Friday, June 09, 2006

Out Standing in My Field

The other day, someone who had read my last post, "Weeding is Fundamental," asked me why I have so many weeds in my garden.

I'd like to answer that question here.

I'm an organic farmer who has spent years building up the soil in the vegetable garden with good composted manure from the goat barn. The soil is so nice and fertile that weeds compete to get into my garden. Naturally, if vegetable seed and seedlings grow well, so do all sorts of plants whch were not planted by me, but by Mother Nature.

Although I occasionally complain a little about the time it takes to weed, I actually enjoy being able to think while quietly removing the unwanted plants that I call weeds.

My garden is like subtractive sculpture. As I remove the weeds, rows of well-developed vegetables emerge, looking nice and neat. Of course, I can't keep the entire garden neat all at one time. There are parts of the garden waiting to be harvested or weeded, and some parts that look picture perfect. The areas change all summer long.

Weeding is just a fact of life for a farmer like me who does not use herbicides or pesticides. It's okay. If bugs emerge and all is in balance in the garden, they are eaten by eager birds looking for a quick lunch. If I were to use pesticides, the birds would get a stomach ache or worse, and the bugs would proliferate. Early on, I am convinced that the weed plants shade and shelter emerging vegetable seedlings, giving them a good start.

I use five-gallon buckets to collect the pulled weeds, load them onto my "Mule" UTV, which holds nine buckets, and drive them up to the chicken yard, where they're dumped. Some days I dump three loads: 27 buckets. They are all gone through and eaten by the chickens, guineas, geese, etc.

To me, that is a sustainable gardening system.

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