Weeds Tell a Story

January 30, 2020

Did you know weeds have a purpose? A weed is simply a plant growing where it’s not wanted, but when there are “weeds”, there is a reason. They can be symptoms and/or they can be part of the process of nature’s solution to a problem. This particular paddock at the winter pasture has had the best stand of grass on the whole property this year. I can’t remember for sure, but I am guessing the cows were grazing it last year when the ground was actually frozen, which meant they did not tear up the muddy surface as much with their hooves. However, yesterday I noticed this very clear line as I was setting up the next polywire. There is no doubt there had been a polywire along this stretch last winter, and likely the cows were on the right side before the ground froze, or I didn’t give them quite a big enough area that day, or something. The darker area is weed stubble. Asters or goldenrod, maybe. The ground had too much animal pressure when the soil was very wet, most likely. Some soil compaction, excess disturbance. The next day, to the left, the ground had maybe gotten frozen so the surface was not damaged. And the pasture recovered well, continuing to grow a thick stand of grass!
Yes, weeds tell a story. Sometimes it’s not too hard to figure out, and sometimes the story writes more like a mystery where it takes a while to understand what has happened. We’ve got both on our farm, but I’m starting to learn that there is a delicate balance between soil conditions and animal pressure. There are times when high stock density improves soil and grows more grass, and others (namely when the soil is very wet...which has been a huge percentage of the year during the past couple years!) when too much animal pressure encourages weed germination. There’s always something to learn and improve!

Kate Cobb

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