Are we going to be organic?

Today we sprayed the allotment with a herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate.

So does that mean we’re not going to be organic? Well, in the beginning, obviously not. We’re using a chemical to clear the plot. And we may have to use it again to kill pernicious weeds that keep coming back. But we’ll try and use as few chemicals as possible when we’re doing our actual growing.

Could we clear the plot organically? Possibly. We could spend a long, long time digging out every piece of organic matter from the plot. Or we could cover the weeds with something that would exclude the light, which would help to kill the plants. But that would probably take more than a year to do. We want to bring the plot into cultivation sometime this year.

Glyphosate works by being absorbed through the leaves, moving into the roots, and killing the plant from the roots up. When it gets into the soil, it’s broken down by micro-organisms within the soil into less harmful substances until it becomes totally inert. It’s one of the quickest ways of clearing out a whole load of the plants using a herbicide.

We’re using this as an emergency measure to help us clear a plot that has been overgrown for four years or more and get it under cultivation as quickly as possible. Hopefully, we won’t have to use chemicals after this. And we can use other techniques – digging out the weeds and covering the ground – and eventually become as organic as possible.

Green alkanet

I think we have seen the face of our enemy, and know its name to be green alkanet (aka Pentaglottis sempervirens).

The whole site, access path, the alleyways running along two sides of our site are dotted with little green alkanet plantlets.

If left, they would turn into a plant about 60cm tall with startling blue flowers reminiscent of forget-me-not blooms. But they don’t have the charm of forget-me-nots and the hairy leaves cause skin irritation.

The plant has long tap roots and can germinate from any piece of root left in the ground. And of course it can also germinate from seed if allowed to get to that stage.

Could it be usefully composted or made into a liquid feed? Probably not as Alys Fowler explains in the Guardian.