Sunday, 14 June 2015

Weeding and Bee Feeding

                This week while walking out to garden, eager to see what new crops have decided to show their leaves, I was shocked (but really shouldn't have been too shocked) to see the glorious amount and variety of weeds that have risen and arrived from who knows where. Every year is the same thing; pluck them out and then welcome back the same amount next year. Even though none of them last year went seed, how do they keep getting here?

                To actually be introduced into what is called the seed bank, they can come in via wind, by animal, creep in from field edges, equipment with soil on it or by adding new soil. With some seeds that are already present, they do not germinate in the year that they were introduced and enter what is called a seed dormancy (more on that later). Some weed seeds have the potential to stay dormant for 40 years or more before they germinate (this is already beginning to look like a battle you can’t readily win…) To make things worse, weeds are very prolific seed producers. Purslane can produce as much as 52,000 seeds, lamb quarters 72,000 seeds and pigweed an obscene 117,000 seeds which all have to potential to grow into its very own weed over the years. They’re adapted to spread, distribute themselves, grow rapidly, and occupy almost any site disturbed by man over the centuries (I almost wish our man-made crops were this hardy and easy to grow.)  Below are some of the early season wave of weeds I’m dealing with this week including:

Maple: My most abundant but very easy to pull out weed. Both of my garden are surround by maple trees (a battle I have to deal with.) This is the first plant in Manitoba to make a mature seed before anyone else.

Buckwheat: and other volunteers such as canola, sunflower, tomato, cucumber and herbs are also now labelled as weeds since they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Kochia: Soft leaves and easy to pull out. This came with the new soil that we added.

Canada Thistle: The spiky one which can produce a root meters long into the soil. Try use a trowel to get as much as the root as possible. It creeps in from the field edge.

Absinth: Your hands will stink after you touch this(but it’s not stinkweed.) Easy enough to pull out. Not a big seed producer.

Purslane (portulaca): A very prolific seed producer, produces many tiny seedlings that are difficult to pull out. Apparently hoeing/chopping it up produces new plants from every chopped plant part, be very careful.

Stinkweed: doesn't stink, low populations, high dormancy it seems, easy enough to control.

Dandelion: There’s your blurry action shot for the day. As you can partly see, use a trowel to try to get most of the root out. Try not to let to go to seed (I did by accident- whoops.)

                 As you may have noticed, I don’t use any pesticides and only manual labor to kill my weeds. Other options that I have seen people with smaller stretches of land use is weed barriers which can just be newspaper laid down, mulches, wood chips or plastic bought from a store. The idea is that less sun hitting the soil, the less their dormancy can be broken by light. There may also use home remedies or organic pesticides that can be used but I myself would be scared of killing anything in the large variety of crops by spray drift. Effectiveness is also variable. Strategic planting with tilling can be used if you didn't plant your rows too close together. This may waste land in my opinion that could be used for planting more crops. Flaming the weeds can also work as well if there’s a big patch. Get a jump on the weeds by seeding early and till a nice seed bed and then seed right away. Cover crops and planting plants not meant to be harvested (grasses, clover, legumes etc.) and cutting them could also be a good strategy for keeping the weeds down and for not starving the soil at the same time.  I don’t have the time or resources for many of these tricks right now but in future years I hope to incorporate more of them

                As I was weeding I was noticing that I should be thinning out some of these plants. It’s hard to take out a few of your own, but when the seeder makes a mistake and puts two or more plants right on top of each other, you have to sacrifice one or two to save the other. Otherwise, both would suffer in terms of quality and you wouldn't get a good crop from either. This is very important for all root crops to have sufficiently spaced roots. Plants eaten for leaves that are too close together also have their leaves turn yellow and lose quality. Corn should also be spaced far enough away from a neighbouring corn plant so that they are not competing and sucking up each other resources, causing each other to produce a poor cob. Many crops need this and since in many small seeded crop packets you are given lots of seed, you should feel okay for doing this. Check your seed packets for proper instructions on seed spacing or thinning. See below for a before and after example of beets.

                The next crops to show their leaves this week included more bulbs, grains and cool season crops. The crops below are potatoes, onions, quinoa, amaranth, cabbage, spinach, beets and cantaloupe. I hoping that germination will be over at the end of this upcoming week so that decisions can be made for next year and fertilization can start.

                All greenhouse plants are now outside and hardening off. Planting tomatoes and vines will be the next job this week along with more weeding and thinning. I will also be gearing up for the first farmers market this week! I will not be able to bring any produce since not even the radishes are ready yet, but I will have lots of honey and a small amount of maple syrup to sell. Come out on Friday, June 19th to say hello to the new and old vendors this week and start off this season with some wholesome produce and commodities made by your community! Visit the Carman Farmers Market facebook page for more details.

                Ah yes, it also says bee feeding in the title… the dearth period which I mentioned last week is upon us which means there are little to no flowers around for our  little bees to keep busy on until the big players such as canola and alfalfa come to play. This means that if the bees are low on food, protein or space to grow, I need to give it to them. The feed I’m giving to them in jars right now is a simple sugar-water mixture that needs to be filled regularly to grow these hives to a great size to capture the maximum benefits of the huge honey flow that will be coming in several weeks.

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