This week has been hectic both on and off the field. Dry, sunny, and somewhat windy were the ideal conditions for WEEDING during the last three days. In this method, after you pull the weeds out of the ground, they essentially dry out. We are attempting to make the most of the “gift” of a cornfield. Although the stalks are difficult to manage in the tilling and planting machinery, the weeds in corn are quite different from those in vegetables. In our situation, simpler weeds to handle organically. You can see that, apart from that dreadful corn stalk residue, there aren’t many weeds growing just yet (most of the weeds in this field start later in the summer).
Our first batch of head lettuce and middle pea planting are seen above. The role reversal that occurred in March and April, according to our estimates, has no effect on our summer harvests and has advanced our spring crops by around 3 weeks. What often occurs is that certain crops (like lettuce) grow more quickly and typically mature on schedule, while others run a week or two later. (Vegetables are just as eager to develop and procreate as we are eager for them to develop so that we may eat them.) All the snow and cold had no effect on the summer crops since they were all in the greenhouse or were still in their seed packets (beans, squash, tomatoes, etc.).
First, our cultivating tractor (which we will bring up next week; as a result, we don’t yet have images of it in action). Second, we use our dependable farm hoe. The wheel hoe, which is simply a hoe linked to a large wheel, has a variety of various blades (just like it says). The benefit is that you are pushing the hoe around with more of the weight of your arms, making it quicker and somewhat simpler (though your shoulders get tired). We alternate using the wheel hoe, our third kind of weeding tool, and my favourite, the stirrup hoe (which I promise will be featured in future photos since I somehow missed yesterday in all the weeding). The stirrup hoe features a cutting blade that may be used both forward and backward, much like the wheel hoe. Additionally, the blade of the stirrup hoe has some oscillation, which causes it to move back and forth while in use. This feature makes the stirrup hoe pleasant to use from a variety of standing positions.
Similar cutting blades found on stirrup and wheel hoes are intended for usage BEFORE the weeds reach a height of more than an inch or two. You should carefully cut with the blades just below the soil’s surface—this takes some skill. The wheel hoe action’s before and after pictures are seen above. Weeds are still quite tiny, so you can’t really see them yet (which is the greatest time to weed, before you notice them!). The best way to ensure that your crops develop to their full potential is to often do shallow weeding (as doing so is quick and simple using these instruments). Another advantage of using slicing blades for shallow weeding rather than a regular hoe is that it prevents the spread of new weed seeds, which is important for organic weed management methods.
You can see that there is a little amount of dirt crust in our example above. A variety of factors may cause soil to crust, such as little organic matter (ours is on the lower end), poorly aggregated soil (which results in poor “tilth”; again, this is not an issue in our fields), or exposure to rain without sufficient plant or cover crop protection. We are very positive that the snow/rain combination is to blame since the bed above (and all of our spring beds) were tilled, then covered in snow, then soaked in rain, then planted (over the course of five weeks without any re-tilling). In any case, we believe the plants and the soil are relieved to have that crusting removed. Oh, and our hands, which serve as our fifth and final weeding instrument. Which, in most cases, we only use if something advances past us and develops beyond the ideal microscopic stage shown in all the images above!