Controlling weeds is one of the important tasks in gardening. Surveys conducted in the USA have shown that weed management is the most difficult task for organic growers. Dealing with weeds on the typical small farm where “kill and cure” chemical herbicides are used can still be a real challenge, especially in the wet season. Small garden owners do not have the facility of chemical herbicides and, for many, managing weeds is as much an art as a science.
Since the preservation of biodiversity is one of the important principles of organic farming, it is not appropriate to kill every non-crop plant in the Garden. The organic gardener depends on a very careful blend of approaches and techniques to stay on top of weeds. So weed management focuses on giving the crop plants a competitive edge over all other plants that may try to come up in the garden beds. However, the organic grower uses a combination of methods to suppress the weed population. In some situations where it becomes necessary to kill weeds, there are commercial organic herbicides that can be used. There are also specialized tools such as flamers that can be used.
Weed Controlling Approaches
Each crop or crop type has its own types of weeds that proliferate when it is grown. So it is good to rotate different crops in a cycle. Rotation introduces diversity to the crop ecosystem and could avoid the buildup of particular weeds.
Soil nutrients and structure
Planting in the soil which has a good tilth and is fertile gives the crop plants a much better chance to outgrow weeds. Also, in harsh soil conditions, most weeds can grow where the crop would fail.
Some crops have a better chance of competing against certain weeds. It may be a futile exercise, for example, to try to grow onions successfully in a bed full of nutgrass.
Moreover, a single deep plough can bring up the seeds of weeds that have not been seen for a long time. Therefore, choose the cultivation method and depth carefully.
Sowing, planting, mulches, and cover
Plants can be planted close enough that weeds are shaded out early or planted precisely far enough apart to allow the use of tools. Not only that mulches and solarization [covering with clear plastic to heat the soil] can also control weeds.
Crop production techniques
However, careful placement of irrigation water by a drip system can limit how much water is available to weed plants and give the crop a “head start”.
There is a range of equipment and tools available for controlling weeds without the use of chemical herbicides.
If time allows, hand weeding is always an alternative. After all hand weeding can be a mentally relaxing exercise.
Note: Grasses such as khus khus grass, sourgrass, and guinea grass are invaluable as mulches. Khus khus grass doubles as a deterrent to slugs. Try using dry leaves from plants such as certain palms, breadfruit, almond, banana, and avocado. These larger leaves stay in place and cover the ground well (but look out for slugs)
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT WEEDS
Nutgrass and devil grass can also be very difficult to control. If you have a heavy infestation, the best way to tackle the problem is to “fork out” as many of the tubers/rhizomes as you can. This is tedious work, and it may be helpful to pay someone to do it properly. But having had it done your life in the garden will be a lot easier. Broadleaf weeds that produce a lot of seeds early can also be very difficult to control. These are best weeded out before seeds set. Furthermore, Keep these weeds out of the compost. Because they can be burned and ashes returned to the soil.
In Barbados, the easiest way to control weeds is to use fabric mulch or ground cover (full control). This is especially useful for plants such as thyme, which will be in the ground for a long period. The material allows water and air to pass through. Dry leaves of plants such as an almond tree, breadfruit trees (whole or shredded)., khus khus and guinea grass can also be used for mulching.
You can find out about “Organic Pest Management Solutions” in the next article.
Cowpea, spinach and sweet potato are good for use as a cover crop. Cover crops are useful for keeping weeds down when nothing else is planted. Cover crops also reduce the number of potential weed seeds, since weeds do not get the chance to grow and shed seeds.
Catch up the previous article