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Posted 5/5/2014 5:15am by Brittany Sidway Overshiner.

It's finally happening, it's been a long wait this year, but the warmer days, the warmer nights and some heavy rain have put nature in motion.  Grass is growing, fruit trees are blossoming and in the farm fields, our first seeded and transplanted crops, which hunkered down for the month of April are growing like they are in a race.

So are the weeds.  And thus begins the annual battle of organic weed control.  We've gotten pretty good at it over the years, we know the timing we need to kill weeds with a hoe when they have just germinated, we know how densely to plant our crops so once grown they can shade out weeds.  There is always room for improvement, but it feels more like routine than an uphill battle.  

Some of the tricks we use could make home gardening a lot more pleasant and successful.  The first, most important rule of cultivation is to get weeds when they are very tiny.  Don't wait until you can pull them by hand or you'll be on your hands and knees, straining your back.  Use a hoe and gently disturb the soil 1" down as soon as you see the first tiny weed leaves pop to the surface. This will kill the weeds when they are in a weekend stage of growth and haven't had the change to photosynthesize or develop much of a root structure.

Cultivation is fun.  It's meditative for us farmers, kind of like a Zen garden that we've mapped out with vegetables.  Mixing a little bit of oxygen into your soil is also like fanning a fire, but the fire is nutrients for your plants.  Oxygen causes reactions in soil that make nutrients like Nitrogen more available to plants and organisms.  

If you want to spend a little extra, mulch is an even better solution for weed suppression in the garden.  Mulch keeps weeds for growing, covers the soil to prevent erosion and helps retain water.  Good mulch materials include straw and leaves, but others have had success with wood chips, cardboard, finished compost and fabric mulch.  Be careful you don't use hay or compost that has viable seeds in it, or you might end up with a bigger weed problem in the future.

It might feel too soon to think about weeding.  Most of us won't plant our gardens for a few weeks (Like after the MCF Seedling Sale on May 17th from 10am-4pm @ the farm) because we are waiting for the summer delights of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and cucumber.  But for those interested in some of the spring joys the New England garden can deliver, now is the time to plant kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, radish, sweet turnip, dill, cilantro and salad mixes.  So get ready to cultivate them early and you'll have happy plants with healthy soil.

If you are looking for spring seedlings, come visit us at the Medway Library on May 10th, from 10am to 2pm.  We'll have lots of spring favorites along with basil, zinnias, marigolds, other flowers and some early tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and zucchinis for those of you who just can't wait!!  

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