The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Seven years of bad weeding

Cutting weedsMany people believe that if you break a mirror you get seven years of bad luck.  The only mirror I own is at the entrance to the chicken coop (a reused closet door), so I can't speak to the truth of the mirror legend.  But I can tell you that if you let weeds go to seed in your garden, you're in for seven years of extra work.

Even though we reclaimed the forest garden from the weeds last summer, we'll be putting in extra effort for the next few years to ensure that the offspring of those weeds don't regain a foothold.  I've got three weapons in my anti-weed arsenal at the moment --- kill mulches, tomatoes, and butternuts.

Kill mulch

Kill mulches are the obvious solution.  I rip out as many of the weeds as I can, then top what's left off with a heavy layer of cardboard and then wood chips (around the trees) or straw (around the vegetables).  I've found that in areas with vigorous vines, like Japanese honeysuckle, it may take multiple kill mulches a few months apart to really wipe out the invaders.

Forest garden

Next, I plant tomatoes next-door to the trouble zones.  Mark and I love tomatoes more than any other plant in the summer garden, and they're a bit of a struggle in our humid climate.  So I commit to pruning off diseased leaves and new suckers every week, then tying the tomatoes up to their stakes.  The result is that I pay attention to that part of the garden on a regular basis, and no weed goes to seed without me noticing.

Living mulch

The final solution in my anti-weed campaign this year is butternut squash.  Although we love butternuts, I consider them plant-it-and-forget-it crops.  But as long as the weed pressure is relatively low, they do a pretty good job of acting as a living mulch, shading the ground so seeds don't germinate.

So far, I'm very pleased with the results --- for the first time since we moved to the property, the forest garden is starting to look like a productive and happy place.  Maybe it won't take a full seven years to outrun our bad luck after all.

Our chicken waterer is fill-it-and-forget-it.  In fact, I have to put on my planner to check on our bucket waterers twice a month since they're so low maintenance.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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