September 12, 2016

Darn Weeds


There are not many things that are more beautiful to me than the sight of a clean field populated with healthy crops - absent of weeds. Planting equipment is always linear, planting straight and evenly spaced lines of seeds or transplants on a bed of soil. This makes it really easy to see the crop we planted. If everything is beautiful, then my carrots, which are six lines to a bed, can be seen as six, evenly spaced, green lines, separated by a few inches of dirt that varies in color from light brown to black, depending upon how long ago the sprinklers ran.
Right now, the field of carrots I am looking at is in perfect neatness, and the morning’s irrigation is beginning to dry in spots leaving a marbled look of browns and blacks across the clean field of carrots.

That field didn’t always look that beautiful. In fact, not that long ago, it was ugly - an ugly field in which the neat lines of seeds cannot be seen because they are overpowered by the germination of weeds. The little carrot seeds were there, and when we planted them in the ground, it was free of weeds. After watering the seed, the whole field was black with wet soil. Soon the carrots germinated with all of the weed seeds. A cultivator yielded little success in killing the weeds, and the whole field was a blanket of green. Ugly.

An extremely talented hand crew went through the field and plucked the little green grass weeds from the soil, tossing them into the furrow where tractor tires go, leaving the carrots on top of the bed in their neat lines. Behind the crew of farm workers, the field was beautiful again. For obvious reasons, this is not the preferred method of weed control. It is much better to control all the weeds before the carrots seeds get planted into the ground.

Last year, we solarized all of our carrot ground, which is a process in which we water the beds, put a thin layer of plastic over it, and the hot sun raises the soil temperature to a level that kills weed seeds. We then take the plastic off and plant our carrots, and the crop is beautiful. This year, we were not able to solarize and elected to pre-irrigate, germinating the weed seeds, then use the cultivation machine to kill the weeds.

We are back on track for this season, and we have learned another valuable lesson that we will surely implement next year!