I have been asked a few times now about my approach to pest control. I must admit, it was a big worry of mine when I started to grow on a relatively big scale. I am probably tempting fate to deal me a bad hand this year, but so far things have usually worked out well.
However, as an organic grower, my biggest crop problems have had nothing to do with insects, birds or rodents, it is competition from weeds. This subject alone will probably turn into a set of articles, but I mention it here because weeds are the things that keep me awake in the early hours, not aphids, caterpillars or even the dreaded slug. That is not to say that I don’t have any problems from pests, just not as many as you would imagine.
Why a re weeds such a problem to the organic grower? Because they are everywhere, they grow vigorously and they put up a good fight. If you are a new veg grower don’t underestimate the battle to come, weeds are vicious.
When I first started growing field scale crops, I managed to clear the soil to a brilliant weed free tilth, sowed my seeds and watched in dismay as the soil was swamped by thousands of tiny seedlings. I didn’t even see my carrots emerge from the ground, direct seed sowing will punish the naive.
Weeds are not much kinder when you are planting transplants. You do have a time window whilst your lovely plants sit in a sea of beautiful clean soil, but don’t expect things to stay this way. If you lift your attention you will pay with hours on your hands and knees trying to put things right. You need to hoe and cultivate the soil constantly if you want to stay ahead of the game. Running a hoe down a line of veg takes only a few minutes, pulling them out by hand will take hours and your crop will have already have been badly retarded if it survives at all.
It’s gets worse though. Even if you stay on top of the hoeing, some weeds still put up a good fight. Couch grass is a horticultural terrorist that grows around, under and even through crops. Its pointed roots will pierce through potato tubers and emerge through the other side; try to hoe that my friend.
There are methods to beat all these weed problems and I will tell you how I have dealt with them over the coming weeks.