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Book of the Week: Weeds — Control without Poisons by Charles Walters

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Weeds — Control without Poisons, written by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters. Copyright 1999. #4005. Softcover. 352 pages. $25.00 regularly priced.

By Charles Walters

Andre Voisin, the great French farmer and scientist who wrote Soil, Grass and Cancer and Grass Productivity, once declared that most of what he knew came not from the university, but from observing his cows at grass. And so it is with much of what we know about weeds. Walking the fields with the late C.J. Fenzau in areas as separate as Indiana, Iowa and Idaho, I was able to take note of what weeds were trying to tell us during the early days of the Acres U.S.A. publication. Admittedly, this knowledge has been fleshed out since then. And recent findings build on, rather than tear down, those field observations.

Weeds – Control without Poisons

Weeds are an index of what is wrong — and sometimes what is right — with the soil, or at least with the fertility program. In every field on every farm, there are different soil types, and each has a potential for producing certain weeds, depending on how a farmer works the soil. Fall tillage, spring tillage, tillage early or late, if it takes place when the soil is dry or wet, all these things determine the kinds of weeds that will grow that season. As far back as the Dust Bowl days, it became transparently obvious to my Dad — after viewing rainbelt territory near Conway, Missouri — that dryland weeds generally don’t grow in territory that has rain pelting the soil with a steady squall. Thus the pres­ence of salt grass, iron weed, tumbleweed and all the wild sages in soils where flocculation is gone, and wind wafts dust skyward. There are soil conditions that almost always have restricted amounts of water, and consequently they do not require and cannot grow weeds that thrive when there is plenty of water. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, written by veteran gardener and grower Charles Wilber. Copyright 1999. #6341. Softcover. 132 pages. $14.95 regularly priced.

By Charles Wilber

In the United States more gardeners grow tomatoes than any other vegetable. Some say nine­ty-five percent of our gardeners grow tomatoes. Most anywhere you find food, tomatoes will be found in some form.

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes, by Charles H. Wilber

Tomatoes will grow in many types of soil, but they prefer well-drained loams (a crumbly mix of sand, silt, and clay). They are easy to grow in a flower pot in the window or as a tree-like plant twenty-eight-feet or more tall in a garden.

Growing tomatoes can be done in the yard or most any place with plenty of sunshine. Be aware that tomatoes are easily killed by frost and early plants should be covered for protection.

Tomatoes are quite hardy and can be planted in leftover spaces like corners, fencerows, low-growing flower beds, early spring flower beds, on trellises beside buildings, or planted in the center of a bale of rotted hay or straw.

The two types of tomato classifications for many gardeners are the determinate and indeter­minate groups. Determinate are the lower growers. They have less production since the stem ends at the flower cluster. Seldom does this group require pruning or major caging. Indeterminate vines do not end at the flower cluster but keep on growing. Continue Reading →

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes: Start Your Own Sweet Slips

Sweet potato rooting

Rooted sweet potato with young slips almost ready to harvest.

Learning how to grow sweet potatoes is important. Not only are they an ancient food crop, a staple that has sustained and nourished mankind for thousands of years, but they are also highly nutritious. Sweet potatoes are the seventh most important food crop in the world.

Throughout the ages these sweet, orange, red, golden and sometimes white roots were valued so highly by early man, that they were often used as a form of currency and as a token of friendship between cultures. Today, this weirdly-shaped “potato” is making a comeback with gardeners — and for good reason.

Starting to Grow Sweet Potatoes

To begin at the beginning one must first make note of the fact that sweet potatoes are not Irish potatoes, nor are they yams. Irish potatoes are actually fleshy underground stems (aka tuberous stems) that belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants. Other garden nightshades include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Yams are a type of tuberous perennial liana belonging to the Dioscoreaceae family. Yams are by far the most notable member of this family. The starchy tubers are the only edible portion of the plant. Raw yams contain measurable amounts of saponins, which can be slightly toxic when eaten in large amounts. Continue Reading →

Companion Planting: The Magic of Corn, Beans and Squash

Companion planting

Companion planting is an important part of any gardener or farmer’s planning.

Recent discoveries in quantum physics, microbiology and ecology verify something gardeners have long known. Everything in nature is related. There are no solid lines between the plants’ roots, the soil and the bacteria and fungi tying it all together. To help understand why garden crops do or do not thrive, we are led into the enigmatic field of companion planting.

Just as we work and feel best around our friends, plants will grow better in their preferred company. Although the reasons may be obscure, a lot of observation and a little intuition can reveal mutual attractions and aversions. The garden teaches us the value of old-time practices, fresh experiments and keeping our eyes open. Continue Reading →