Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Earth, Air, Water and FIRE in the Garden

When I think about the garden and the elements, Fire -- beyond the rays of Ol' Brazen Face -- does not come immediately to attention.

Earth -- well that is obvious -- the lush, fertile Mama from whose breast springs forth a bounty is easy to picture. And even the hardscrabble farm, rocky or full of parched clay, want to grow stuff. Heck even city sidewalks crack from the force of Mother Nature trying to reclaim the ground.

Air -- from the gentle breezes that kiss by sweaty neck as I weed to the blustery, rain-filled gusts that wave the trees... that is pretty easy to understand too. It is also the home of many wonderful creatures, flying in the invisible oceans and pollenating our food.

Water -- from the surface to the sky to the surface, a continuing cycle. Sometimes we help with hoses or magic, but it too is an obvious element in the garden cycle.

Today, though, I brought Fire most directly into our first year "sod" garden. Working the field with only hand tools, and with the abundant fertility and rain we have had, the weeds have gotten the upper hand and something of the "big guns" needed to be brought into play were we to have any chance of gaining balance. Herbicide is out of the question -- besides being against principles, do you know how much the stuff COSTS now! No wonder "organic" options are being considered on larger scales!

Tillers, too, at least here in Maine, go for a pretty penny, even well used. And the fact that the lawn machine died and HAD to be replaced (with 4 acre all together, none wooded, you don't just hire the neighbor kid!) totally ate the implement budget. There is still a call out to the Universe for a tiller, to be used in conjunction with the tractor dude's efforts, most likely... but even there I didn't think it the best option with all the spreading grasses. Those rhyzomes, given half a chance, will do their thing and the best option is to PULL as much as possible. Which I will do... but meanwhile we need to keep everything down enough for the plants to thrive.

Along with this thinking, K has been being upset that he cannot do more in the garden. He cannot stand for long periods nor bend to pull weeds and his strength is such that pushing the high wheel cultivator a row or two maxes him out for the day. A day in the sun, applying hoe to earth (still not the best option for the grass!) would not be practical.

However he had been reading about flame weeding and decided that he could do the "flame broiled" weeding thing, and so bought a device yesterday. Today we hooked it up to a grill tank on our hand truck (dolley) and away I went... I wanted to start as I DO know the plants from the weeds and wanted to see how easy it was to control. I will know by tomorrow the results of my work today. I did notice as I worked that a pass with the torch dramatically turned the weeds a brighter shade of green. Working it more, they begin to wilt and dry out, but I am hoping that the flush of green stage will be sufficient heat to beat them back. IN the rows will still need hand weeding, of course... but many of the crops are planted far enough apart that a hoe can be used (not the potatoes, though... where I am currently working. I have accientally exposed several roots with the barest beginnings of a tuber on them, trying to hoe.)

I think it will be a good, short term, "get it down" option! My first partial tank of gas is gone; my experimenting with "how much" heat was needed.... well I went overkill on the first bit. But tomorrow on the way to market I'll fill our two empty tanks and then Friday I will walk the garden with Kevin and show him some of the more obvious rows -- and the walkways -- where he can begin work.

Photo of the "flame broiled" weeds will follow.

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