GARDENING Keep your veg plot weed free

Outdoor Living
Weeds-there’s no escape

Growing your own
Chris Brown

When buying seeds we are influenced by the lovely picture on the packet, which always shows fabulous results. Tomatoes all pert, plump and shiny and carrots the size of a witch’s hat; the packet holds great promise for a bumper harvest.
The thing is, in the real world (for those still living in it) you would be very lucky indeed to get your crops to this show bench standard. That said, quality food can be grown both outside, in the garden or allotment, or inside in a polytunnel/greenhouse – as long as you do what’s necessary to tackle those bold intruders, the weeds.
Many a growing operation is put on hold because “I haven’t the time to tend a garden.” Invariably, this translates to the time needed to weed your patch. Here is the hard truth, and I look straight into your eye through a page of Europe’s best-designed newspaper to say this, if you want to be successful at growing fruit and veg, you will have to put in the time to eradicate the weeds!
So, what is a weed? Well, a weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it to. Weeds will rob the food and drink from the plants you are hoping to grow, and, if left unchecked, can completely overrun your vegetable patch; so you have to get them out of there. This requires both time and effort on your part.
That said, weeding doesn’t have to be the chore that people fear, because time spent in a vegetable garden is quality time. It’s both interesting and challenging to be outside, at one with nature in good clean air (as we in Mhaigh Eo are fortunate enough to have in deep breaths). It gives you time to contemplate, to spend some time thinking for yourself rather than have the blessed TV or computer to fill your mind for you.
It is very important to look after your own comfort when weeding; if you get wet knees or end up with a stiff back, you’re unlikely to be up at sunrise the following day with a spring in your step to tackle another weeding session.

Best weeding tactics
The first thing is to arrive on site with the things you will need. Time spent ferrying between the plot and base to get the tools/gloves/buckets that you have forgotten is time badly spent; so be prepared on your outbound journey.
Bring something to kneel on, and a container (like those big floppy buckets) to carry your weeds to the compost heap, a garden fork and protection from the sun (like a hat). I also wear eye protection (sunglasses) to prevent soil flicking up into my eyes.
The idea here is to loosen the weeds from underneath with your fork, then shake, or bang off, the soil with the back of the fork, and chuck the weeds into your container, at all times working in diligent manner as quickly as you can manage.
This is excellent exercise both mentally and physically and you should be looking to spend half to three quarters of an hour each time.
The real secret to getting good results is to weed often; so don’t let weeds grow too big and get a foothold, or they may well break your heart.   
A hoe is a useful tool for knocking out weeds – but be careful not to hit the plants you are growing (the equivalent to ‘friendly fire’), and don’t forget you can cover a patch of weeds with a lump of cardboard, or similar, until you’re ready to work that bit another day. This will save you time in the future.

Next time
Manure – essential food

Chris Brown runs Brown’s Farm, a small farm in Louisburgh. He is an advocate of sustainable, natural farming methods and buying local.