Friday, January 14, 2011

Organic Weed Management

Friday, January 14, 2011

Already 7 AM here on the mountain and I'm bouncing around from one thing to another trying to clear up "paperwork" before Alex and I head to Burlington for the day. I'm "old school" so I say "paperwork', not knowing what that word has been replaced with in a society going paperless. I haven't touched a piece of paper this morning but I have placed two plant orders, confirmed a web order we received for daylilies and hosta, and reviewed our business account balances. Every day there are more and more TV commercials about applications for the various Smart phones and I wonder how soon it will be that I must get into that thinking. Here in Marshfield, cell and broadband services are worse than terrible and as much as we want cell phones, they just don't work and what sort of works at the nursery doesn't work at the house.

Gail and I have always tried to steer clear of chemicals. There have been times when there has been no other choice save for pulling up specific crops and getting them out of the garden. This could have involved insects or various fungal situations but there are times when gardeners and greenhouse growers just shake their heads and toss money into the landfill. Compost piles surely are not considered when infection is serious.

We read articles in all our trade journals about controlling problems and we do a good job sharing ideas with each other. Customers bombard us with questions and there remains a fairly obvious profile of those who think in terms of safety and those who dump on chemicals and expect immediate results. The chemical users don't mince words and don't seem to think there is a different way but Gail and I are possesed to eventually be able to show a brighter future.

For Christmas, Gail gave me a little book named Organic Weed Management by Steve Gilman. Gail has a renewed interest in the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and this book is one of their "Hands-On Organics" books. I'm sure she probably noticed a forward by Lynn Byczynski too as we both like Lynn's book The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. (Organic Weed Management was first published in 2000 by a very good Vermont publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing.) So as snow in Vermont deepens and my time working in the woods slows proportionate to how deep my boots sink, I turn more focus on weed and insect management and try to learn better ways.

I few weeks back a trade journal mentioned an organic weed control made from citrus. Spray it on and half the weeds are history at the end of about a week. Progress continues over the next month. The agent does not discriminate so care must be exercised to keep the flower crops alive. Best of all, the product is approved for organic production and for food. The name: GreenMatch, billed as a Burndown Herbicide. A replacement for RoundUp I hoped!

As I read product information I was interested enough to send off an email to the regional sales staff for more info. A return call came in two days later and I received an excellent presentation about the product. I had questions about how the product could be applied and the sales person did the research and got right back to me. It is available from a Vermont wholesaler, North Country Organics in Bradford and goes for about $45 per gallon.

It's too early to tell how oil from lemon grass will work to kill Vermont weeds but if what people tell me is true, then I have found yet another product that will help keep Vermont the way it used to be. I have been in sessions where new gardeners spoke of pulling weeds as if keeping five acres of garden weed free is an easy task. I have even heard a local presentation on protecting local riparian rights of way by hand pulling noxious weeds like Japanese knotweed and poison ivy. I'm trying to say that I have heard from those who haven't gardened beyond their backyard and "bigger" puts a different meaning to what must be done to control weeds and be successful with one's crops. That does not preclude respect for our environment. I hope this organic product will help me maintain control of the gardens we have already planted and help develop more gardens that are weed free. I'll keep you all posted.

Got to head to Burlington now. Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where 7.4° has been a regular morning feature here. Possible freezing rain by Tuesday. Bird feeders need more food before I go. Enjoy today!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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Kate said...

Thank you for the book recommendation. I have been away from "blog land" for awhile and was pleased to come back and see a topic that has been on my mind lately.

Salix said...

Hi George,
That sounds like a product worth trying. As you say, it's impossible to pull weeds when your "garden" is many acres of production - even worse when you garden in clay, like we do.
I am looking forward to your report.