Life as an absentee tenant farmer

As we enter June, I’m settling in to the realities of trying to keep a garden 15 miles from home. Previously all my gardening has been done just outside my back door. This is different.

Week before last, it rained every day. I didn’t even bother going by Belly Acre farm because I knew it would be too wet to work the ground, even between showers. Last week, I finally drove over to check on things.

Things were full of weeds. The worst weeds are the descendants of the ones I chopped 45 or more years ago when this was my Dad’s garden and I was the unpaid hired hand. When I first walked out to the garden, what I saw was a sea of green, only some of it what I had planted.

Most common was crab grass, wire grass, morning glory, and — proving the definition that a weed is a perfectly good plant in a place it is not wanted — something that looks like very healthy fescue.

I’ve often said the best way to grow fescue in your yard is to dig it up and plant flowers. Planting vegetables also works.

There are also a number of what we called bull nettles, although I haven’t been able to find that in my plant books (horse nettle looks suspiciously similar though). Except for the fact that they are covered in potentially painful briars, bull nettles are actually pretty interesting. A member of the nightshade family as are tomatoes, they grow little round fruit (assumed to be poisonous, but pretty nonetheless). The bean beetles and other bugs that eat vegetable leaves tend to prefer the nettles, so they always have more leaf damage than any of my plants. I wonder sometimes if it might be useful to leave them as bait.

Anyway, using a combination of my push plow (wheel hoe) and a manual hoe, I cleared most of the weeds, though it took several days working an hour or two each day.

I also found that the radish seeds I had planted had grown into plants that look more like turnips than radishes. I harvested a few and found them to be still edible, but they are way beyond the delicate flavor of an early spring radish.

I resolved to try to keep up with things better, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep that resolution once the summer gets into full swing.


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