Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, June 24, 2010

As Someone Once Said To Dustin Hoffman ...

Fun With Plastic
Another in the Annals of Organic Farming Series

It's another drought year, and the landscape fabric is coming in quite handy. Unsightly, abominable stuff, really, but it has it's purpose. It keeps the sun off the soil. Laid down just after a rain shower, it locks the moisture down in the ground. The dirt under the fabric feels coil and moist, is still friable, when all else around is turned to dry powder. Worms come right up to the surface. Spiders and beetles frolic.
It chokes the weeds out. A pepper planted onto bare, tilled soil is, well, a pepper planted onto bare, tilled soil. Two weeks later it's another anonymous green stalk among the hordes. A pepper planted onto landscape fabric remains just that through the season; a distinct entity, immediately identifiable. It's quite remarkable what you can do with your plants when you can find them. Why, you can check them for disease, you can water them, you can pick them. Nifty.
You rarely step on them.
Landscape fabric, whatever it's aesthetic limitations, might qualify as my single most valuable tool. It quickly pays for itself in non-lost crops. The time invested in laying it down is quickly repaid in non-weeding time. It absorbs the sun and warms the soil, but slows evaporation and keeps the soil moist.
But the inspiration for this post is none of the above. The inspiration for the above post was a remarkable little discovery I made this morning: Buckwheat has prop roots!
A volunteer buckwheat has sprouted up in the squash field, about three inches off center from the hole in the fabric. The buckwheat grew horizontally until it reached daylight, and then shot up toward the sky. I was impressed. Buckwheat is usually such a docile, even wimpy, little plant. I was surprised at the lengths it would go to to survive. But there it was - the plant needed a way out and it found one. It had sprouted roots along it's sideways portion, stubby little props like you see at the base of corn. That's another good thing about landscape fabric: it pushes buckwheat to its extremes.


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