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RE: Misplaced Plants in the Garden

  • Subject: RE: [cg] Misplaced Plants in the Garden
  • From: "Sharon Gordon" gordonse@one.net
  • Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2003 09:09:06 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

It's been my experience that if you lay the newspaper down and then wet it,
it generally stays.  Mulch on top is even better.  No need to tape it,
though if you chose to you could make a homemade wheat flour and water paste
for less cost and probably some elementary age students would have a great
time gluing them together.  An easier thing might be to ask at a newspaper
office for the end rolls of scrap newsprint.  They generally give these away
or recycle them.  That way you would have a nice long piece and could just
fold to fit your paths.

My experience with landscape fabric has been that it's pretty nice the first
year, but then:
a) thereafter it doesn't look so great unless scrubbed clean
b) if you put mulch on top, the mulch composts and a beautiful healthy crop
of weeds then grows in it
c) when it starts to break down, it's a messy nightmare.  You can't pull it
up because it falls apart, yet it doesn't work because it is falling apart.
Picking up the shredded pieces is right up there on the garden fun meter
with dental flossing the entire garden.  And the little chunks of it
reappear like tribbles.

Never tried the brown wrapping paper.  I wonder if you could get end rolls
of it for the asking at places that make brown paper bags?  Or if you could
use brown paper grocery bags overlapped like shingles to cover a path?

Another thing people use is 100% natural fiber carpet strips turned up side
down.  This is very effective, but has it's own problems of differential
rotting and the fact that stain retardant chemicals may have been applied to

Some other things that might help:

1)Planting biointensively.  The plants are put into weed free beds and they
grow quickly to touch and shade out weeds.  My experience is that a 4 x 25
foot bed takes 8 to 15 minutes each week to weed (or less) or 8 to 15 every
three weeks if the summer is dry.  I don't know if you have used this method
before, so it might be hard to believe how much this helps without trying
it.  To experiment, you might try it with a fall lettuce or collard bed to
see the incredible difference.  And it's especially beautiful with a lettuce
mixture.  Also there is no need to make ends to the beds, you can have a bed
4 feet by 200 feet and just start and stop different crops on your way down
the row.  It's actually better from a space and yield standpoint for beds to
be 5 feet by 20 feet for the 100 square feet norming, but usually only 6
foot+ people can reach into the center so I use the 4x25 version.  The four
foot width allows most people over age 12 to reach the centers.  If you do
grow things biointensively, you cut the weeding down considerably, but you
get usually at least two to four times more harvest, so the task time ratio
changes.  Another benefit of biointensive is that the few weeds that come up
get hand pulled rather than hoed, and this is easy with the noncompacted
soil in the beds.  The paths tend to have few weeds as they become
compacted, but they can be easily hoed by even an inexperienced person
especially if you have a few of the hoes that are shaped like a stirrup.
Also the beds don't need any sides, you can just heap the soil and plant.

1a) You can combine biointensive, sheet composting, and lasagna gardening
for timesaving.  For this you need at least one bed at any given time, where
all the weeds can be piled and allowed to compost.  Once they have
composted, you can plant there again.

2)Renaming weeding to improve the psychological aspects of it.  It's more
satisfying to "Harvest the mulch/compost/future fertilizer"  than it is to

3) If the problem is more of motivating ongoing weeders, it can help to make
the person's job identifiable and measurable.  An easy way to do this is
with signs like they do for roadside cleanup.
"Section 1 Tomatoes are maintained by Mary Jones."
"Section 3 Pole Beans are maintained by Juan Castillo."
"Section 1 Cucumbers are maintained by Joe's Fencing Inc."

4) If the ever changing people from companies are the ones doing the
weeding, you might have the groups weed distinct measurable sections first,
then transplant, then harvest whenever they come.  This way the
appealingness of the task increases as they progress through their tasks.
When working with Junior High age thru adult age people, it helps
psychologically if a task changes in some way about every 15 minutes. (For
younger children, it varies from 5 to 10 minutes as they grow older.) So if
you have 20 people from Huntsville's Home Lighting Factory divided into 5
teams and working from 4 to 6:30 pm, their work plan might look something

Team 1
Harvest compost from Section 1 Tomatoes (as much as you can in 15 minutes)
Harvest compost from Section 3 Squash  (as much as you can in 15 minutes)
Transplant Broccoli in Section 3 Broccoli (estimated time 30 minutes)
Harvest Section 3 Squash (that is this big or larger) (estimated time 15
Weigh/Load produce 5 min
Harvest Section 2 Pole beans (estimated time 20 minutes)
Weigh/Load produce 5 min
Harvest Section 1 Bell Peppers that are fully red (estimated time 15
Weigh/Load produce 5 min

Team 2
Harvest compost from Section 2 Tomatoes (as much as you can in 15 minutes)
Harvest compost from Section 1 Cucumbers  (as much as you can in 15 minutes)
Transplant Cabbage in Section 1 Cabbage (estimated time 30 minutes)
Harvest Section 1 Potatoes (estimated time 15 minutes)
Weigh/Load produce 5 min
Harvest Section 3 Pole beans (estimated time 20 minutes)
Weigh/Load produce 5 min
Harvest Section 2 Hungarian Sweet Peppers that are fully yellow (estimated
time 15 minutes)
Weigh/Load produce 5 min

Teams 3- 5

Doing the work in measurable chunks helps give people something to shoot for
as well as a promised end to the less pleasing tasks.  Generally people will
want to try to get ALL the weeds out of their section in the allotted time.
But if they can't at least they have made a tremendous difference.  For
transplanting, people need to know that good spacing and careful handling
are more important than speed or completion.  And for harvesting, people
need to know that careful handling of the plant and the produce are more
important than getting the whole section harvested in the hoped for time.
If they can't complete a section, they can mark it with a section marker, so
the next crew can harvest from that point first before looping back around
to the beginning of the section.

>I thought, what planet did I land on?

***It's an interesting planet isn't it?  And the car driven newspaper kid
idea is less strange to me since our newspaper boy was killed by a hit and
run driver a block from our house.  The corvette chauffeuring does seem a
bit over the top.  But I dunno, in LA does the nanny drive the Mercedes or
Rover if one of her charges wants a paper route?


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