The Weed Battle

My first farming season is winding down, and I have definitely learned from my mistakes.  One of which involves weeds.  Lots of them.  Weeds at the farm are much different than weeds in my backyard.  The land that I am leasing was previously used to raise cattle, and, let’s just say, these weeds are farm tough. They have deep roots which keep them from being pulled out easily and some grow two feet tall and have thorns.

Since I am growing organically, chemicals are definitely not an option.  Weed barrier fabric is an alternative that worked well.

This is a row of black-eyed susans without weed barrier fabric.  The weeds were taking over and the plants struggled to produce flowers.

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And this is a row of zinnias with weed barrier fabric.

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The weed barrier fabric (Dewitt Pro-5, purchased from Greenhouse Megastore) comes in large rolls. I bought it in 250′ lengths and 3′ wide.   My rows are 58′ long, so I was able to get 4 1/4 rows from one roll.  I cut the fabric to the proper length of my rows and used a small propane torch (Bernzomatic, purchased from Home Depot and Lowes) to burn holes in it.

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Most of the plants that I am growing need 6″, 9″, 12″, or 18″ spacing between them.  To help with the placement of the holes, Barry made two templates out of sheet metal by drilling holes with a hole saw.  One of the templates was made with 6″ spacing that was also marked for 12″ spacing, and the other was made with 9″ spacing that was also marked for 18″ spacing. A wooden stake was attached to the center of the templates to make lifting them to the next section go much faster.

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After the holes were burned, the fabric was laid out on the row and fabric staples (purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds) were used about every 6′ to help keep the fabric secure to the ground.

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The plants were then placed into each hole.

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Until the plants are big enough to choke out the weeds in the holes, regular weeding will still need to be done.

At the end of the season, the fabric should be pulled up and stored away to help prolong its life and so the fields can be prepared for the next growing season.  The fabric I bought has a fuzzy side which collected a lot of soil and debris. Rolling it up was like rolling a giant snowball.  I was ready to give up because it was just too heavy and time consuming.

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To help make the job easier, Barry made a simple attachment for my riding lawn mower.

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I took the board and rolled up a small section of the fabric to secure it.

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Then I placed it behind the frame on the lawn mower and started driving.

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I was able to pull the fabric up with the staples, but the fabric with the 6″ spacing did rip a little.  The problem can be solved by not putting in as many staples.  Dragging the fabric across the field helped remove the extra debris that was stuck to it.  This made it much lighter, and I was able to pick up and carry the roll without any problems.

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Although the fabric is costly, it will last for many years and helps eliminate the labor involved in daily weed control.  This gives me more time to do more enjoyable tasks…like cutting beautiful flowers.

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