Garden

War against weeds – Long overdue update

A campaign was finally launched to regain the ground lost in the garden due to 2 years of neglect. With all of the rain this spring, the garden was overrun by chest-high grasses, weeds and even a few trees consisting of locust, walnut, ailanthus and an elm of some sort. It was in such bad shape that the terraced garden beds could not be located!

Three hours with the weedwacker is what it took to be able to find the original garden beds. Then another 2 hours was spent pulling weeds by hand.

The invasion of one interesting weed seems to have been beneficial. It had a fleshy stem from which many spatulate leaves originated. It formed dense thickets that collapsed into dense mats. Shallow roots allowed single-handed removal of entire mats. The uprooted mass could be rolled into a self-containing bail resembling hay. Some sort of barb scratched the daylights out of skin and caused a mild reaction to the irritation that lasted a few hours. Water content of this plant seemed to be incredibly high as it felt very lush and fleshy, easily bruised but very heavy. They should compost beautifully!

On that note, the massive amount of uprooted plant matter was piled at the end of the garden beds. Or more accurately, the bricks/bails of the aforementioned weed were used in a weird sort of biological masonry. The two purposes of this exercise were providing a marker to locate the garden beds during the next battle as well as to burn out the invading weeds as decomposition produces heat and nitrogen.

Over 3 yards of mulch was used in the garden, to reclaim the boundary mulch bed that contains the grapes and brambles, and to supplement the vacant tree beds created 2 years ago. More grapes and Rubus brambles were added. Five pounds of buckwheat was spread in the garden beds as a biological weapon against re-encroachment of the weeds that were just cut or removed.

Many of those tree beds are no longer vacant!

Those new trees plus a surprising find after completing the cleanup efforts will be in the next posts.

Advertisements
Standard
Garden

Why I don’t remove broadleaf weeds from my garden

Laziness is certainly partly to blame.

Curiosity is where the remainder of the blame lies. My knowledge of identifying trees and their scientific names is excessive; bordering on obnoxious by the opinions of friends with whom I share outdoor adventures. My skills with identifying herbaceous plants are weak but as I am actively working to improve, each of these plants offers a learning opportunity. So I generally let them go.

Side Note: my skills on identifying grasses are all but nonexistent.

In addition, most of my garden beds are fallow and contain animal manure/bedding. Root action of any kind alleviates my concerns that the beds have not composted enough to be cultivated by next spring. I certainly remove any weeds that interfere with my garden plantings. To be fair, I will probably be less generous to the weeds once my soil is ready to be cultivated fully.

Most broadleaf weeds are annuals thus not presenting much of a threat to the garden. Some of them, like false strawberry, are biennials. However the one thing they have in common is providing nectar and/or pollen to pollinators, both the native and my honeybees. Along these lines, they attract the pollinators to my crops!

This last point can be coupled with the one on curiosity- with my biological approach to farming, any one of those weeds may possess characteristics that make it a valuable tool as I found out with the unexpected Savior from Japanese Beetle Destruction.

Standard
Cattle, General Pasture

How to train Cattle to eat weeds in 5 days

I know, I had a hard time believing it too when I came across this article. Folks in the Montana Farmers Union received grant money for the project and achieved success doing exactly what the title states. The test cattle even were trained to consume thistle which controlling my invasive bull thistle was the internet search that brought me to this article in the first place.

Basically, it works in the same manner as the strategy I will use to control the established tree of heaven stands: cull any growth before it reaches seed at maturity until the roots run out of energy. The training program teaches cows to chew different textures and to chew more thoroughly allowing them to widen their palettes.

Tools required:

Feed trough

Cattle

Feeds:

  • Pelleted Alfalfa
  • Rolled Corn, Rolled Barley, Rolled Oats mixed together (aka COB)
  • Molasses
  • Rolled Barley (alone)
  • Pelleted Sugarbeets
  • Flaked Soybean
  • Wheat Bran
  • Hay cubes
  • Chopped weeds which the training targets

Procedure:

Simply follow the feeding schedule provided by the linked article:

Feeding schedule

Day 1: morning – alfalfa pellets; afternoon – half alfalfa pellets, half cob.

Day 2: morning – cob mixed with molasses; afternoon – rolled barley.

Day 3: morning – sugarbeet pellets; afternoon – soybean flake.

Day 4: morning – wheat bran; afternoon – hay cubes.

Day 5: morning – hay mixed with target weeds and sprayed with molasses water; afternoon – target weeds.

 

After the 5 day training program, the cattle can harvest the high protein thistle (nutritionally equivalent to alfalfa) as well as help control the invasive nature of the plant. Untrained cattle have been observed to have learned from their trained herd-mates. The article I linked stated that the Montana Farmers Union would update its website on the progress of the program, but all I found was an announcement of the pilot program from 2011.

Standard