A little over a year ago- Aug, 2019 -, I planted my fall garden. I plant turnips and peas in mid August. My zone is around a 6 or 7 near KCMO. Two weeks later, when checking on my crop, only 3 pea plants had sprouted near the far edge of my garden. I still had tomatoes and green beans growing. My first thought was that I should have watered or that maybe my seed was bad. It would be spring of 2020 before I determined why my garden had not germinated.
I plant my spring garden (peas and turnips) about the middle of March. Even though I had acquired fresh seed, no turnips sprouted. My peas grew with only a few gaps in a couple of rows. I cannot say my peas meet my expectations, but they did produce a decent crop. I am still puzzled as to why I did not have a single turnip spout.
Before the frost-free date in our area (around April 15th), my grass needed to be mowed. As I pulled the tractor out of storage and onto the yard, I noticed a difference. Normally, my yard would have been approaching full bloom of dandelions. Not only were there no blooms, but there were no dandelion plants. As I don’t use herbicides, I was rather shocked to see that my Dutch Clover, which exists along with my bluegrass, was also gone. I addition, my mole run were also gone which tells me that grubs and earthworms, the food of moles, had also been killed along with any other microorganisms of soil which is alive.
I have long been involved with farming. From applying Anhydrous Ammonia when I was 17, involvement with farmer’s markets, and ending my working career working alongside Amish farmers, I have a broad knowledge of crops and soils. Because of my experiences, I am aware that to eliminate dandelions, one needs to spray in the fall. The herbicide used needs to be able to kill the plant itself as well as to infiltrate the soil to prevent the seeds from sprouting in the fall or early spring. Just killing the plant will not work as the soil is full of seeds that will emerge. If you spray in the middle of August (fall), this would affect my fall garden from sprouting. The carryover would prevent my turnips from sprouting in the spring.
To the north of my garden, is a modern development that is three blocks wide and three blocks deep stretching further north. These houses all have lush yards with nary a hint of dandelions. A half mile north of that development is a golf course lying further north. Our winds in the summer seldom come from the north. Usually they come from the west, south or east and occasionally a little NE or NW. I worked with the Amish in NW MO and one farmer showed me his corn crop. It lay next to a soybean field farmed by the “English” and they had sprayed the beans for weeds in mid July. The spray drifted on to the corn field of my Amish friends and for about 4 rows (15 ft?), the corn had died. Again, it was probably drift because the field of beans was north of the corn patch. Another friend of mine, who raised tomatoes, had lost a number of plants they were starting in a green house. The spray came from a field that we couldn’t see. My guess is that the herbicide drift came from one of these sources.
Let me continue with my growing efforts in this last year, 2020. During the spring, I planted 20 tubers for some permanent flowers. Only four came up. Six of my existing perennials barely produce an upright stick with a few leaves before dying. I planted sunflower seeds as I am known for my mammoth plants. The first sowing did not sprout. After resowing some 100 seeds, I eventually had 6 plants. The same was true for my orka. I had one chard plant sprout, one mustard plant sprout, 3 summer squash plants sprouted (I only harvested 2 squash before they died), In addition, I had one watermelon and 3 muskmelon plant sprout. I harvested one muskmelon. The rest of the plants produced fruit of grapefruit size and then ceased growing although they did not die. My tomato plants only produced enough for me to eat plus a gallon to freeze. I usually furnish the neighbors and take some to the local food bank. My green beans did well.
It is now the middle of Aug and again I want to plant a fall garden. I planted one short row of peas on Aug 7, 2020. A week later they had not only sprouted but had a beautiful, healthy green color. I planted the rest of my peas and sowed my turnip seed. A week later, my peas had dropped their leaves and were only stems. The rest that I planted never came up. The turnips never sprouted. For the next 3 or 4 weeks, I sowed more and more turnip seed. Finally, I had a dozen plants sprout and sometime in Nov, I harvested one full size (although small), turnip and a few the size of radishes. Some one had sprayed again.
So far, I have applied 50 sacks and two trailer loads (cubic yard) of compost to my garden in preparation for next year. I will be applying at least another two trailer loads. I have collected over 30 sacks of leaves. I will plant again hoping I am above the poison in my existing soil. I will try to have a 3 week window next fall when I have my bean, lettuce, peas, turnips and other fall crops not planted. I will cover the soil with a heavy layer of leaves which I will then scrape off after I think sprayin has been completed on to my walking paths hoping that they will collect any drift. My tomatoes, okra, peppers that are still bearing I will construct plastic barriers on the north side hoping to block any direct drift.
To affect my seeds so drastically, I think I must be getting some strong drift. I will have security cameras located so that if there is visible drift or if I see someone spraying, I can contact them and suggest they use a granular herbicide (some companies only use this for dandelion control).