- Crop Production: conservation tillage, fallow, no-till, other
- Farm Business Management: other, whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: other, soil stabilization
- Pest Management: weed ecology
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: community development, urban agriculture
This project will test non-chemical weed suppression methods on urban farms in Baltimore City. Results will provide a thorough and objective evaluation of methods to suppress weeds for urban farmers.
The Sixth Branch (T6B) is a veteran-led neighborhood development organization that operates three community farms in Baltimore City: the Oliver Community Farm; Johnston Square Community Farm and Garden; and Broadway East Berry Farm. These community farms were built in partnership with each neighborhood and provide more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce freely to East Baltimoreans each year.
As on every farm, suppressing weeds is an ongoing challenge. We use organic practices at our farms and do not use any chemical herbicides or products. This commitment to organic practices is both environmental and health-related, because our farms are all located adjacent to homes and playgrounds. The farms themselves serve as public gathering spaces, as well.
Since our community farming program began in 2013, we have used a wide variety of weed control methods -- from woodchips, to plastic barriers, to simply letting them grow between planting beds and mowing them down. We have anecdotal evidence and learned experience from each practice but no recorded, empirical observation of each method's effectiveness.
We request funding from SARE to purchase an array of weed-suppressing materials and fund the staff-time costs for using each method in the 2023 season. We will record weed growth in each control area. We will create a final report that will be useful to any urban farmer.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to identify the optimum weed-suppression technique for the community farms that T6B operates. The results of this study will be applicable to all similarly situated urban farms in Baltimore City and beyond.
The first objective is to analyze and identify three weed-suppression methods we will employ. (A sub-objective is that this experiment itself will be useful in controlling weeds during the 2023 growing season.)
The second objective is to create an easily accessible report document that can be used by T6B staff and disseminated widely. The intent of this document is very specifically not to create an academic treatment of the compared weed suppression techniques. Rather, we will build a simple and direct field guide that shows our process, results, and provides recommendations to peer urban farmers.