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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Another (almost) weedless year


So, Risa's out of cardboard boxes and she finds newspapers unsatisfactory, and she's unwilling to try to hoe in the heavy clay. What's a girl to do about spring weeds in the paths or the blueberry patch, around fruit trees and grapes, or along the kiwi and hops walls?

Feed sacks! Must be a hundred of them around here. But they're a bit heavy going for the worms if laid out on the ground as is, and there are things to watch out for.

Our feed sacks come in three flavors: single ply plastic, triple ply brown paper with a plastic liner, and triple ply with no plastic at all.

She doesn't really want plastic in her garden -- when all the paper is gone, there it is, and it doesn't biodegrade. It lies in the ground for practically forever, blocking the passage of water and nutrients and worms, and where it comes to light it becomes brittle, shatters into tiny bits, and begins its dreadful journey toward its version of Heaven -- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where it adds to the already immense stress on the marine environment.

So she cuts up each bag and lays it out flat. If it turns out to be single ply, she folds it and sets it aside for other uses around the place, such as drop cloths. If it's triple ply, she peels apart the layers, and the one coated with plastic goes in the single ply pile. Triple ply paper is the jackpot -- all three sheets can go in the garden.

We'd love to see feed sacks with no plastic in them at all, but it's not an option here, and we're not to the point yet where the poultry can get by on what we can scrounge for them on site. Growing a quarter-acre of buckwheat or barley would certainly make a difference.

In the blueberry bed, Risa spreads out two or three sheets over the weedy straw, leaves and grass clippings already present, toward the next bush, and if there's overlap with the stems, she just rips the edge of the paper a bit and tucks it around the bush, then laps another sheet over the edge and keeps going. It all gets covered with enough straw to hold down the paper, and keep it out of sight.

After the next rain, the worms will begin converting the feed sacks to compost. But meanwhile it's another (almost) weedless year among the blueberries.

If you have the soul of a gardener, not for anything would you work with gloves on. The feel of the warm earth, not too dry, not too wet, is something no one can ever describe to you if you don't get it, yourself. The smell of it and the unassuming wonder of what it accomplishes fill you with a kind of faith. -- Ruth Stout, Gardening Without Work

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