A photo of hoes
The hoes on the left the red ones are oscillating or stirrup hoes. The other ones are collinear hoes designed by Eliot Coleman.

At the Urban Farm and Community Garden at the moment we are busy direct sowing, and sowing and planting modules. It is a busy month in the farm and we are enjoying seeing it take shape. I thought I would just say something about our approach to weeding.

We start our weekly hoeing session March to the beginning of April, depending on the germination of annual weeds. The approach is to hoe every week cultivating the top layer with collinear hoes or oscillating hoes. We use the term cultivating rather than weeding as we are stirring the top 1-3cm – this prevents weeds from becoming a problem and getting established. Before you start hoeing have a quick look through and remove any obvious perennial weeds with a fork.

When hoeing, we move the soil whether there are weeds present or not. This sounds unnecessary but it is counter intuitive and actually saves a lot of time when compared to waiting until weeds become more established. Ideally they should not get much passed the cotyledon stage of development. We do not pick up waste as this is very time consuming just buzz through quite quickly – if you miss something its okay, you will get it next week. This is especially important early in the season as you don’t always have good plant cover and our tight spacing ensures that a weed excluding canopy is formed ¾ of the way through the life of the crop. Our site at the Kernel has had a lot of seeding in the past as much of it was unused and our seed bank in the soil therefore is very high. Methods described above bring weed seeds to the surface and start to deplete the weed bank over time. Keeping on top of weed control feels good as you are on top of things, reduces pests and competition and prevents surface compaction.

We use no dig methods here at the farm but it would more accurately be called minimum tillage techniques, where we till the top 1-2cm – the rest is left undisturbed apart from annual broad forking which does not invert the soil layers and crop removal. It’s a great month to be vegetable growing! If you are looking for hoes, you can find them online at Blackberry Lane tool sales. They are not cheap but very effective. Let’s get hoeing – little and often.

Elliott and June

This post was first published on St Andrews Botanic Garden website here.