After our planting and prepping efforts in May, ecological farms in the Peace Region started to show some life in the later weeks of June and into July. A stretch of hot dry weather followed by more rain than we could ever need has resulted in the emergence of many different crops… and the weeds are doing well too! To give everyone’s produce their best shot at sunlight the Northern Cohort has been busy pulling and clearing all the little plants that get in the way. As each farm we’ve traveled to has a unique approach to growing without herbicides we’ve tried out a few different techniques.
At Running Acres we pulled multitudes of grass and dandelions from around fruit bushes so that their lower leaves could have some growing space. A layer of wood chips kept too many unwanted plants from poking up between aisles, but the few determined ones that made it were removed by hand, trowel, and shovel. As the month progressed we learned that weeds will pull much easier from loose wet soil than soil that has been baked dry.
At Hip Peace noxious Canada Thistles require a more aggressive approach. If roots of thistles are cut up they will regrow and multiply, so tilling the field will not work. Likewise, cut plants may still produce seed heads if they are left on the ground, so our best option was to cut the plants as close as we could and rake them into garbage bags to take to the dump. Did you know the PRRD will take your invasive weeds for free at the land fill if they are bagged in clear bags? By the time we had got around to the last patch the first ones were starting to regrow! This cutting method doesn’t remove thistles completely, but prevents them from taking over while the vegetables have time to grow. If done enough times, there will not be enough reserves left in the root and the thistle will die.
At Whiskey Creek ground sheeting was one method of cutting down on weeds before they could start. We spread a black sheet over the area to be grown and pinned it down so that no weeds could grow in between rows of vegetables.
The roadside fruit patch in Moberly Lake received a double mulch job, first protecting plants with sheets of mulch and cardboard, then covering the whole area with a layer of wood chips.
Hip Peace Produce also used compostable mulch sheeting, this time covering the row completely and later poking holes for individual plants. We unraveled row after row of sheeting, burying the ends and edges into the dirt. Once the rains made it into the valley the ground became a lot softer and this task much easier.
Even the community gardens needed some clearing, both in the garden beds by hand, and around the edges with one of our favourite tools: a whippersnipper. Once cleared we took the opportunity to give the old beds a makeover with some fresh paint!
Come see the freshly painted beds this Wednesday July 24 at 4-8 and join us for a garden party with free local sausages, carnival games, local breweries and more! Everyone is welcome to support NEAT and come see the action at the community garden plots. Hope to see you there!