Spinella Farm

  (Waterford Works, New Jersey)
Life on a 100-year-old market farm
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Thoughts for Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A formidable foe, the yellow nutsedge. Instead of cursing it, I admire it as I take my wire weeder and gently pluck out each weed or clump. The nutsedge has amazing survival skills and is proficient in the lacking sandy loam that is my potato patch. I have much time to think as I pluck the nutsedge and therefore my mental health is improved. Thanks, yellow nutsedge, for being a teacher and a mentor.

No mushroom for our customers this year. My cousin from Kennett Square will not be able to deliver them like he has for the past three years. Too bad. That was one product that we had that no one else carries, a rare feat in today's burgeoning farmer's market scene.

I have been working against a busy life schedule. This is the time of the year when I would like to be in the fields more and in my classroom less. But teaching pays the bills and there are less than 30 days left. Still, mother nature takes advantage of my absence and wreaks havoc in my market garden when I am not tending to it. Such is the life of a gentleman farmer. 

 
 

Using yellow nutsedge as an ally

I have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with yellow nutsedge. To make a long story short, I have lived on this farm all of my life and did not realize that the yellow nutsedge was a harbinger of poor soil, that it was a member of the sedge family that includes papyrus and is favorable to growing in wet conditions until a recent experience taught me otherwise.

A fallow field was recently worked for planting. Up came the nutsedge. I was faced with the task of getting rid of it and plant potatoes or working the soil and improving it so the nutsedge could not thrive. I have opted to do the latter. Use of disking and a cover of leaf mulch and a soil amending crop hopefully will do the job.

For the first time I look at the yellow nutsedge not as an invader but as a red flag telling me that something is wrong with the soil and needs to be corrected. Outside of crabgrass, there is probably not a plant I despised more. But I have heeded the signal and am working to correct the problem by improving the soil instead of attacking the nutsedge with herbicides, which is only a band aid and not a solution.

Researching for organic methods to control nutsedge, I could not find anything that was effective. Now I know why. If you need to control nutsedge, you have a bigger problem than coffee nuts in the soil.

 
 
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