Life, uncontained: Fighting with weeds, squash and GMOs

By Steph Larsen
Grist

Living things have a habit of not doing what you expect them to. It’s the nature of life, to adapt as best you can to the circumstances presented. But sometimes plants and animals can go places you aren’t intending, and the consequences can be minor … or catastrophic.

Take my garden, for example. This spring, I armed myself with a new notebook full of empty graph paper and the best intentions to record everything from weather conditions to which crops flourished and flopped. I researched how much space each plant needed and paced out the grids in my garden so that nothing would be crowded.

And then it rained, and both the notebook and my intentions drowned in the downpour.

As I look at this first garden at the farm, I have two distinct impressions. One is that the weeds staged a revolutionary overthrow against any kind of order I tried to bring. I’ve had to embrace the fact that I simply don’t have time for “immaculate gardening” where the only plants within my 50-by-50-foot square are the ones I planted. It was all I could do to keep up with planting and harvesting, and weeding didn’t make it to the top of the list as often as it rained. I am not a tidy person by nature, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

The rows of tomatoes and the bed of strawberries fared better than the beans and beets due to copious use of straw mulch. Next year, I will be much more liberal with my mulch use. I’d rather spend $4 on a bale of straw than hours whacking weeds with a corn knife. We were hesitant to use black plastic as a weed barrier, but perhaps next year we’ll give it a try. Readers, how do you feel about the plastic sheeting? Are there better, non-petroleum-based options that really work?

Read the full post at Grist

8 responses to “Life, uncontained: Fighting with weeds, squash and GMOs

  1. Rather than black plastic anti-weed mulch, maybe a thick layer of newspapers would work. I can’t vouch for it, but it seems logical – and, you can till it right into the ground after the final harvesting as it will break down. I wouldn’t use the colored inserts (on that glossy paper) as those won’t break down as readily as plain old newsprint.
    Newspapers will hold the water so you won’t have to keep watering all the time. Experiment with thicknesses to see what thickness holds the moisture the best.
    The only downside is that it will blow away, littering the whole neighborhood, so some means of securing it needs to be devised. If you live in an area where rocks are plentiful, problem solved! Strategically placed rocks will hold the newspaper in place. Just remember to remove the rocks for reusing before the late fall tilling.
    So, start saving your newspapers for the next growing season.
    Just a thought.
    JCJ

    • that may work, AP, but my first thought is that those toxic ink dyes will be absorbed by the plants. however, I don’t have another solution.

  2. Great advice and it reminds me of something that happened a few years back when I lived by a lake. Before I left for work everyday I would go down to the lake to walk for a bit and so get in touch with nature. Well the first time I went it was very unpleasant and even though I could sense the face of nature there it was disfigured by trash that was everywhere, it was shocking. I went home disappointed almost deciding not to go again. But later I came up with an idea that I thought would kill 2 birds with one stone. I went down to the beach as before but I picked up one of the plastic bags laying there and filled it up as I walked along and by the time I was ready to go home it was filled and I put it in the trash. As you can guess pretty soon a bit at a time things started looking better. And soon I noticed cleaner areas and I also noticed other people doing the same thing and soon I had to bring my own bags to do the cleaning. On the last day I walked there I sensed that same face of nature that I had seen on the first day just a lot more charming then before. And this is how I feel about this whole mess with the foolishness of what is going on. A little bit at a time I am going to find something that I can pick up and put it right because I know it is right. Paul

    • How fun, Paul! I did the same exact thing in a park where I walked my dog. The stream was always filled with trash, so I started cleaning it up. Other people did, too. I noticed that where there was trash, people would throw more, and leave the clean areas pristine.

      One time, in the dead of winter, one of the major funders of the park stopped by to personally thank me. That really made my day, cuz, as you can imagine, I got a lot of weird looks from some people.

  3. Rady,
    Contrary to popular belief, printing inks are not all that toxic. With over 30 years in the printing industry, owning my own small commercial print shop for nearly 10 of those years, I was surprised when an ink salesman got my attention one day.
    We were approached to print placemats for local restaurants. I was concerned about the inks, so I called the ink company who sent a salesman. He opened a can of ink, used a putty knife to dig out a small amount – and put it in his mouth. He did NOT chew it or swallow it, but that was good enough for me.
    Like anything else, if someone ate a can of ink, they’d no doubt get sick – at least – but the amount of ink on a sheet of newsprint is so small . . . even if someone ate a whole page, I doubt it would be a problem.
    JCJ

  4. charmaine calvert

    Despite the brave salesman eating a sample of printing ink, I won’t be using newspaper in my organic veg garden. Ground wood pulp is chemically treated and buffered. I plant Nasturtiums in between veggies because apart from being pretty, they spread and will drown out a lot of weeds. Bugs like Aphids don’t like them but bees adore them thus helping to polinate my tomatoes and other veggies. I use a ‘green’ slug pellet which does not harm any other beasties nor animals. You’ll get loads of seeds from your nasturtiums at the end of the season and you can either put these aside for next year or you can pickle them. ( poor man’s capers. :o)) Thanks for the article Rady.

  5. I too, do not care for salesmen who taste a wee bit of their own nastiness, because it proves absolutely nothing. The paper is bleached and been treated with other nasty things, the ink is likely bio-accumulative, so it will end up in the soil in tighter and tighter concentrations, and if you read any organic gardening articles/books, newspaper is NOT considered a component of organic gardening! Nasturtiums, marigolds are good bug-repellers AND can be eaten in part AND will help crowd out the weeds. There is also a GREAT book called Carrots Love Tomatoes, which will help you do companion plantings, so that the plants actually help each other and help to dampen the spirit of the so-called weeds. ALSO, alot of weeds are very healthy and edible in varying seasons, so you should identify your ‘weeds’ and see if any of them are complimentary to your palate! Finally, if you don’t like the roving nature of your winter staples, see if you find “determinate” varieties (ones that won’t ramble), or enjoy their rambles, they likely aren’t hurting any of your other plants. If you do square foot gardening, you will find you can grow more in your grid than you ever dreamed possible, or perhaps even wanted to contemplate! As for mulch, whatever happend to COMPOST? It won’t kill those unwanted plants, but the more you heap on your plantings, the better the soil becomes, and the more layer your ‘weeds’ have to get through to find the sun. Happy Growing!!!! And good for you for growing your own.

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