... a hopefully lighthearted series of posts documenting my ‘learning by observation’ process while enjoying lockdown gardening. The first episode is entitled:
‘Edge Effects - The Dark Side’
If you have done some reading of permaculture you will have come across the idea of edge effect. Stuff happens at edges. Plants grow more vigorously, in greater variety. Microclimates can nurture species that might otherwise not survive. I have previously enjoyed edges, but today’s rant is about their dark side.
I have been the keen, but absentee, tender of a vegetable garden for years. The perennials have survived my neglect. But my visits have always been battles with weeds. In my climate and conditions the enemies are creeping buttercups, bindweed and stinging nettles. Get busy at work for a couple of weeks and by the time you check back your veggies have been swamped.
In our old arrangement we had traditional raised beds with wooden edging boards. They rotted years ago, and I eventually got rid of them as they were nothing more than slug hotels. Slugs LOVE edging boards. But between the beds we had ‘grass’ paths. I say grass because they were periodically mowed. I later came to realise that these paths were nothing more than safe zones for the buttercup and bindweed. Miss weeding for a week and half the bed would be invaded by new buttercup runners, sending their babies to root around the lettuce! And ignore the bindweed for two long and they will pull the branches of every berry bush down to the ground.
This year I abolished edges in the growing area. I tilled the whole lot (a rant for another day) and mulched the beds with compost and the paths with wood chips. My original plan to till was driven by a need to prepare a lot of beds quickly for my lockdown garden, but here was the discovery.
Most of my time in the garden had been used by endlessly weeding these horrible perennials. My gardening had become very unfunny as a result. Now, with internal edges abolished, and with copious use of wood chip mulch, I’m gardening an area five times as large with less effort and more productivity. I have obliterate the buttercup from my main growing areas, which would have previously been impossible. Still working on the bindweed, but I feel like I’m winning for the first time ever.
Having used beds edged with wood, and between bed areas with grass for many years, I will never be going back.
Edited: adding photos from a second device
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
I grow mostly in raised beds, due to stony soil.
I'm talking 2 foot deep beds, filled with woodchip mulch/compost.
Bindweed still grows in them but it pulls out easily.
Even the 8" deep corn bed allows for easy weeding.
I have something going on that I am calling an edge affect to. I have a lot of strawberries and they are planted in woven ground cover which is 2m wide, so there are 4 rows of strawberries in each strip and 5 strips, between the beds there are pathways which are a mix of clover (mainly and makes it hard to avoid stepping on bees!) grass, creaping buttercup, and various other downland plants, hawkweed, plantain, trefoil, yarrow etc. the buttercup and clover constantly tries to invade. But that isn't the worst bit, the rows run along side the road about 8 meters back from it, and are edged by small trees on one side. The strawberries closest to the road and the trees are terrible, the plants grow fine but the pest pressure is insane, I lose over 50% of those berries to various beetles, slugs birds etc. but the roadside verge and the bit of land I have between them and the road is what people consider perfect habitat for all the beneficials, it's basically a wild flower meadow, with everything there is in the paths plus tansey, oxeye daisy, field poppy, mugwort, pineapple weed and wild parsnip. what I have discovered is that this is perfect strawberry pest hiding area. It's noticable enough that the second row on that sheet of cloth the one 50cm further away from the wild area is unaffected!
Of course there are complications, one of the major pests I have is the Strawberry beetle. in it's adult stage it eats strawberries, but as a larva it eats soil bugs and is therefore a good guy... but not when it's eating my money!
Shawn Harper wrote:It sounds and looks like you need more mulch. I personally would add about 6-10 inches to what I saw in the photo.
Yes. I'm working on it in stages. I have a reasonable stash of woodchips put by, both fresh and well rotted. But moving mulch is a relatively low priority at the moment, and frequently I have my two children "helping" which slows things down considerably. Aiming for DEEP mulch over the whole area, but trying to reserve the well rotted stuff for growing areas.
Gravity is a harsh mistress. But this tiny ad is pretty easy to deal with: