A blog about agrarian ideals, interests, and ideas.
Tis the season for weeding the garden. I suspect that if I took a poll on why people don't garden I believe the number one answer would be "I don't have enough time". And most likely many folks would find weeding to be the biggest consumer of their time. For many years I weeded my garden with just a hand-held cultivator (a hoe-type garden tool). But it did take longer than I would have liked and it was a little hard on the back. Next I went to a mini gas-powered tiller. But this was very noisy and somewhat awkward to maneuver. (Bigger, newer and more expensive does not always mean better.) The solution was under my nose for many years but for some reason I never really gave it much thought. The solution? A Planet Jr. Wheel Hoe
This garden tool belonged to my grandfather, Warren Yorgey, and it is most likely somewhere around 150 years old (give or take 25 years). The is a very simple yet ingenious tool. It consists of two wooden handles, a wheel, a small frame and various interchangeable tools that attach to the frame. The two metal bars behind the wheel are called "sweeps". When the tool is pushed forward the sweeps run about 1 inch under the soil surface. The result is that the weeds are cut off below the surface, and the soil is loosened to allow air and water to penetrate the soil to fulfill their intended purpose.
It literally takes me about one or two minutes to weed each row. When I weeded with the hand cultivator it took me about 10 minutes per row and it was much harder work. But I must confess there is still hand weeding to do. The Planet Jr. is designed to weed between the rows but not between each plant in the row. So this I still do by hand. All in all this little, old-fashioned tool has cut my weeding time down by about 75%. My overall evaluation of this tool? Slick as goose poop !
When it comes to weeding there are many options. I heard about one guy in NY state that has a very productive garden and he does his weeding with sheet metal! How is that even possible? Well, what he does is cover the ground between the rows (the walking paths) with old sheets of metal roofing, allowing only a few inches of exposed ground for the growing vegetables. He calls it "sheet metal mulch". His garden is extremely productive so I can't argue with his results but for me I could not live with what looks like the remnants of a junkyard where my garden is suppose to be. My hats off to him for his creative thinking but that plan is not for me.
Another story I heard about weeding comes from many years ago, located somewhere in the midwest. A farmer employed a boy to weed his corn with nothing but a hoe. (This was in a time and place when this was the norm). The boy went about his work dutifully but not really paying attention (because really, what is there to pay attention to when weeding?). After a while the farmer came by to check on the boy and his progress. As the farmer began to look over the situation he noticed something interesting. He began to notice that where the weeds were the thickest, here the stand of corn was the nicest. If weeds are bad for a crop why did the corn seem to be flourishing where the weeds were the worst? Could it be that the weeds shaded the bare ground, helping it to stay soft and moist instead of becoming hard and baked in the open sun? Could it be that the roots of the weeds provided minute passage ways for the rain water and air to travel through? Obviously the weeds must be held in check enough so that the crop gets ahead of the weeds but maybe we're a little over-zealous in demanding a weed-free garden. I'm not enough of an "expert" to know the answer to these questions but I found this a fascinating story.
There are many ways to do your weeding but in some form or another weeding is a necessity. Like many other agrarian tasks, weeding is one of those jobs that gives you ample time to think and pray as you work. As I weed I often think of the story that Jesus told to the people of His day - the parable of the sower and the seed found in Matthew 13. As was customary in that day, the seed was "broadcast" by hand by each farmer. In verse 7 Jesus says, "and other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them (the seed) out." Later, in verse 22, Jesus explains the meaning of the story he just told. He says "and the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Upon recalling this story I'm encouraged to ask myself, "are the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choking out the word of God in my life?" Am I rendering God's word unfruitful because of my worry/anxiety and because of my belief that money brings happiness? I am grateful for God's mercy and grace that cover my sin and shortcomings.
Hope you are enjoying your summer so far ! !
Todd Frey is a Christian agrarian/woodworker from Chester Co. PA
"Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it." Genesis 2:15