Gardenerss like to plant into clean, weed-free beds, that have well-defined outlines. But every spring, we go out to plant, lo and behold, the tidy beds that we left last fall have disappeared. The quack grass has crossed the divide, and is happily ensconced in our garden.
What’s a farmer to do? The rototiller is often used to get rid of weeds, but for quack grass, it’s a disaster: the whirling machine cuts the roots into hundreds of pieces, each of which spawns a new rooting of quack grass! Chemical herbicides like Roundup work, but they are definitely not something we want on our vegetables.
We’ve discovered a better way: the C-tine cultivator. This is not a tiller, it’s really a kind of a plow, with round, “C” shaped tines that are flexible but strong. The tines grab the long strings of quack grass and drag them into “clumps”. We gather up the clumps, and heave them into large piles, knowing they will come back to our garden in the form of rich compost. It’s some of the heavier work we do, but the little tractor and C-tine help immensely.
A few passes and much of the quack grass has disappeared. The garden is starting to show its edge again. Soon it will be clean and tidy, and ready for planting!
I wish I could say this was all we had to do to keep the quack grass at bay! But the truth is that we will have to be vigilant throughout the growing season, and pull out new stringers as soon as they appear. And even at that, we know that next year we will need to start all over again!