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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Cultivating Questions: Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

by Anne and Eric Nordell

In the Winter 2000 SFJ, we looked at a number of cover crop options for improving phosphorus availability. Option #419 was plow planted peas following double-cut rye. This cover crop sequence also turned out to be very effective at setting back purslane, a slippery weed which had so far eluded our cropping system in the house gardens. We would like to take the opportunity here to show how we used plow planted peas to reduce purslane pressure before planting the portahoopies.

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

For all of these reasons, we have found that midsummer smother crops are more effective at controlling purslane than our usual cover crop/bare fallow sequence. These photos show just how we did it in the hot, dry summer of 1999. We repeated the same cover crop sequence in the cold, wet year of 2000 with equally good results, preparing a patch in the house garden for this year’s early hoophouse production.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#1: We clipped the cover crop of rye in this fallow area a couple of times during the spring of 1999. The resulting mulch of rye clippings shaded the soil sufficiently to prevent the purslane from germinating. Then, the end of July, we broadcast two types of pea seed on top of the rye clippings and plowed them in at the same time.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#2: We adjusted the old walking plow to cut a shallow furrow just 2-3″ deep. “Skim plowing” the rye residues placed the pea seed at the perfect depth for quick germination in hot, dry conditions. In fact, the heat loving cow peas popped out of the ground in just four days. On the other hand, it took almost twice as long for the cool season Canadian field peas to emerge, about the same time as the first of the purslane began to appear.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#3: As the weather cooled off toward the end of August, the field peas really took off, outgrowing their cousins from the South with vines four feet long. By using the two types of pea seed we effectively shaded out the purslane despite changes in the weather.

Yes, the purslane germinated and grew in the understory of the peas, but it did not receive enough sunlight to make seed. So you see, the key to our weed control strategy is the use of a well timed smother crop to intentionally germinate a generation or two of the purslane but prevent this weed from setting more seed. In this way, we can reduce the weed seed bank of purslane in the soil surface.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#4: By December, the July planted peas had already died off, producing a significant, soil protective mulch. At this point, we were no longer concerned about the purslane in the understory as it had long since died off with the first hard frost.

(Please be forewarned that this cover crop sequence of double-cut rye and plow planted peas is weed-specific. For example, it is not nearly as effective on winter weeds, such as chickweed, which tend to grow and make seed once the pea vines die back. We find that an oat/pea cover crop seeded thickly mid-August is much more reliable at suppressing winter weeds, because it remains standing, and shading the ground, until freezeup.)

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#5: We like to move the portable hoophouses right on to the dead pea vines before the ground freezes hard so that these structures are ready for planting as soon as the snow melts in the spring. Unfortunately, we have not been able to come up with a greenhouse design which is strong enough to pull with the team — just imagine the stresses on a long structure when turning corners — but flexible enough to conform to the uneven terrain in these gardens.

Instead, we have adapted PVC hoophouse construction to come up with a design which is easy to dismantle and move by hand, and inexpensive to build. Costs of materials for the 20′ PVC pipes, rebar, rough cut hemlock lumber and plywood run under $200. The main limitation of the PVC hoophouse is it will not withstand a snowload so removing the greenhouse covering is necessary before the snow flies.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#6: After removing the six mil greenhouse plastic, the first step in relocating the portable hoophouse is carrying the twelve foot 4 by 4 sills to the new site, placing the beams in two rows twelve feet apart. Clearing a path through the pea residue, and shoveling away the stones, makes it much easier to seat the sill beams in the soil.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#7: We then drive twenty inch pieces of 3/4″ rebar into the holes drilled through the sill beams every four feet. The rebar is surprisingly easy to hammer into our stoney soil, and to remove by twisting them out with a vice-grip — no pipe puller necessary. And so far the rebar has anchored the portahoopies sufficiently to withstand some pretty stiff winds.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#8: Four inches of the rebar sticks above the sills so that we can slide PVC hoops over them.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#9: The hoops are connected at the top to the ridgepoles, also made of twenty foot pieces of 1″ PVC pipe. To move the hoops, we simply disconnect the ridgepoles from each other and drag the twenty foot sections of hoops over to the new site, and then…

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#10: …reconnect them at the top again with PVC couplers. The hoops themselves are permanently attached to the ridgepoles with 1/4″ carriage bolts. We have found that heating the heads of the carriage bolts with a hand held torch helps to seat the bolts in the top of the PVC hoops so that they do not snag or rip the polyethylene greenhouse covering.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#11: The two of us can move one of these twenty by sixty foot structures in a few hours. Once the snow melts in the spring, we pull the greenhouse covering over the hoops and lath it to the sill beams and end walls.

(Take note that the simplicity of this design does not allow for roll up sides for cross ventilation. In our cool climate, we can get away with end-to-end venting through the 33″ by 66″ double doors for crops like salad mix and basil right through the summer. However, the hoophouse tomatoes would benefit from more air circulation, either through top venting skylights, or simply by reducing the length of these grow tunnels.)

One of the big advantages of the pea cover crop is the vines rot off at the base when they die. That makes it easy to rake off the residue before…

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#12: …planting the first crops of the season in the portahoopies. Because these crops are planted intensively, we like to work in some well cured compost after removing the pea vines. The plow planted peas leave the soil so mellow and loose that hand forking the three 36″ beds goes pretty quickly.

This shot was taken toward the end of May in the cold, wet spring of 2000. At this time, our unprotected crops in the fields were struggling to grow, but we had already picked over this portahoopy spinach six times. Meanwhile, the heads of leaf lettuce in the second portahoopy were ready for harvest.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

#13: We interplanted the lettuce with tomatoes, one row of tomatoes between two rows of lettuce on each bed. The trick to making this interplanting scheme work is planting the lettuce three weeks before the tomatoes are set out. This spacing, and timing, guarantees that neither crop crowds out the other, and that the lettuce comes off just as the tomatoes begin to blossom and need to be trellised.

Note the complete absence of purslane in the portahoopies despite the warm growing conditions in this protected environment. Even during the heat of summer, we only found a dozen of these creepy weeds in the understory of the tomatoes.

As we see it, the real value of the portahoopies is they allow us to extend our short growing season while still employing the principles of rotational cover cropping for weed control and building the soil.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Asparagus in Holland

Asparagus in Holland

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The asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level, that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Lost Apples

Lost Apples

The mindboggling agricultural plant and animal diversity, at the beginning of the twentieth century, should have been a treasure trove which mankind worked tirelessy to maintain. Such has not been the case. Alas, much has been lost, perhaps forever. Here are images and information on a handful of apple varieties from a valuable hundred year old text in our library.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT