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Maybe I have radioactive soil... (the garden's gone crazy....)

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politicat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-13-06 01:15 AM
Original message
Maybe I have radioactive soil... (the garden's gone crazy....)
I decided to tackle the bindweed problem out in the garden today. For those of you not "blessed" with this evil plant, it's also known as wild morning glory, and it is nearly impossible to kill. Round-up is the only thing that works on it; pulling it is NOT sufficient because it has extensive runners. It will happily strangle anything it can get it's grubby little vines on, and it is EVERYWHERE out here.

Remember, my garden is 3 feet wide by 15 feet long. I did this intentionally because the strip of land to the south of the house is only 7 feet wide (there's a fence at the property line), and I figured I'd need two feet on either side of the beds so that I could get in to weed and harvest. I planted beans, peas (already past), zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes (already past), japanese cucumbers, lemon cucumbers and what I thought were Charentais melons. I also used my own compost... It's a lasagna garden about 18 inches deep. I buried a soaker hose in the pile when I laid it down. There are only two of us, so I knew I didn't need a huge garden. Apparently, I don't even need what I've got.

Today's haul: 5 pounds of new potatoes, three pounds of cherry tomatoes, two pounds of somewhat larger tomatoes, six cucumbers, nine lemon cucumbers, seven zucchini that are edible sized (plus a couple of baseball bats), and two barrowfuls of green for the compost heap. I pulled I don't know how much bindweed, got the tomatoes and cukes trellising again (they were escaping on me) and this is after picking the obvious stuff every couple of days for the past couple weeks. I ended up pulling potatoes (this is the first year I've grown them, so I didn't know what to expect) because of the bindweed; I didn't plant them deep enough so when I pulled weeds, I ended up pulling three potato plants. Three plants.... that netted five pounds of new potatoes in red, yellows and purples.

I also found four pepper plants (I thought they'd died), a watermelon plant (that I don't remember planting, or planting seeds for) with a couple of watermelons coming along nicely, and a tomatillo plant (that I know I didn't plant. Must have come from the compost, since I do use tomatillos in my salsa.) The zucchini plants have been hiding all of this, so the zucchini plants got trimmed back a lot today.

And I don't know what the "charentais" melons are doing. I've had two come off the vine (and I have three more) but when I cut into them, they're like green pumpkins and utterly unappetizing.

But I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. These plants are going crazy on me - I have no doubt that the zucchini will be delighted with my trimming (This will be the third time I've done so this summer) and I am now getting a little worried that the cucumbers are going to go on a fruiting frenzy. And there are a gazillion green tomatoes out there.

Should I get a Geiger counter?
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-13-06 08:14 AM
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1. your local food bank is gonna LOVE you tomorrow is my guess
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-13-06 11:32 AM
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2. Tomatillo volunteers in my compost EVERY year.
Try letting the charentais sit in the house, unrefrigerated, for a week or more before you try to eat them. Sometimes melons slip before they're ready and we had that problem with charentais.

If you want to slow down the zucchini plant, leave the next baseball bats on the plant. Same deal with the cukes -- leave a few big ones on the plant and production will slow down.

My garden has just exploded in production too. I grow Armenian cukes, which are really a melon that doesn't get sweet but it looks and tastes like an English cucumber except they're about 2 - 3 ft long. Last week I pulled nine of them off my plant and three more cukes from the regular variety. I made refrigerator pickles and relishes with some and handed out the bulk of them to neighbors who don't garden.

I feel for you on the bindweed. My half acre plus backyard was nothing but bindweed, thistle, and wild grass when we moved in. Beyond the gardens there's still about a quarter acre where bindweed rules. I wish I had a goat.
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Ecumenist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-14-06 06:43 AM
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3. Oh Politicat...
Edited on Mon Aug-14-06 06:46 AM by Ecumenist
BINDWEED, the weed from the lowest rings of hell, I tell you. Downright diabolical; oh for the perfect blight, A BLIGHT, I SAY!! I swear, I'm starting to expect it to come up through the carpet any minute.

As it applies to your heaven granted Soil.. Girl, you should drop to your knees and kiss the stuff. You simply MUST give us your secret... I just have one thing to say.... :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:
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politicat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-15-06 02:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. The secret, as far as I can tell, is the layering.
This is a new area for the garden (the old one is now in the shade of the new shed) and we didn't do the shed until April, so I didn't have time to do the "winter garden prep" I normally would have on a new patch. Someone here mentioned Lasagna gardening, so back in February or March I checked a book on it out of the library and got the general idea, then promptly forgot about it.

So May comes and I realize I want my garden, but have done absolutely nothing to get it ready and I can't get a community garden plot. (Next year, I have friends who have a gorgeous back yard that is just aching for a garden, and they have happily granted me permission to do as I please in their space... I'll be feeding several extra people with it, so it will be quite fun, and a good prep for when the Zombies come.) I vaguely remember the lasagna method, but the book now has a huge waiting list, so I made it up as I went along. Remember, we have adobe for soil, so the very idea of actually planting things in it is laughable.

I started by laying out the space with old two by fours from our former front path (we were going to lay concrete, but drought restrictions turned it into a permanent wooden path until I managed to find 6x6 pavers really cheap) and some other salvaged two by fours. I built the frame up to about 12 inches tall, with two by fours and some plastic garden edging and big old half-dollar nails to hold everything in place. The frame is 3 feet wide by 15 feet long, and isn't something very pretty, but it is serviceable. Then I started layering.

Our city gives away mulch every spring and fall, so DH and I took a some trash compactor bags over and loaded up my tiny Hyundai Accent with about 300 pounds of the stuff, twice. I also found a great sale on bagged top soil and compost at our Ace hardware ($.50 for a cubic yard bag, limit ten per customer) so I convinced my friends who have the land I'll use next year to come with me, and all five of us bought ten bags of top soil and compost. So the first layer was a layer of newspaper six sheets deep inside the frame, and I wetted it down. Next came 2-3 bags of mulch, then 2-3 bags of compost, then the contents of my own compost heap, then 2-3 bags of top soil, wetting down between each layer. Then I started over with newspaper and just continued until the frame was full. I think I had about ten layers all told. (only one layer of my own compost, though; compost is really slow to form here in Colorado because the conditions are just too dry.) Before I put down the last layers of compost and top soil, I buried a soaker hose snaked through the soil with the ends exposed. It's pretty snakey. Then I planted.

I had to cover the garden once when we had a threat of frost (in May) and I've watered about three times a week for an hour each time (according to the water meter, this is about 300 gallons a week total).

Total cost, not including seeds or water was: $10 for the 2x4s from the local salvage yard, $25 for the soil and a month's subscription to the newspaper. We already had the soaker hose, but those run about $10 for 50 feet. The nails were $6 for a big box. So... from scratch, I'd say $60? I probably spend $85 a year in seeds. I also bought some bamboo hoops and stakes for supports and jammed them in where I thought the plants would need them. (For the modt part, the plants have had to be coaxed to use them, though.) I garden by benign neglect - once the plant is established, I ignore it until the weeds threaten to demand voting rights or I can't discover what's ready to pick. I am Goth enough in most ways to want to not get dirty, sunburnt, or deal with bugs. So I don't weed and I don't double dig. Also, I don't care what it looks like; if the garden is a riot of interwoven vines and leaves, that's okay. It doesn't seem to hurt the yield and my neighbors and I have an agreement - they get some of the produce and I don't complain about their cats or kids or parties if they don't complain about my riot of a garden.

I plant plants that are bushy, dwarfy or will use each other for support. We like cherry tomatoes, so I try to grow only cherries or pears. I don't do beefsteaks usually. I prefer cukes that don't mind being on the ground (thus, the lemon and japanese cukes) and squash that deal well on their own. Now that I know how potatoes grow, I'll be looking for used tires over the winter and I'll grow the taters in stacks of tires. I also try to time things - the spinach and lettuce were done before the zukes started taking over and plotting world domination, and the radishes and carrots were done before the tomatoes decided to form a union.

I'll post pictures and full descriptions when I can get photobucket and Safari on speaking terms again.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-15-06 09:17 AM
Response to Original message
4. Another name for morning glory: deadman
I have a serious morning glory problem as well. It was planted 40 years ago as a flowering perenial and it has been waging war ever since.

I won't use roundup or any other herbicide, so basically its a weekly struggle.

The reason it is so tenacious is revealed in its other name: deadman. It's called deadman because it creates a tuber (like a potato) deep underground where it stores energy to send up shoots no matter how much you pull it. Because some tubers are deep, deep underground, about the depth of a grave, and the tuber can grow to the size of a person, it got the nickname deadman plant.

The only natural way to kill it is to fight it continuously until you starve the deadman. But that's an almost impossibly vigilant task. I was winning for a while, but if you get a heavy rain and stop pulling for a few days, it basically starts winning again.
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politicat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-15-06 01:30 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Nasty plant, but I have some legal issues.
There are certain plants that are noxious weeds in Colorado or in my county, and we can be fined if we don't eradicate them. (Not a little $25 dollar piss in the bucket fine, either...) They threaten some endangered native species, like the alpine columbine and some grasses. While I don't HAVE those plants in my yard, they aren't far away, either (in the open space) and if the bindweed gets into the open space, we're looking at losing some serious biodiversity.

As round-up goes, it's not entirely horrible. It has a very quick breakdown time (about 96 hours) and it breaks down to nitrogen and ammonia. It's not my favorite chemical by any means, but given the choice between losing species and using a relatively benign herbicide... the choice isn't great and my descendents are probably going to be mad at me for either one, but I'd rather they had a world that included alpine columbines and grammas than a world owned by bindweed.

And there's the fact that bindweed can and does happily knock buildings - even old ones like this house - off foundations. I can't afford to have to junk another house.

If it were native, I'd be more inclined to work with it and teach it to behave, but it isn't.
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TygrBright Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-17-06 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Bindweed and witchweed both thoroughly justify glyphosate use...
...and glyphosate is comparatively harmless as chemicals go. But those two weeds are Frankenweeds, they WILL suck the life out of the soil and everything around them, and they spread unbelievably quickly and broadly.

I don't advocate broadcast glyphosate use, it's a bit like penicillin or other antibiotics. Use it sparingly, thoroughly, and correct when the situation justifies.

Your soil sounds gorgeous... Maybe in a year or two I will have something like that.

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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-17-06 07:03 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. Thanks for the info
I did not know that Roundup was so safe. Maybe I'll try it in the spring before I put my veggies in to kill the morning glory before it gets a foothold.

The other drastic remedy I've heard about is to dig down 4-6 feet and find the "deadman" and kill him!
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