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Broadforks

 
Posts: 30
Location: SW Pennsylvania
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fungi trees bee
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I love my robust broadfork. It is very well made and it does what it is supposed to do exactly. However, I am tempted to resort to a rototiller in my struggle to convert an acre of worn-out pasture to a new garden space. I've been working on it for 3 years but continue to incur losses to weeds. Big weeds. Strong weeds. Pervasive weeds. I have very little flattish land and this is decent creek-bottom soil so relocating the site is not an option I wish to explore. Canada thistle (it arrived in some purchased hay) and Joe Pye weed are what I'm up against. The site is one of the few areas of creek bottom that isn't populated with stinging nettles. So what I want to know (and I'm sure this is the place to learn) is what are the arguments of tilling 1, 2, or 3 times just to get a leg up on the weeds? Or are the (doable) options I haven't considered? I have done cardboard with heavy hay mulch on top. That made things worse.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3511
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
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I don't think this is a broadfork issue.

How did the cardboard and mulch make things worse? And was it because of seeds in the mulch?

What are you seeding with to out-compete the Canada Thistle and Joe Pye weed? I don't know much about the latter, but in the case of the former, I know that many people prefer to just pull those up as they are found.

What are you using for green manures, and of that, what comes up in the shortest amount of time? I would take that and make sure that it's well-represented anywhere you're looking to extirpate of the aforementioned two. Buckwheat is a go-to for many, but it depends on your specific conditions.

There are many organic control measures listed on Wikipedia under Cirsium arvense regarding the thistle. As to the Joe Pye weed, it's nowhere near as resilient as the thistle. I would just plant heavily in green manures, grazing or mowing before the thistle gets to seed. Rinse and repeat. Doing this two or more times a season will weaken the organisms, allowing everything else to finally outcompete them.

Plus, tonnes of chop-and-drop. Mow, maybe sprinkle with any needed minerals, and fork it. Fork it good and long and hard. If you improve your soil away from the conditions in which thistle thrives, it won't come back.

Now I realise this is better advice for a pasture, but it still applies in areas where your weed pressure makes gardening impractical. If you've planted a garden and you get thistles and Joe Pye weed coming up, the best you can do is chop it out just before it blooms (not before; you want them to put its energies into blooming, so less is left for recovery), and keep an eye on it, chopping it out every time. Eventually, if you get the timing right, it simply won't have the energy left in the root zone to regrow.

-CK
 
Ban Dinh
Posts: 30
Location: SW Pennsylvania
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Chris, thanks for the input. Oats and buckwheat are my go-to green manures. Based on what you've stated, I've been cutting the weeds too early, nowhere near the bloom stage. And yes, the mulch brought in more weeds than it smothered.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Well seeds and longevity are two reasons why I prefer wood chips to hay or straw. You could try those. If you use your own clippings, you can be sure of the weed seed load. Lawns as pathways are, for me, in situ mulch production, clean and seed-free.

-CK
 
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