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Thinning and weeding

Beet greens

The first beet greens have sized up: lush and looking delicious, they’re ready to harvest. I love beet greens, both raw in salad, and lightly sauteed in olive oil and/or butter (a kind of deluxe spinach). I’ve never grown them as a separate crop, instead, they’re a happy byproduct of thinning the beets—removing the extra plants so that the remaining beets have room to grow. So the greens are both a harvest crop…and a weed. (I guess this is a continuation of yesterday’s post about WEEDS!) As you can see below, with the exception of a few gaps where nothing germinated, the first-planted beets are growing quite solid in their rows, which means a lot of plants have to be removed, maybe as much as 6-8 out for every one left behind (did you know, beet “seed” is actually tiny dried beet fruit containing several seeds?). There’ll be so much from four or five 3-row beds of beets, I won’t be able sell, eat, store or give away all of the greens that’ll pile up, but I can’t leave them in to stunt each other, so at at some point, the thinning becomes…weeding. Funny how that works! :)

Beets need thinning

Meanwhile, after a quite intensive weeding by hand and hoe a few days ago, the beet beds and paths are in fine shape, with only some growth near the plants that’ll come out during the thinning. (The cracks in the ground are what happens with our heavyish clay-loam soil: it’s not at all concrete-solid, it’s nicely moist, but as the surface dries out, it tends to…crack.) As far as overall weeding, with some quick touch-up hoeing along the way, these beds should be fine till harvest in 3-4 weeks (maybe earlier for some). The increasing leaf cover will keep down weeds near the plants, and the increasingly narrow paths and between-row strips can be quickly walked down with the weed hoe. It should be…sweet! On the other hand, in the potato patch…

Potatoes and weeds

…things have gotten a little crazier. A dense and vigorous mix of mostly pigweed and some lamb’s quarters has carpeted one of the two potato sections. Here, you can see the difference a pass with the wheel hoe makes. On the left, a just-hoed path still looks pretty green. In the middle, it’s untouched and looking a little scary. I’d call this…Stage 2: leave these little guys just a few days longer, and it’ll be a fight to hoe as the pigweed stems in particular will start to get tougher. On the right, a path weed-hoed a couple of days ago (I was on the way through while walking back from hoeing another area)—after a day of sunshine, the cut and uprooted weeds dry up, and you can see how much weeding you’ve really done. There’s still a lot of close work around the plants, but the potatoes are really shooting up now, so once that final weeding is done, the plants will shade out and prevent germination of whatever weed seed’s still near the surface. On the other potato section, the weeds aren’t nearly so…dense. On this one, some of last year’s weeds obviously went to seed, which really increases this year’s population. It almost fee;s like a closed system: what work you get away with not doing now, you eventually pay for later, usually with a little interest…

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3 Comments

  1. Robin

    I was extremely careful to not let one particular kind of weed go to seed last year.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time tilling and pulling because of them.  It was supposed to be better this year.  It’s not!  When the weed bank was disturbed with tilling this spring the process started again.  I’m beginning to think about Napalm….

    And speak of seed banks – when I pulled the beet greens in the greenhouse late in the winter I disturbed that seed bank.  Seeds that didn’t germinate last fall did germ this spring when I planted the onions and watered well.  I have so many beets growing in the onions that they’re bringing in an unexpected $20 a week.   Your greens look great, btw.

  2. Rena

    I enjoy your blog.  Easy to read and it’s my kinda funny.  I also have chickens.  What a fun life you seem to be having.  I dream about that kind of stuff.  I have told your chicken story (meat chickens) to several people.  I have 3 month old Rhode Island reds (12)  I can’t wait for them to lay some eggs. 
    Let me know if in the fall if you would like some heirloom peppers or Tomatoes.  I keep up a good bit of varieties.
    Random Reader

  3. Ryan

    Those beet greens did not disappoint. We took your advice and gave them a light sautee in some olive oil. Delicious. The kids thought the tiny little beets were cute and gobbled them right up. Thanks!

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