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Weed Control and Crop Rotation: Managing Your Small-Scale Grain

The following is an excerpt from Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers by Gene Logsdon. It has been adapted for the Web.

The worst problem in raising wheat organically is weed control. Because wheat is customarily planted “solid” rather than in rows, you can’t easily weed it, so without very good management, you can get too many weeds. Chemical farmers spray herbicides, which control most weeds in wheat fairly easily, except for a few new exotic weeds that appear to be immune.

Rotations help to avoid some weeds. In organic farming the crop before wheat should always be a row crop that has been cultivated intensively for weed control. That way you at least start off ahead of the weeds. Then, where wheat is sown in the fall after most weeds quit growing, the crop gets a good jump on weeds, makes a good stand, and is off and growing in the spring, choking out some of the weeds that try to come up later.

But don’t plant solid-stand wheat in a field that has been full of weeds the preceding year unless you use herbicides. If you are organic and growing only a small plot, it’s better to plant your wheat in rows and cultivate it like the Chinese do. American farmers may laugh at you, but the Chinese have forgotten more about raising food than we yet know.

In your rotation of crops, either in the field or in the garden, wheat is a good crop in which to plant clover for nitrogen fixation and as a green manure. The wheat in the spring is growing on a fairly well-cultivated soil surface. The clover seed falls on rather bare land, even though the wheat is growing there, and will sprout and grow readily. The wheat then acts as a “nurse” crop for the legume, which comes on to heavy growth after the wheat is harvested.

Since corn should be the first crop to follow the clover, the basis of your organic-grain rotation will be either wheat, clover, field corn, and back to wheat, or wheat, clover, sweet corn, back to wheat. Since it is good to follow corn with another nitrogen-fixing legume, soybeans, peas, snap beans, or lima beans are fine, making a rotation of wheat, clover, corn, beans, and back to wheat. Potatoes, wheat, clover, back to potatoes is an excellent rotation where potatoes are a main crop. A five-year garden rotation could be: wheat, clover, sweet corn, peas, and beans double-cropped to fall vegetables, tomatoes, then back to wheat. But almost any variation will work well if you maintain the basic wheat-legume-corn rotation and don’t follow two vegetables of the same kind or family in successive years.


4 Books for Growing Food in Winter

Don’t let cold weather stop you from producing and enjoying your own food. For many, the coming of winter simply means cultivation moves indoors or under cover. Small farmers, homesteaders, home gardeners, and commercial growers can extend the growing season with techniques outlined in these essential books. There’s no need for urbanites and small-space dwellers […] Read More

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until Spring. Author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors can help you grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s book, Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening, is […] Read More

In Remembrance: Toby Hemenway

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Toby Hemenway, a beloved teacher, author, and permaculturalist. In October of 2015, Toby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite treatment that seemed to be working, the cancer returned this fall, and eventually Toby signed up for home hospice on December 16, 2016. He died […] Read More

Chelsea Green: In the Media 2016

Oh, 2016. Where did the time go? Each year, Chelsea Green receives hundreds of mentions (well over 1000 in 2016) in the media both big and small. From interviews, to excerpts, to opinion pieces by authors we’re always working to make sure that the mission and message of each book is spread far and wide. […] Read More

A Bloggin’ We Shall Go: Your Favorite Blog Posts from 2016

Ah, 2016 – where did the time fly? It seems like only earlier this year we were excited about designing swales and getting to know more about no-till farming, and we ended up focusing on the heart, ketogenic diets and seeking a bio-abundant future. While the top 7 blog posts of the year don’t exactly […] Read More
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