Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The dominance of weeds in our community garden plots is truly unbelievable. You'd be forgiven for mistaking the whole thing for a crop of oilseed rape. Although several of the plots are well-tended and fenced (can you see the fences?), the majority of the field is completely yellow with Brassica flowers.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the color of the wildflowers, and the composition of the offending weeds has rotated through a handful of seasonal successions. I've gardened in plenty of yards, but trying to produce a crop in a poorly-maintained agricultural field is an, uh, unique experience. I could spend 2 hours, rooting out every weed in my plot with a shovel, return 2 weeks later and find nearly-chest high weeds throughout, with stem bases more than an inch in diameter! The soil is just saturated with years-worth of escaped weed seeds - and the inevitable neglect of the frustrated gardeners just makes each following season worse. No wonder we learned in school that weeds are the #1 pest in agriculture!

A few plots are pretty incredible in their productivity - mostly tended by families of Asian and Eastern European immigrants (along with some unusually-dedicated hippies). I didn't get why they spent so many late May afternoons loading up massive raised beds of compost, or spreading heavy mats of straw or plastic mulch over their plots, but I sure do now. When I set up next year's garden plot, I'll definitely start out with some sort of newspaper or straw mulch (Though my boss said he once laid down some straw before a trip and returned to find a thick, young carpet of rye in his plot!).

It occurred to me, as I waged war on wild parsnips, brassicas and chenopods, that it'd be a better use of my time to eat these pests. If it wasn't such a hectic summer, I'd have studied up on my taxonomy and gotten down to dinner - and probably would have gotten a lot more food out of my now-abandoned plot.

Garden Rant is way ahead of me.

as was Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.


  1. I can remember pulling 7-foot tall Kochia from the garden on our family farm when I was a kid in the 80s, and then returning 2 weeks later, and having 5-foot tall Kochia greeting me.

    Kochia! *shakes fist*

  2. Little and often is the only way. Daily hoeing, if you have the time and conditions are right. But I do feel for you ...

  3. That's a good point - my previous gardens got 5 minutes of attention every day instead of 1.5 hours every 1- 2 weeks. I'll keep that in mind for next season...

  4. That's quite an admission! Good luck!



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