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Joys of Hand Weeding: Part 3 [Farming
Posted on August 29, 2014 @ 10:19:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This is the third blog in my video blog series on the "Joys of Hand Weeding" (see Part 1 and Part 2). In this blog I want to point out a couple more joys associated with hand weeding, namely, taking breaks in nature and taking time to observe what is happening in your weedzone.

To hand weed with maximum joy you should take fairly frequent breaks to rest you hands and mind from the routine of pulling weeds. When it comes time to take a break try laying down and feeling the wind blow over your face and cool your body, feel the sun on your face and the sounds of nature twirring around you. Let your body and mind recover and the stress roll out of your body. Sometimes the most joy you will get out of your hand weeding is the pleasure you get when you take a break from it for awhile. You often don't have to go far to enjoy your break. I recline in the grass beside my grape rows and relax there. I probably don't take enough such breaks because I'm too task focused.

After you have taken a break for awhile, you might want to spend some time observing the microcosm of nature that is happening in your weedzone. In my case, I had noticed quite a few times as I was weeding that there were ladybugs in the weed vegetation I was removing. I thought it might be a good idea to lie down sideways in the field and watch a ladybug for awhile - Ladybug TV. The reason I wanted to watch the ladybug was because they are considered "beneficial insects" that are useful for reducing the number of bad insects, especially aphids. Aphids are bad news for apple trees, sucking the life out of the blossoms and the leaves. I have planted lots of apple trees, so I like having ladybugs around and would like to know what I might do to encourage them to stay. I figured observing them for awhile might yield some clues. I'm glad I decided to dedicate some time to observing a ladybug moving around in my weedzone because I came away with new questions about ladybug behavior, that led to internet searches, that led to some insight into why the ladybugs were in my weedzone and what effect they might have been exerting on my 1 year old grape vines. Before I get into this, however, you might watch my video where I make some of these points and discuss some of my ladybug observations.

I did some internet searchs on ladybugs to learn more about them. This research reinforced my belief that they are a good biocontrol for aphids. I learned that the ladybugs are probably hanging around because there are some aphids around for them to feed on. Although ladybugs do eat other things, aphids appear to be one of their primary food groups. What this could mean is that if the ladybugs weren't hanging around in the weedzone of the 1 yr old grape vines, the grape vines might not being doing nearly as well as they are - the leaves could be dying on them and stunting their growth or the grape vines could be dead if the number of aphids was too high and completely defoliated the plant. Usually I associate aphids with apple trees but they do hang around grape vines as well. Because I want Ladybugs to hang around my vines and apple trees, I ended up leaving some weed vegetation around on one side of the grape vines (the trenched side). I mowed down the weeds and grass on the other side of the cultivated grape vine rows (the slightly mounded side) to let light shine in better. As the season progresses and gets cooler I'll probably mow the other side as well (to protect from rodents over the winter), but for now I want the ladybugs to have a habitat next to my grape vines so that the 1 yr old grape vines finish out the season strong and with fewer aphids around next spring when they can also do heavy damage (e.g., they kill apple blossoms). Would be nice not to have to use sprays to control aphids.

I wish I had taken the opportunity earlier in my 5 day hand weeding project to relax and observe ladybugs. Had I done so I might have come accross the internet video below that discusses how to manage ladybugs you might purchase to biocontrol aphids in your garden. This video made me think that I should have been collecting some of the ladybugs I was observing so I could release them at my main residence which is 225 kms away. I have aphid problems there and the soap-based sprays are not that effective. The video below provides useful information about how to store your aphids until needed and how to release them so they stick around your property.

In conclusion, a couple more joys of hand weeding involve 1) taking breaks and enjoying the nature you might find yourself in, and 2) spending time in observation mode studying your weedzone up close and personal to stimulate learning and to increase your appreciation of how nature works. Don't be so task focused when you are weeding that you don't take time to relax in your surroundings and observe more closely what is going on around you.

Correction? In my video I theorized that the Ladybug was eating the Aphid eggs mostly because the Ladybug was not spending any time in apparent battle with Aphids. I though they might have time to slurp up some insect eggs on the vegatation as they were travelling about. The video above tells us that the ladybug is eating up to 50 aphids a day (how do we know this?), however, I haven't found disconfirmation of the idea that Ladybugs might be preying on Aphid eggs as well (although they would be denying themselves a future food source if they did). It does make a pretty big difference if Ladybugs do prey on the eggs in terms of how Aphid population control works. Aphid reproductive strategies are quite varied so I recommend scanning the Wikipedia page on Aphids to learn more about how these pesty little critters multiply.

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