I attended a full-day Farmstart workshop called “Weed and Pest Management for Small-scale Organic Farms” on Saturday, June 9th at Cedardown Farm in Neustadt, Ontario. It was one of the best days of learning I’ve had so far this summer. Owner/farmer Jeff Boesch covered the major principles of weed management in an organic garden, and then showed us the tools and techniques to do it.
One of the main things I understood from this day was that weeds should be controlled so that I’m not doing hand weeding during the growing season. This is important for market gardeners who want to grow food in a financially sustainable way. Simply put, if I’m weeding by hand once the garden is up, I won’t be making much money.
Jeff divided weeding into pre-emergent weeding and post-emergent weeding.
One the big things that can be done before the weeds are up (pre-emergent) is make a stale seed bed. Jeff explained that there are seeds in the soil, ready to germinate when conditions are right, but it’s the seeds in the top 2 inches of the soil that have the potential to make it to sunlight, and grow.
To make a stale seed bed, the first growth of weeds are allowed to come up. When they are still very small, these little weeds are killed, by flame weeding or using a hoe or rake to sweep the surface of the soil, exposing the roots and killing the weed plant. A second growth of weeds is allowed to come up, and gets weeded. This double weeding will have cleared the top 2″ of the soil of the most of the viable weed seeds and leaves a cleaner bed for food plants.