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Joys of Hand Weeding: Part 2 [Farming
Posted on August 27, 2014 @ 04:46:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This is the second blog in my "Joy of Hand Weeding" series. I created a few videos while I was hand weeding my grape vines to highlight the different joys that might be experienced while hand weeding. In the first blog of this series, I discussed the joy that is associated with being out in nature and getting some green exercise. I also provide some tips on how to hand weed properly to help ensure that you get the greatest possible joy from the exercise. In this blog, I want to discuss another type of joy that comes with hand weeding, namely, getting to know some of the biodiversity around you. Part of getting to know nature involves giving a name to plants you encounter on a regular basis, knowing what to look for in order to identify a plant, and combining this intellectual knowledge with an intimate knowledge of the habits and culture of plants that you acquire as you weed them. For me there is still much to learn about some of the weeds that I'm removing from my vineyard rows. The presence or absence of weeds might be telling me something about the character of my soil, what it needs or what it has plenty off. I don't know the reproductive strategies some of them use and I don't know what would happen if I selectively removed some weeds and left others as a ground cover. Some have medicinal uses and some can be eaten. There is still much to learn but that learning often begins by giving weeds a name.

In a previous blog I discussed the idea of a Nature Smart Entrepreneur and wondered at the time what exactly a nature smart entrepreneur was smart about. If you plan to make money off your knowledge of nature then the bar for "knowing nature" has to be set higher than the bar that most people have for knowing nature, otherwise, why would they want to accept your expertise? For me, setting the bar higher means getting to know all of the biodiversity that I'm encountering as I weed my vineyard. By that I mean I should at least have a name for most of the plants I'm encountering and appreciate some of the habits and culture of these plants.

The main book I use to assist me in identifying weeds is Weeds of the Northeast (1997) by Richard Uva, Joseph Neal, and Joseph DiTomaso. It is an excellent reference for indentifying any type of grass and/or weed you might encounter in the Northestern parts of the USA and Canada.

Hand weeding can be as mindless or mindful as you want it to be but I'm advocating a certain amount of mindfulness at times to attain another type of joy from your hand weeding - an intellectual pleasure in knowing more about the specific plants you are interacting with. If you want to be a nature smart entrepreneur, then mindfulness about the names and habits of plants it is probably a requirement. So without further ado, you can watch the video below if you want to see me try to identify some of the weeds I'm encountering, and their habits, as I work through hand weeding 750 one yr old grape vines planted in the spring. I'm wearing my signature headphones so that I can listen to music as I do my hand weeding.

I'm demonstrating a bad habit in these videos of carelessly tossing weeded plants away from the area I'm cultivating. It would probably be better to be selective in what plants are tossed and what plants are kept in place to mulch the soil in the area between the vines. A young weed plant that is not putting out seeds, or which does not have roots that can easily re-establish upon contact with the soil, are good candidates for leaving around the vine as mulch that might help fertilize the soil, retain moisture, encourage worms, and protect the soil over winter.

When you hand weed you hold alot of power in your hands to control the environment of your grape vine plant. What if I didn't weed out the plantain and removed everything else? Perhaps this would be better than doing a clear cultivation all around the plants as weeds will eventually come back? Perhaps it would be better to select the winning weed myself instead of letting nature decide in a way that doesn't respect my desire that the grape vine be the preferred plant in the soil? You can't make these selective decisions if you are spraying herbicides, using a whipper snipper, or some other cultivation machinery that lacks the incredible precision of the human hand.

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