Sunday, April 30, 2006

Switch Grass

With the beautiful weather this weekend, we finally got a chance to start working on our community garden plot. With that work, I got a good look at the biggest problem the other gardners had warned me about at the kick-off pot luck dinner for all of the gardners. Switch grass.

Whenever I asked anyone at the pot luck dinner if they had any advice for a newbie, they also sighed and said, "Watch out for the switch grass." I obviously know what grass is but wasn't quite sure about switch grass. However, I now feel quite familiar with the stuff after spending the last two days trying to get it out of our garden.

I guess it's a grass that is common to wetlands throughout the country which makes sense because our garden plots lie next to a river. The roots on this stuff is crazy. For just a few blades of grass, they'll have a thick root that runs for about a foot. All of those roots cross over each other lie an underground plate of spaghetti to make a thick clump of roots that need to be removed. The other nasty part of switch grass is its speed. According to my fellow garders, the stuff quickly invades any open space. We've been warned to stay on top of it or watch our plot perish. This also makes some sense since whoever had our plot last year stopped gardening in August and the plot was covered in witch grass by the time we arrived on saturday.

Our plot has five rows with each row about 15-20 feet long. So, I took a pitchfork and started breaking up the ground in the two outside rows since they seemed to be in the worst shape. Then I'd dig clumps out with my hands as I knocked as much dirt off as I could. Thankfully, the dirt is beautiful. Dark soft rich stuff without any clay or stones. So, it fell off the roots pretty easily. But it was still a long boring process. Finally after a few hours of work on saturday and sunday, we cleared about 2 3/4 rows of switch grass and other weeds. You can see one of the rows we finished in the photo next to one overrun with witch grass next to it. Quite the contrast. We'll take care of the other rows next weekend if the weather is OK.

We also managed to get some spinach, peas and carrot seeds in the ground. Knowing we planted something gave my wife and I a nice sense of accomplishment. Plus, it was a fun way to spend a beautiful weekend with the kids. Our kids loved playing in the dirt, looking for worms and sticking the seeds in the ground.

The other cool part of the garden we discovered was the swimming hole. To get water for the garden, we can take water from the North Branch river which runs past the plots. About 100 yards past the plots is a nice grassy cut in the woods that runs right up to the bank of the river. There's a bench there and a nice easy sandy entry into the water. The river was only a foot or two deep but I can imagine sitting on some of those large submerged rocks on a hot summer day in July. Our kids didn't need warmer weather though. They pull their shoes off and headed straight in. It certainly added to their enjoyment of the day. I'm glad they enjoyed it because we're going to being spending a lot of time over there fighting witch grass....and hopefully picking a few veggies.


Bob F. said...

the kick-off pot luck dinner for all of the gardners ?

Man, you guys know how to party up there.

Flatlander said...


You don't half of it. I actually had conflicting pot luck dinners that night!

It's a hippie thing here in VT. We've even been invited to pot luck birthday parties for our kids.