Stale seed bed
A false or stale seed bed is a useful organic weed control technique which involves creating a seedbed some weeks before seed is due to be sown. Preparation of such seedbed makes sure that any weed seeds that have been disturbed and brought to the soil surface during cultivation will thus have a chance to germinate, and can then be hoed off before sowing of the actual crop is carried out.
The technique can be utilized in early spring, when the weather is still too cold for proper seed germination. Several passes are made with a rototiller or plow, then weed seeds are allowed to germinate as weather permits.
By tilling, the farmer increases the chance of weed seed germination by the same method as one would for favorable vegetable/crops: the fine soil allows weed seed to grow rapidly by allowing the seed to open and the roots to spread easier than in compacted soil. Deep tilling will also bring dormant seed to the surface for germination. Some species of plant are known for seeds that can lay deeply buried in the soil for years before favorable conditions allow germination.
Timing is important, however. Weed seeds must be tilled/howed or otherwise destroyed before they themselves can create new seeds. By destroying them early, the farmer eliminates most of that season's annual weeds. Turning the dead weeds back into the soil also increases soil nutrient content, although this difference is slight.
In many cases, several tillings are done, perhaps every two weeks beginning in very early spring. This allows more and more weed seeds to germinate only to be killed off later. This eliminates more weeds, but care must be used to not delay planting of a desirable crop later than the crop needs for a successful season's growth.
After several years, most, if not all, weeds can be eliminated from the seed bank in the soil. In some cases the effect can be noticed in the same year the process is first carried out.
If the weed patch is vigorous enough, the farmer may mow the patch first before tilling. This allows for easier/quicker decomposition in the soil when the plants are turned under.
Some farmers are noted for applying a light and inexpensive fertilizer mix to the soil to cause even more weed seeds to germinate. Although the merits of this may seem a trifle at first, it can pay dividends in the long run by eliminating seeds earlier that otherwise would have sprouted in later years. This too is open to debate.
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