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When weeding doesn’t go according to plan

by Alice Warner |

October 24, 2017

Sometimes the best intentions go awry and the weed you were just going to get to tomorrow turns into next week, then the week after and the week after that. This is what happened to the beans at the farm, but don’t despair, there is a happy ending.

I started preparing the beds for the beans about two months ago. I began by cutting the long grass and weeds in the beds where I wanted to sow beans. I then covered the area with a tarp for a month to kill off the unwanted vegetation completely. When the tarp was peeled back, everything looked good. Brown and yellow weeds dotted the area but there was no green to be seen. So, I hilled the beds back up, added mushroom compost and tilled it lightly into the top of the soil. The beds looked beautiful.

After installing drip irrigation, the beans were seeded next to the drip holes, watered in and then left without further irrigation for two weeks so that they wouldn’t rot in the soil. This is where the problem started. The beans came up beautifully – unfortunately so did the weeds. All the seeds from beneath the surface that had been hilled and tilled loved the new light and moisture they had found in the top 10cm of soil. This shouldn’t have been a problem, had I been paying attention. We could have stirrup hoed them out when they were the size of a pin head. Or better yet, I could have put the tarp back on again for a few weeks after I disturbed the soil with the tractor.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t need to water the beans for two weeks, and because they were right at the far end of the farm, I didn’t check on them at all. Until I did. The sight to the right of the above photo is what I found. I thought about just covering the whole area with a tarp and starting again. It would save a lot of work, but I would lose two or three weeks waiting for the weeds (and baby bean plants) to die under the plastic. I would also lose the two weeks of growth that these beans had already put on. I couldn’t do it. The peas are done and we need beans! So, I began to weed. It was surprisingly easy. The recent rain had soaked the soil and the very carpet of weeds I was removing had kept the moisture in. The weeds came out with barely a tug.

The beans look good. They will be much happier without the weed competition and we can expect pods in just over a month. Purple, green and yellow beans.

So, start thinking of your favourite bean recipe. Slow cooked with tomatoes in a stew; stir-fried with garlic and flaked almonds; Nicoise salad or just blanched and devoured whole. And don’t blink or the weeds will be higher than the house.

Yours in veg,


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