The Zen of Weeding

Posted by James Eisenstein on 05/14, 2012 at 01:14 PM

Weeds among the asparagus (in dark rows). Photo Credit James Eisenstein.

You may think that spending some 20 hours hand weeding asparagus would be an onerous task, but only because you haven’t had to slog through grading a big stack of blue books or papers. I’d much prefer the weeding, though my knees and back provide a dissenting view.

It took about 20 seconds searching “asparagus weed pressure” on Google to confirm what I already knew: Asparagus is a poor competitor with weeds. Conventional growers douse their plantings with herbicides, including early applications of increasingly ineffective Glyphosate (Round-Up). Organic growers, however, aren’t allowed to use herbicides; we wouldn’t want to anyway.  (See Why Organic Part 3.) So it’s down on your hands and knees to dig weeds from the asparagus rows, trusting you can mow or rototill, then mulch between the rows later.

Weeding can be a social activity or a solitary one. Working with others seems to make the work go faster. While working alone puts me in a state what I call “active meditation.” Meditation typically requires sitting still, often cross-legged, a challenge for an unpaid field hand like myself. My active meditation involves extended periods of repetitive physical activity, which is quite pleasurable. Moreover, the feeling of accomplishment when you complete the job is quite satisfying. Jealous? Want to enjoy this state? Just email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I’ll be delighted to invite you along for a future weeding adventure.

Asparagus is not the only crop offering such fun opportunities for active meditation. Just take a look at the before and after weeding and mulching of gooseberries below. I discovered many “daughter” gooseberry plants during the process, and, not having the heart to destroy them, I lovingly dug them up and transplanted them into a new row, 37 new rows to be exact.

Weed patch with gooseberries in its midst | Gooseberries after weeding and mulching. Photos Credit James Eisenstein.

Please start learning to love gooseberries (ridiculously easy to do once you have had them in a gooseberry pie or in preserves or baked with a chicken) because with luck we’ll harvest big crops in a few years.

Also, devoted readers of the Unpaid Field Hand series, may recall last year’s Mystery Crop featuring raspberries. Well, they’re baaack! I spent an exercise filled day wrestling with a lawn mower to cut the width of the beds to 15 inches and mow the weeds between the rows. Last year we left the rows three-feet wide, and the berries were small and not especially plentiful. With nothing to lose, we’re going to the recommended 15 inches. Stay tuned.

Tags: fieldhand | farmdiary |

{name} Author: James Eisenstein

Bio: Unpaid Field Hand at Jade Family Farm | Former Penn State Professor

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