Posted by: Silver | October 31, 2010

Willing Weeders On Organic Farms

OK, so this isn’t actually what the acronym WWOOF stands for, but it wouldn’t be altogether inaccurate if it did. Organic farming means no herbicides, and no herbicides generally means hand weeding. Lots of hand weeding. Only one of my placements so far has involved no weeding at all, and the work I did for my latest host consisted of pretty much nothing else. And, as with so many things, there seem to be as many theories and techniques of weeding as there are hosts…

First, tools: do you pull by hand, or use some sort of implement to help persuade the roots out of the soil? A trowel? A knife? A fork? And would that be a hand fork, or one of the larger, D-handled, do-it-standing-up varieties? Do you, in fact, take the roots out at all? Or do you simply decapitate the unwanted invader and leave its roots to rot and enrich the soil?

Do you annihilate every single bit of green that wasn’t deliberately planted, or do you leave a few ‘volunteers’ in place – to protect the soil, protect the plants, attract beneficial insects? Because the weeds themselves are edible? Or simply because there are so many weeds and so little time…?

And what do you do with your weeds when you’ve weeded? Put them on the compost heap? Feed them to the chickens? Use them as a mulch? (One host used horsetails as a mulch around her herbs, which – bearing in mind the still vivid memories I have of spending days trying to eradicate said pernicious weed from my childhood garden – was a practice I just couldn’t bring myself to emulate).

Of course, a lot depends on what weeds you’ve got: some (like bindweed) will apparently spring again from the tiniest bit of overlooked root, whilst others (like chickweed) cause few problems if simply yanked out by the handful and thrown into the chicken run (‘run’ being the operative word here: the speed with which hens will descend on this plant provides all the evidence one needs for why it’s called ‘chick’weed).

Weeding has turned out to be an unexpectedly fascinating subject, which is just as well, because if you wwoof, I can guarantee you will weed!

It's definitely autumn - sorry, fall - here now, but at least we're still getting a few beautifully sunny days

One advantage of my journey is the opportunity to visit popular places, when they're not so popular: this is Cultus Lake, off season

Sunset over the Vedder River, just down the road from my host's farm

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Responses

  1. beautiful photos….but alas… no pumpkins on the 31st of October???? And isn’t this your first on this side of the great Pond???? Is Ranger getting dressed up for Halloween???? These are the questions your public are asking…. ok, well, just me…

  2. Nice Blog. Thank goodness for WWOOFers.


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