As if any more reasons were needed, here is reason No. 1,047 that I write about farming and do not farm. I am really good at noticing weed problems as the weeds are about to go to seed. Show me a fall pasture and I can pick out the Canada thistle, the milkweed pods and the purple flowers of the ironweed and the yellow goldenrod. Take me to the fence row and I will come out wearing both burdock and stick-tights. Let me wonder off the path and I will find some stinging nettles and poison ivy. And I can see the giant foxtail waving in the wind from a hundred yards away.
On the contrary, I’m pretty sure most of the farmers I know foresee their problem weeds about two years down the rotation. They make sure no actual weeds are able to get started. And if they do, steps are taken to control the problem well before the seeds are formed.
I am more likely to try to bush hog the invaders out just before they go to seed -- or sometimes just after.
I mowed the grasses along the cornfield last week and I found myself painted with swipes of purple. I later went down to the field to find out why and discovered grape-like bunches of pokeweed berries. The stuff was interspersed in the first and second rows of the crop. The towering plants were as tall as the corn tassels and had stalks the size of teenaged poplar saplings. However, the berries had not yet begun to drop and a yank and a twist was sufficient to break the stalks. I thought I might be able to clean it out. I broke off about fifteen plants, threw them in the fencerow and decided that was enough.
It is a year for tall crops. I have “mammoth” sunflowers in the garden that are easily 18 feet tall. The ornamental corn next to them stretches to within a few feet of the sagging giant sunflower heads. Beside them my late planting of silver queen resides in a forest of giant ragweed. The corn ears have extended themselves mightily to barely outreach the rag heads. Needless to say pollination was sketchy and the cantaloupe underneath didn’t see enough sun to ripen. I swear the ground was tilled clean when I planted the seed corn on July 1. I didn’t check much after that, obviously. At least there was no threat of lodging in the silver queen because the ragweed wouldn’t let the stalks budge.
The tomatoes on the other hand have grown vigorously. All the stakes are broken the wire baskets are flattened and tomatoes vines are everywhere. So are tomatoes – better boys, early girls, yellow tomatoes, big pink tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, rotting tomatoes.
I suppose if I was a real farmer I would realize that all those tomatoes on the ground are actually next year’s weed problems. I’ll deal with them when I see them.