How to get rid of invasive weeds in ecological farming?

Of course no pesticides are used in organic agriculture and horticulture. But how am I going to get rid of invasive weeds on the lavender farm?

how to get rid of invasive weeds, looks quite beautiful, but bindweed is too agresive.
bindweed, very invasive

New innovative methods to get rid of invasive weeds

Wherever the law stipulates that pesticides may no longer be used, new innovative methods are created to remove weeds ecological. You can use use machines, that attack the weeds to the root with hot steam or hot water. Weeding itself, with the hoe or with hot water, is not necessarily an annoying job, but it is when we are talking about a large area and a very invasive weed.

No weed as persistent as bindweed

No weed grow so fast and is as persistent as bindweed I think. The plant speads with an extensive root branch that can go up to 10 meters deep. And each individual plant slums up through the stem of the lavender. My land unfortunately has a lot of bindweed.

Deep plowing and leaving the ground bare is a method used here. I suspect that the plant will only be multiplied. In addition to that it is bad for biodiversity and can lead to erosion.

Wherever there is water, the bindweed appears. I am quite sure that the seeds come in through the irrigation channels (asequias) here in the Alpujarras.

how to get rid of invasive weeds. Seeds of bindweed spreads by irrigation channel.
bindweed next to an Alpujarra asequia

Picking flowers to prevent them spreading seeds

Bindweed blooms in summer immediately after watering. I pick those flowers on my land where possible, to prevent them spreading even more seeds. And leave not even one dead plant on my land because the seeds will still ripen. I think.

Fortunately, newly sprouted seeds can easily be eliminated with weeding. The deep root system is another story. That doesn’t get exhausted. Also steam or boiling water does not get that deep.

Where other plants die because of pesticides, bindweed simply returns and now with no competition

Neighbors spray pesticides. That seems like an option in the short term, but in the long term it’s very bad. Where other plants do die, bindweed simply returns. And then you just killed the competition.

Mulching the soil, so covering it with compost or straw, is also not a solution. Precisely from underneath the mulch they come out even harder than elsewhere.

So I came up with black agricultural plastic

Black plastic is a permitted method in organic agriculture and horticulture. The black plastic warms up the soil and weeds die because there is no photosynthesis without light.

black plastic on my land to get rid of invasive weeds

Doing nothing makes the problem bigger and bigger

Plastic contributes to climate change and plastics in the sea are a disaster. See my blog about plastic. It’s not easy to do everything well. But doing nothing or waiting longer is not an option, because the root system grows at lightning speed.

So I went looking for plastic that had already been recycled and can be recycled again. After 1 month all weeds under the plastic were dead, except for the bindweed and another stubborn specie. Where I planted my first 40 lavender plants the plastic was only there for two months, but that was clearly too short. I still have to weed every day.

5 months later all bindweed is dead

Now 5 months later all bindweed under the plastic is dead. I am very curious if they will reappear when the circumstances improve. So when sunlight and water comes in again. I’m going to try that soon. Am I able to plant more lavenders in autumn or should I wait longer? Fingers crossed!

More about bindweed on wikipedia

Living without plastic is not only skipping packaging

We probably all know about the problems with plastic. It never breaks down and in the sea, it falls apart into smaller and smaller pieces and harms our health as well as marine life. According to the Plastic soup foundation 5% of the annual oil production is used to produce plastic. In this way, plastic also contributes significantly to climate change and it would be beter living without plastic.

Luckily, living without plastic is popular

If I search for living without plastic I get 437 million hits in Google.

The many tips I found are almost all about plastic packaging. Refill your water bottle; buy food in bulk, use solid soap instead of liquid. The tips range from relatively easy to implement to more difficult.

The milk package is a tricky thing for me.

Finding groceries in the supermarket that are not packaged in plastic is quite a challenge for us in the mountains in Spain. Simple because there is almost nothing to choose. The milk package is a tricky thing for me. Milk should disappear completely from my pattern because of the enormous climate burden.

1900 kilotons of plastic in 1 year in the Netherlands alone

But today this blog is about plastic. Research by CE Delft (unfortunately the report is only in Dutch) on behalf of Greenpeace in May 2019 showed that in the small Netherlands in the year 2017 alone 1,900 kilotons of plastic were put on the market. That plastic is used as follows:

  • 40% large and small utensils
  • 30% packaging
  • 15% building material
  • 11% clothing and textiles
  • 3% cars and electrical and electronic devices

There is justifiably much attention for packaging, which represented 30% of the total in 2017. In addition, the number of plastic packaging had increased by 10% in the previous five years. And they are of course often unnecessary.

living without plastic

Apart from packaging, there is much more to cut back on plastic

40% of the plastics is used in large and small utensils and 11% in clothing and textiles. We, as consumers, may not be able to do something directly with building materials (15%), but apparently we can do something about large and small utensils and textiles. I start with something that is easy for myself. but apparently much harder to others.  

20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes per person annually

According to the Dutch environmental consumer site, Milieucentraal, people in Holland buy an average of 20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes annually. I am shocked.

I hardly buy clothes, but apparently I am an exception. Maybe it’s easier for me because I live far away from clothing stores?

organic cotton is not really sustainable

But if I do need clothing or textiles, what do I buy? So far I am mainly looking for organic cotton. It does not contribute to the plastic soup and no pesticides are used for it, but it is not really sustainable either, due to the large demands on land and water.

Acrylic, lycra, polyamide and polyester are apparently the substances that account for 11% of plastics. That’s almost half of the amount of packaging.

The most sustainable is the reuse of textiles. And of course take good care of your clothes and not buy new ones if that is not necessary. According to Milieucentraal, Tencel or lyocel is also doing well.

The shepherd can’t get rid of his wool, that’s double waste

Like silk, wool is doing terribly badly on almost every environmental aspect but plastic. I think not everyone comes up with that. A shepherd in my neighbourhood has his shed full of raw wool, he can’t get rid of it. That is double waste. Let’s see if I can do something with it later.

I think I score reasonably well on clothing, but not on all plastic

On my land there is a large piece of black plastic to get rid off some stubborn and invasive plants before the lavender arrives. That is approved in organic agriculture, but plastic. Was that the right choice then? A lot of stuff to find out, it’s not so easy to live sustainable. But necessary. So I will continue to figure out how to live a more sustainable life. Here you can read why.

Lavender harvest for the very first time

The first lavender harvest could never be great. The test field I started with this spring contains only 40 plants. Moreover, the harvest in the first year is simply not high. But still, the first results can be there.

first lavender harvest
First lavender harvest: an explosion of scents and colors

Explosion of scents and colors

Not all lavenders gave a good yield right away, but some varieties just kept on flowering. The smell of 13 different types of lavender comes to me as I descend the stairs to the basement. Because that is where I dry the harvest bunches. What an explosion of fragance!

The sweet scent of the lavandula angustfolia

Especially the sweet scent of some angustfolias is fantastic. And then the colors. Varying from white to the darkest blue. In comparison, the lavandin that I was allowed to harvest from a friend is a bit pale in color.

lavender harvest of lavandin
Lavandin, harvested in the Alpujarras at the foot of the Sierra Nevada

I was actually a bit late with the harvest. Within a few days the lavender flowers automatically felt from their stalks into the bed cover that hangs underneath the bundles. I think I should harvest earlier next time.

Sustainable lavender harvest

But what to do with all those buzzing bees above those beautiful flowers? Harvesting the flowers sooner is not necessarily in favor of the bees, who already have such a difficult time. If I have more lavender plants, I will leave them some flowers.

Lavender flowers, good for the bees
Next time I’ll leave more flowers for the bees. They have a hard enough time. Even in the nature reserve where I live, pesticides are unfortunately the most common thing.
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