ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

What's a good organic solution for bindweed in asparagus?

Posted December 8, 2005

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our NewFarm.org readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Dear Jeff,

This year we suddenly (or maybe I just noticed it) have a lot of bindweed in our asparagus field. What's a good organic solution to this out-of-control problem?

Thanks,
Robbins Hail
Bear Creek Farms
Missouri


Dear Robbins,

Thanks for the email. Bindweed is one of those extremely difficult weeds to manage in any cropping system, but in asparagus it's even worse. Here on our farm we have patches of bindweed that we try to manage through diverse crop rotations. That's in grain fields or row-crop vegetables. We can use hay in our rotation and tillage to help keep it in check. Of course, none of those things will work in asparagus. It's one of those crops that the more you cultivate it the more you spread it around and ultimately the better it likes it. About the only advice I can give you is to try flame weeding. If you can remove the top growth long enough, the roots will eventually die. This will not be a quick fix, but over time it will work. I have no idea how much land you have in asparagus or how large the patches of bindweed are, but you could achieve the same result by hand pulling everything you see and staying after it (but if the areas are too large, that just isn't practical). Some folks have worked with black plastic mulches to try and kill it as well.

If you start new beds, be sure to go into areas clean of perennial weeds and, from the beginning, keep it that way. I know I haven't given you a magic pill or solution, but I don't think there is one.

If you need more information on flame weeders, there are several companies out there; Red Dragon is one. They have a Web site (www.flameengineering.com)that might give you some ideas. Several companies also make small handheld equipment for small areas.

Keep me posted on how you make out.

Jeff

Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org.