Spinella Farm

  (Waterford Works, New Jersey)
Life on a 100-year-old market farm
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Thoughts for Thursday, May 22, 2014

Athletes talk about being in the zone. That perfect time in which everything they do is just right and it all clicks. The baseball is as big as a beach ball tot he batter. The hoop was as wide as the ocean to the basketball player. The goal posts were right up close to the place kicker. But what about the farmer? When does he reach his zone?

I reached mine yesterday. Let me explain. The weather was in the upper 60s, the wind was a slight breeze. The sun just enough to keep you warm but not burning you up. And the soil was just perfect for cultivating.

That last thing was the icing on the cake. Every time I put the tined weeder down, the soil just crumpled. The top layer shattered in every direction. The bed in which the weeds grew was blown up like an atomic bomb explosion. Yet my exertion was minimal, my actions very free of effort. The bean seedlings hardly moved yet all of the top layer of soil around them broke away. No mechanical device could have done a better job. Wow! Some days it just happens like that.

The job got done quickly and it was done right. It freed up time to do other things which is valuable right now considering that time during the week is precious.

These kinds of moments don't happen often. So when they do, I really enjoy them. 



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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