I look at my annual and newly germinated perennial weeds as plants indicating the state of my soil. An all summer perennial process, kind of study. I posted on the subject in my blog years ago: toads.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/indicator-plants/
Zone 7 (could it be 8?), heavy limey clay, cold summers, mild winters and short growing season Denmark, 780m2 suburban garden, 1m above sea level, on small island.
toad: Great blog post on indicator plants! My thanks - it confirms what I've been reading elsewhere, and I am beginning to understand my soil much better, which is especially useful as I am breaking new ground and would like to get it more balanced in time for next (S hemisphere) Summer. Basically it looks like my soil is terribly low in Ca, P, but high in K, Mg, so I guess no more Dolomite lime, but much, much more Bonemeal. (Just bought a 50kg bag this morning.
Post by Joseph Lofthouse on Mar 9, 2015 10:08:54 GMT -5
I notice that weeds vary depending on the cultivation techniques I use...
For example, the mallows grow only in rocky soil. Because I use a tiller for cultivation, and the rocks interfere with proper functioning of the tiller blades. Rhizome plants like Johnson's grass and bindweed grow thickly where the soil is smooth, because the tiller chops them up into lots of plants. The annual weeds depend on timing of the tilling, because if I till the week after the cold weather seeds germinate, then many of them won't send up a second flush of seedlings. I have different weeds in the perennial beds than in the annual beds.
The weeds vary from one side of the field to the other depending on what's growing on the other side of the fence. The weeds vary depending on the unevenness of the irrigation system. And I suppose that they vary based on the chemistry of the soil.
I use weeds for indicating what season of the year it is... If lambsquarters has germinated then it's a good time to plant beets... If the sunflower weeds are germinating then it's a good time to plant sunflowers, and I had better make sure that all the peas I want for the year and in the ground pronto.
Post by ottawagardener on Mar 9, 2015 10:55:13 GMT -5
Joseph: I have a fantasy of creating a planting calendar in a similar way based on observations of weed, forest, field growth and other indicators. Not always accurate but heck better than straight up calendar use. When the oak leaf is the size of a squirrel's ear…
Also, yes, cultivation techniques make a lot of sense for the type of weeds you'd get.
When people ask me about weed growth and indication, I usually say that just having one weed or another isn't necessarily that useful but only having one weed or another or a particular vigour or lack thereof of growth can be.
Garden is a clearing in the woods grading from shallow, rocky soil supporting a maple bush to a pine forest planted on sandy soil and a clay bottomland with spruce and tamarack.
Post by Joseph Lofthouse on Mar 9, 2015 11:40:35 GMT -5
I forgot to mention the biggest factor in my garden... What did I allow to propagate last growing season? If I missed a lambsquarters plant and allowed it to go to seed, then I'm going to have a huge lambsquarters weed problem in that area the next year.
I actually tried using lambsquarters as a cover crop last year. It didn't work, because I forgot; being a wild plant it has not been selected for prompt and immediate germination, and it all came up higglety-pigglety over the entire summer. (And presumably more this year; ho hum.)
The idea was to scatter the seeds over the bed in the fall, then have them come up in the spring and crowd out other weeds, then be weeded up all at once and left as a green manure, because they are easy to pull and nice and leafy green. If you could get a fast, almost 100% germinating at once strain, I still think it would be a good idea.
Post by ottawagardener on Mar 9, 2015 21:22:38 GMT -5
What if I had? Speaking of grabbing rodents, saw a little field mouse above snow level today and my instinct was to read down and pick it up. The thing noticed and dived into its snow tunnel. Then I thought to myself, what was I intending on doing with the little biting kicking fellow when I had him in my ungloved hand?
Just so. Once I was opening up the corral on the farm and there was a cute little cottontail "hiding" by the gate; I thought " that could be tasty " and I could grab it by the ears ( and smack it hard against the gate-post ), but then I thought of kicking claws ripping up my arm ( I'd not have blamed the bunny; think I'd do much the same; inappropriately-probing extra-terrestrials be warned ).
Once I got to a client's to do the yard and walked around to the back; they had cats and left a bowl of kibble for the kitties by the back door; there were two kitten-sized raccoons at the buffet; I've always wanted a pet raccoon, but not enough to grab even one that small without a gloved hand. The motto of my Scots forebears is more-or-less "Nae tuch the cat ( Scottish highland wild cat ) bot a caber". Having long-since emigrated, I think it's become "Nae tuch the haggis bot a caber" or in Sassanach: "Don't touch the boiled oat-and-offal-stuffed sheep's stomach without a ten-foot pole". New land, new practices, old genes.
"Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery; today is a gift, that's why it's called the present." E. Roosevelt "If the world is to end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today" Martin Luther
I found some little black seeds one time in an old dresser that had been stored in a barn for a long, long time. Two of them grew and were Devil's Claw. That was a long time ago and I lost them over the years, Blaxkox sent me some to start over with.
Nothing ruins a neighborhood like paved roads and water lines.
It's difficult to get past Solomon's rudeness and abrasiveness but I think he makes a good point when you think about it a bit. Food harvesting is basically a mining process. As soon as I pull the carrot from the soil, I'm removing macro and micro-nutrients. So how do I replace them? Elaine Ingham argues that I don't need to if I get the soil biology right - mycorrhizal fungi break down rocks into plant soluble minerals. While that may be true, it also assumes that the rocks in your soil contain the full range of micro-nutrients. It also assumes that the replacement rate is faster than the depletion rate. Solomon pushes hard for soil testing and amending according to the soil test results. This is where it seems to get a bit dicey. First of all, you have to determine which type of soil testing you want to do - Base-cation saturation ratios or Sufficiency Levels of Available Nutrients. Then you have to pick the "right" lab. Then you have to accept that the base rates are correct. There's a LOT of discussion. And there's a lot of selling going on. It also seems that the testing-amendment cycle never ends which means that I'm transferring $s from my pocket to someone else's pocket.
The more I looked into the subject, the more unclear it became so I backed off and took a simpler rock dust approach. You'll find lots of product being sold but I settled on Spanish River Carbonatite mostly because I could find it locally and a relatively good price. We only used it for our tomatoes, putting a couple of table spoons in each hole when we transplanted. We also dusted the roots with mycorrhizal fungi. Did it work? I don't know but I do know that we had the largest and sweetest Opalkas and Giant San Marzanos that we've ever had. No tomatoes that we've grown in the past seven years has come close.
We try not to buy in inputs and have been working over the past couple of years to get the soil biology right - lots of mulching, no tilling, growing food for the soil, growing our own mulch, inoculating with mycorrhizal fungi, planting lots of comfrey and nettles for fermented teas to be used as soil drenches or foliar sprays, harvesting horsetail, dock, lambsquarters to add to the teas. We'll continue to add the rock dusts but start to create test plantings where we think that the biology might be right. If we get good results with those plantings, we'll stop the rock dust application.