There are several methods of controlling weeds in a garden. Some of those methods can be toxic while others can be kind of fun and far more benign for the environment!
Did I say that weeding a garden can be fun, or am I employing the Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn methodology to fool you into a grueling chore. Actually, that is partially true. You see, it is fun observing an activity done by others as well as a joy where ever that help may come. For me, living on a ranch with animals to help is the key aiding with an otherwise overwhelming job. The use of my animals, specifically the chickens, donkeys and horses to do the weeding is referred as biological control.
By definition, biological controlled weeding is using any natural enemy of weed plants. Given that, the animals couldn’t be more natural, and what better use for killing plants than to turn some of the animals loose in the garden. It is a win-win as the animals are getting added nutrients other than their feed while cleaning up the garden.
The chickens are the easiest to employ for such a task. Some people use chicken tractors just for this purpose. The chicken tractor can be wheeled into various locations for any given time. When the area is cleaned up and naturally fertilized, the chicken tractor is moved to a different section. This method secures the chicks from any predators. While I don’t have a chicken tractor, I have two trusty golden retrievers that keep a cautious eye out for cruising hawks.
Chickens are very methodical in their approach to weeding. They pluck at the green grasses for a while before they perform their chicken dance that includes scratching at the soil looking for any missed succulent tidbit or errant insect meandering about the area. At the end of the day, the area they’ve worked looks clean, fertilized and raked. Amazing!
The horses on the other hand are grazers and typically rip the roots out of the ground as they graze. They can be useful if they are somehow contained, otherwise one might say they are inconsistent with staying in one place at any given time. For example, today they romped out the gate past me while I labored on the tractor cleaning up the corral. They were headed toward some tall grasses that required mowing, so I didn’t pursue them. They took a few mouthfuls and then took off for the back 40 where weeds are no threat to the garden. My plan was thwarted where I thought they would do the job required! They were soon completely out of sight and next thing I heard was splashing. As I gazed below the house, all three horses opted for an afternoon swim in the ice cold pond. I watched with amusement as they lumbered out of the water, shook off their wet coats before racing to the south of the property. At this point I decided that grazing was not on their agenda for the day. They were having too much fun. A round up ensued with the thought this type of biological control failed for the day.
It is understood many do not have the same entertaining biological controls at hand. But why can’t that biological control still be implemented by hosting a weeding party? A few friends, some cold beverages, a bowl of homemade salsa and chips will ensure a fun day! It would still qualify as biological control methods! My mom always told me many hands make for light work! She failed to mention the fun to be had in the process.
Most important is to get ahead of the weeding chore or it can be overwhelming as the warm suns increase weed growth overnight! Clearly, while watching the horses frolic, the weeds grew another few inches in the warm spring air!
Wishing everyone a joyous Easter and Passover. Have a blessed weekend.