The Urban Farmer: How to Keep Weeds from Overtaking Your Farm, and How to Manage Them If They Do (FSFS60A)

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When it comes to gardening and farming, they a polarizing subject.

Some people hate weeds with a passion and other people embrace weeds as pioneer plants the restore soils and fight for their rightful place on the landscape and the plate.

The love for weeds is weak, compared to the hatred of weeds.

On one hand we have a multi-billion dollars industry geared at selling chemicals to eradicate weeds and further down the anti-weed scale you have chemical free growers who go to elaborate lengths to make sure that bindweed and thistle stay out of their fields.

On the other hand we have people who would curse you out if you pulled a weed on the property…

Who’s right?

Both sides for different reasons and those reasons are based on context….

If you are production farmer or a market gardener then one of your primary tenants has to be to make money. That doesn’t mean that’s your only tenant, but being financially sustainable is definitely one leg on the sustainability stool. And at some level of weed pressure that becomes impossible.

Weeds can overtake your farm and limit your ability to produce quantity of a saleable crop. If that’s the case, and you are pro-weed, then you have to decide between your ideology and what you are trying to do with your life? Which one reigns, supreme? That’s up for you to decide.

You also need to understand what resources you have to work with.

If you are a single worker farm then you only have so much time and energy to spend on the farm. If you spend a massive amount of that working with weeds then that’s time take away from other farm tasks or other non-farm tasks like spending time with your spouse or kids.

What are the weeds worth?

For most people, they aren’t worth enough to deal with when you zoom out, and take all of the factors into account, and therefore the weeds get cut, literally.

That’s the focus of today’s show. Weed management, where we discuss various methods of preventing weeds from establishing themselves on the farm in the first place, and how to deal with them when they do.

Organic Weed Control Concepts Which We Discussed

  • Think about your time spent weeding and could you do something about to cut that time down.
    • If you did, what would that extra time allow you to do?
  • What’s your context?  Depending on that, it may depend on what you can and/or want to do on a site.
    • How much time, labor, budget, physical ability do you have?  That may dictate what you can do.
  • If you can’t sell it, then it isn’t an asset.
  • It may be worth totally tarping a plot and giving up production to try to control weed pressure if weed pressure is too high.
    • Tarping is a good way to smother out weeds and preserve soil moisture and biology
    • Tarps also keep the moisture and the biology intact. 
    • Essentially putting the bed on pause.
    • When you pull the tarps off and prep the beds you can use the flame weeder to burn off any weeds in teh soil.

Base Principles of Organic Weed Control

  • You can’t kill summer weeds with winter tarping. 
    • Weeds can be seasonal, so you have to address them in the season in which they grow.
  • Use pre-emergent weed control such as flame weeding as much as possible.
  • Stale seedbed when you can and where you can – either with tarps or without.
  • Use landscape fabric as your context dictates.
  • Be prepared to do some hand weeding and manual control because you can’t passively stop all weeds.

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5 replies on “The Urban Farmer: How to Keep Weeds from Overtaking Your Farm, and How to Manage Them If They Do (FSFS60A)

  • Ben

    Maybe I missed it somewhere in a previous episode but when you guys are talking about the salanova lettuce transplants and using the Paper Pot transplanter or hand planting them why doesn’t Curtis just direct seed it with the Jang seeder and not use fabric for it?

  • Rolando

    I think it was this episode, but did you refer to research done in Canada using permanent raised beds and mulching the pathways with small woodchips to the depth of the raised bed? If it was, can you post a link or tell me what to search to locate this information? If not, then I was mistaken.

    I am interested because I have started to experiment with permanent perennial beds for medicinal herb growing. I strongly think the above mentioned mulching technique will prove useful to shift the bed to more mycelium dominated microbiological soil. I aim to cultivate stronger more potent medicine in perennial medicinal herbs and a fungal dominated soil should greatly help.


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