Warm weather came for a few days and we were very glad. The seed-starting house is overflowing, with trays and pots on the floor as well as the benches.
We planted the first brassicas outdoors, under plastic mulch, two weekends ago. The drip irrigation has been sort of shoved out into the field in a very disorderly fashion to water them. This weekend I made a few experimental passes with the cultivator. A few hundred onions made it into the field along with some salad greens and parsley.
The weeds are also getting off to a really healthy start. At the old place my main garden enemies were warm season grasses like crabgrass and nimblewill, lamb’s quarters, a few broadleaf perennial weeds like dandelions and plantain, and the hated bindweed. Here, the broadleaf weeds are less severe except for the unfortunate presence of Canada thistle, but in the annual weed department we have foxtail grass galore with a heavy dose of ragweed- at least two kinds. Someone with more soil science knowledge than I could likely give me some great soil insight based on this information, but I suspect that longtime use of herbicides has something to do with the difference.
I am using multiple approaches to weed pressure this year, based on what I learned from various talks at the MOSES farm conference. First, we are using a lot of transplants. Starting out with a larger plant should help to shade out competing weeds or keep them from germinating. Second, we have acquired cultivation equipment that should allow us to shallowly cultivate around the plants and in the rows in order to disturb newly-germinated weeds. The use of this equipment is largely dependent on the weather. Hand cultivation will still be used on some crops, but unlike last year it won’t be the *only* method of weed control. Third, the area of the garden where Indian corn and pumpkins will be planted is going to get a good “stale seed bed” prep, with multiple cultivations over the course of a few weeks in order to exhaust the weed seed bank in the top soil layer. Fourth, we will continue to use cover crops in unplanted areas both to suppress weeds and to enhance fertility. Buckwheat and oats will be used this year. Fifth, we hope to acquire some livestock to eat down the pastures and therefore reduce the number of weed seeds created in non-crop areas. Sixth, we are experimenting this year with black plastic mulch under certain crops, both for weed prevention and to keep the soil warm and moist. It’s under the brassicas now, and we plan to use it with tomatoes, melons, and at least some of the other cucurbits.
The chickens are prospering and enjoying the outdoor life. Our “old lady” hens have become free rangers now that they’ve proven they will still lay their eggs in their house and come home in the evening. We have a good system for the meat birds (a Salatin-style pen) but the pullet house is still awaiting additional revisions in order for the pullets to have good outdoor access.