willow and i are, for the most part, rational, calm people. we know how to take responsibility, to communicate clearly and peacefully, and to negotiate well with others. but once in a while someone comes along that really gets under both of our skins. i am sorry to say that this is happening now. not just one someone, but a bunch of someones. it’s a terrible thing, these uninvited guests that show up each spring, not paying a lick of rent, just lolly-gaging about the farm. purslane. amaranth. bindweed. bremuda grass. thistle. sorrel. that one branching thing with spiky balls. we plant our tiny seeds, or transplant our tender seedlings from the greenhouse, and around the base of the plant, these weeds flourish. they grow twice as fast as our cut flowers and lettuce greens. they return within days of hoeing and hand-weeding. and in the case of purslane, they literally COME BACK FROM THE DEAD, more profuse and more vigorous than ever before.
i am not sure what percentage of the time we spend any given season weeding, but its a lot. which leads us to our latest discovery – landscape fabric. i’ve never previously been a fan, assuming that most options are sickeningly short-lived. here at soil sisters we are almost laughably dedicated to not throwing things away. we’ve been using some of the same drip-tape to irrigate for the last 6 years. we duct tape our harvest bins just to get another few deliveries in before we let them go. we can’t even compost extra flower starts, potting even the puniest ones up into 6-packs to save as back-up or to give to friends. so the idea of buying rolls upon rolls of plastic that will disintegrate and go to the dump in one, maybe two, seasons, was not appealing to either of us.
enter erin benzakein of floret farm. she’s a kick-ass flower farmer up in the skagit valley in washington state. she too writes a blog, except hers is a lot more informative then certain other flower farmer blogs that i know. for example, her blog does not champion a certain dog in almost every single post. she describes how to grow great sweet peas, or how she preps her fields in the spring, or how to get tall zinnia blooms. she has this post (which became an article) about landscape fabric that turned both our heads this spring. i’m going to point you to it here: http://www.floretflowers.com/resources/the-low-down-on-landscape-fabic/ and also chronicle a bit of our own experience.
we bought the fabric she suggests, which is Sunbelt brand, after feeling assured of it’s longevity upon hearing that she has used the same pieces for six seasons, and even some pieces since the early 90’s. we borrowed a propane torch, which didn’t work (needs to be the type that can be inverted), then bought a burlier one, which mostly worked. we made a couple templates out of cardboard, tinfoil, and duct tape (the three jankiest starting materials i can thing of – perfect for soil sisters farm!) and used these to pre-torch the holes into the fabric at the spacing we wanted for our flowers we had ready to transplant (note – we found that making a decent sized hole was crucial, about 3 inches wide, in order to be able to get one’s hand in there to plant). we lay the now-holy fabric over the already-prepped and drip-taped beds, pinned it down using metal staples, and got down to transplanting.
time will tell if the landscape fabric works for us. what we do know is that it significantly cuts down on weeding, it helps retain moisture which we are hoping will be extra useful in this time of drought, and it makes for evenly-spaced plants that use bed-space efficiently. its a step up for soil sisters farm (just to buy anything new for the farm is a victory around here) and i am hoping that in the long run it gives us more time planting, harvesting, and enjoying our flowers, and less time managing our uninvited weedy guests.
in gratitude for this late spring rain,