I joined Eastie Farm in a time of change and LOTS of growth. Summer was in full swing, all programs were cruising at their max, and the greenhouse, our newest site, was nearing completion. The lots next to the greenhouse stood out in comparison, as derelict plots, full of construction debris, and where the only life that could survive were aggressive invasive plants. The most present being Japanese Knot Weed.
Japanese Knotweed was introduced to North America in the 18th Century as a decorative landscape plant. It’s a hardy medium sized plant with a dense leaf coverage. Its fast growth spreads easily through its abundant wind spread seed and through specialized stems that travel horizontally underground called Rhizomes. Its ease of reproduction, fast migration, and dense cover allow it to out compete most other vegetation creating monoculture that suppress all forms of biodiversity. It is a very difficult plant to eradicate or control, with little positive impacts to its environment.
With the help from Boston PowerCorps, The Trustees, Waterfront Ambassadors, and youth from the East Boston Social Centers we took down the brambles and the knotweed so we could start the long term project of mending the soil.
Clearing the lot is the start of a long process to eliminate the Japanese knotweed and create a healthier soil condition so that whatever else gets planted or volunteers has a chance to survive.
The cardboard from the CSA delivery boxes was used to sheet mulch ( the layering of cardboard sheets and compost or yard waste to protect soil organisms, smother weeds, and retain moisture) over the areas where Japanese Knotweed was more prevalent. Through the growing season, knotweed shoots had to be cut back and more cardboard and organic matter layered on top. The area that had not yet been invaded by the knot weed, was sown with winterkill crops (agricultural plants used on fallow land sowed and left until the frost kills it). A light layer of hay was added to keep the birds from eating all the seed, improve germination conditions and protect the young plants as they poked through the ground.
We used oats and Peas. These are fast growing annual plants that are stiff competition for any lagging weed seeds looking for an opportunity to sprout. Peas, like other legumes The peas, like all legumes, form a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. These special bacteria turn nitrogen gas from the air into nitrate available in the soil for all plants. This crop will not be harvested for people. It will be left on the ground as green manure to further enrich the soil.
In a matter of a few months, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, I witnessed the site transform from an overgrown plot, with hazardous trouble, to a healing land with a higher percentage of native plants, inspiring potential, and pea blossoms!
I can’t wait to see what this plot teaches me next season.