6′ Tall Weeds…

Funny thing happens when you build amazing soil, add a week or so of rain, and have taken a month off of farming. The good news is that I could readily see the reason why inter-row weeding with the wheel hoe is worth it at about 30 days from sowing the seed potatoes – the rows where I did this had very, very few weeds since the vigorous spuds had out-competed them.  The rows I missed, well lets just say I needed two hands to pull up the Amaranth, and the Lambsquarter I needed to put my back into play.  I had a 80′ row of 5-7′ tall weeds, with some isolated Amaranth specimens the size of mature dogwood bushes.  Sorry no pics (forgot the camera)- but trust me, the weeds were impressive.  

Though I still have some naggin pain which isn’t seeming to ever fade, I have 90+% back in my shoulder and most of the issues are as much from muscle atrophy as the injury.   I worked for 5 hours today, with almost no consideration given to the injury, so how it feels waking up tomorrow will be interesting.  All plots are now back in manageable condition – it is amazing how much work can be done in a day, and I definitely owe a debt to the crew of Michael Field’s students that pulled weeds 2 weeks ago in my late potato plot. And yes, I realize how amazing it is to have a crew of organic farming students helping out during my injury!

On the harvest side things are just beginning to trickle in: the first cucumber is in, I got 2 peppers from the Hoop House, and have been getting tomatoes for 2 weeks from the Hoop House as well -though they are splitting very early and have had no edible ones yet since they are rotting by the time they are red.  If I can figure that splitting out (they get steady water so it ain’t that), I must say that Silvery Fur is one of the most productive varieties I have ever seen – I have counted 4 dozen tomatoes (mature size about 4-5oz) on just one vine!  That is about 20#’s of tomatoes from 3 sq ft!!  In about 2 weeks I will have more produce than I know what to do with.  My restaurants can take up to 30#s a week, and we plan on canning / freezing a lot this year -August will be NUTS!

From a spud standpoint I am on the last rows of my Yukon Potatoes.  With 50#’s planted, I have about 175# harvested, with another 80-120#’s in the ground.  Figure just a bit over a 1:5 ratio, but given Yukons rep for low yields and that over half were harvest at baby size (33% mature weight but OHH so good!) I don’t feel to bad about that.  Carolas will likely be next and in about a month I will be swimming in spuds and ready to begin deliveries to my commercial clients.  Again, August will be nuts and thank the gods that the shoulder seems to be mending.   Dear god, I have 1750-2250#’s left to harvest…  

Hopefully the market holds at $1.50 to $2 per pound – I plan on building (finally!) my Bio-Diesel production unit ($600), doubling my home’s garden space ($400), buying a freezer ($300), building a root cellar ($500), and thanks to the new tax credit possibly a down payment on putting in a wood stove ($4000) with the proceeds.  Al-Queda has poppies, I have potatoes…

Happy Harvest Everyone!

Be the Change.



10 Responses

  1. What sort of root cellar do you plan on putting in? How about the stove? $4k sounds steep.

  2. glad you are feeling better, I have never heard of those varieties of tomato! I’m so jealous, all mine are still green!.

  3. The root cellar would be pretty typical – basically an insulated room on the east side of our basement with vents to the outside to allow for temperature. Ours would be sited on the south side (north is traditional) since that is where we have a drain. Prolly only about 6×8 or so. The stove includes running chimney up through the interior of our two story house. $2k for the stove, $2k for the chimney is the napkin quote we got from the fireplace shop last year. Stove is a new clean burn type franklin that has cooking surfaces on top – slow roasted potatoes and onions with garlic anyone? Both these are in the “maybe” camp as really dislike this locale, and $5k would buy a nice tractor for the farmette.

    Kory, the cultivar is actually Silvery Fir Tree( http://www.seedsavers.org/Details.aspx?itemNo=29(OG) ) and is one of my first experiences with heirloom determinate varieties. I choose it because it is wicked short season (58 days!) and I was gunning for a July 4th tomato in Zone 5 (missed it by 2 weeks ;( ). If the splitting can be solved ( I am guessing it is my irregular watering schedule) then they are very high on my list for next year -the yields are syck!

  4. Rob – regarding the stove I suggest you take a look at http://www.hearth.com. There is an excellent forum section as well as a compendium of stove reviews. Great site. If you do get the stove you’ll quickly become as addicted to firewood scrounging and woodburning as you are to your agricultural pursuits. In addition, check out http://www.ventingpipe.com. You can purchase all the materials you need to vent the stove yourself – it’s not all that hard to do. I installed one in our home last year after interviewing four propspective (and certified) chimney sweeps who claimed to install stoves. None would have done the job up to par (in two cases, not up to code) so be careful who you have install it should you decide to get the stove. Safety must be paramount! Keep up the excellent blog work.

  5. About those weeds:
    1. the optimist in me says the weeds improved the soil while they grew (lambsquarter has a strong root) 🙂
    2. don’t yank them up. Slice them down. I have a sickle bar mower. But I want to get a scythe with the weed cutting sized blade (it shorter).
    3. then shred those stalks with a shredder and make compost (I’m sure your doing it already)

    I’ve grown tired of keeping an immaculate garden. And what I have found is a burst of biodiversity in my garden. I’m seeing toads, dragonflies, snakes, and the honey bees are back. I guess because of letting stuff go to flower (like the catnip weeds that are everywhere) and giving them more habitats with shelter.

    And this led to a surprise, no vine borers on my zucchini and yellow squash. I was in the garden one day and saw a bug flying around that area. Then in a burst a bird swooped in and grabbed it. That was really cool. I think I have more birds because I had scatter sown some oats. At first I was made that birds were always in that plat looking for seeds. But I guess it put out the word and now they are patrolling my garden for bugs.

  6. Here’s the link to brush blades for scythes: link.

    Also youtube, check out the weeds they cut through: Ukraine

  7. I mow large weedy sections with my Austrian hybrid grass/ditch blade from Scythe Supply, but it would be impossible to mow in the thick potato vines and these uber weeds would be too much for it – a true ditch/brush blade would be the ticket if I could get a swing in. I hack the fence-lines with a Japanese Kama and that works very well -stout and crazy sharp.

    Leaving the weeds in the row may work, but the root system makes spud harvest on my scale significantly more difficult, and both amaranth and lambsquarter will still flower/seed from the stubs if they are left several feet tall. I tear up the weeds (which still leaves 75% of the root mass in the soil, but not enough to regrow) and throw the uber weeds in the rows where they act like mulch. They are then incorporated into the soil when I sow cover crop in a month.

    I leave weeds in intra row in my spinach and have had similar anti-pest results. This weeding was more from the prevention of weed seed propagation due to the 100-120 days that the spuds are in. The trick is to catch them before they are pollinated – many will continue to produce seed even if pulled by sucking the nutrients from the plant into the seed heads.
    As I am on rented land, stewardship is a priority.


  8. So is the only solution hand-pulling? Mulching heavily might work – if you have access to lots of free hay or leaves. Or is it a matter of pre-emptive stike – weeding at an earlier stage. I have the same problems with as you with quack and stout grass stalks. I’m thinking of heavier mulch, wider rows.

  9. Here is my best practice potato weeding plan for field spuds:

    Clean cultivate while sowing.
    Wheel hoe 1-2 times inter row in first 4 weeks
    Hill at 30 days
    Hill at 45 days
    Hill at 60 days
    Hand weed any vigourous weeds not killed by hilling
    60+ days hand weed as needed, but typically potato plants have full canopy and there is not much of an issue.
    Mulching after last hilling will help with potato bugs and keep moisture in the soil for better tuber set. I use about 1 small bale per 30 sq ft., which is a thick mulch. I have 1500 sq ft so I do not mulch it all. Considering incorporating large expanses of winter rye / hairy vetch as cover as I harvest this years spuds to be mown and used as next years mulch. Would love to find a bale chopper to make incorporation easier, but dang their expensive so a chipper may do the job – they make one for the Grillo.

    The only thing I have seen to work on Quack/Couch is to cultivate heavily every 1-2 months and let the roots resprout to drain the rhizomes of energy. Vigilance is key to not let them recharge. Once Quack and other perrenial weeds are removed mulching takes care of 90% of the weeds in my experience at the farm.

    Actually, after Quack, all other weeds seem almost cute (just don’t let your amaranth get to 2″ trunk diameter!

  10. “after Quack, all other weeds seem almost cute” — LOL

    Thanks for the great info!

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