed in mulching everything to snuff out the weeds. She has now passed on, but if you come across some of her old books in the library, they are well worth the read. How practical is her method, especially living in an urban area or on an acreage? It takes soooo much weedless mulch to cover the garden that it kinda boggles the mind. She went on and on about salt hay...which we call slough hay and how wonderful it was for her garden. It is the softest mulch I've ever used and my horses love love love it! They like to eat it and lay in it and do their business on it. But this year, because of all the moisture, nobody could bale it because the sloughs were all filled with water! I live on the bald prairie, no trees, no mills and so wood chips and the like are expensive because we have to buy them by the bag and with all the prairie winds, they blow away! My soil is clay based, it needs to be tilled. If I don't till it, the ground becomes rock hard. We had so much rain last spring, that the ground turned hard even after tilling. I seriously had to take the tractor to the potato crop to dig them up. I have never in all my years of gardening had so much trouble digging potatoes. Because we had so much rain, the ground turned hard. My carrots, bless the poor things, never did make it out of the garden. I could not dig them up with the fork or a shovel for that matter. Never done that either!  The weeds of course loved it, they can grow on anything! I have mulched my garden with pea straw and slough hay and dried lawn clippings. When we worked it into the ground that fall, the next spring, the soil was almost granular. It was sooo rich and I had the craziest garden. Now I'm getting older and I don't really want to work that hard. I'm really thinking about building raised beds, thus needing smaller amounts of mulch and snuffing out most of the weeds. The soil should stay soft as nobody will be walking all over it. There will be paths between the beds for that and if the weeds start to get wild, I'm going to mow them down with the mower. I think I'll test drive my new method this year....

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