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Farm Information Line FAQ for October

Author: Robin Trott. With the summer closing down and the season coming to an end, many fruit and vegetable farmers are beginning to make plans for next year. Many of the questions that come through the farm information line this time of year relate to weed control, soil testing and preparation and land rent. 

These are all great topics to consider as you’re putting your fields to bed, assessing your crop profitability and thinking about what you will do/do differently in the upcoming growing season.

Annual Weed control

As you develop your strategies to mitigate weeds next year, remember that weed seeds can survive in the soil for years before they germinate and grow. A Minnesota study found that a square foot of soil, 6 inches deep, contained from 98 to 3,068 viable weed seeds. All those seeds are just sitting there, in the “weed seed bank,” waiting for favorable conditions that will allow them to germinate.

Listen to this UMN podcast for a discussion on late-season weed control

The first line of defense against annual weeds is cultivation. The ideal time to cultivate is when weeds are no thicker than a thread. At this point, they are easily removed with a quick pass of a hoe. As weeds get bigger, cultivation tools need to get bigger and stronger to deal with them.

A popular weed-control strategy on organic vegetable farms is called “stale seedbed” planting, in which a bed is tilled and irrigated to encourage weed seeds to germinate. The weeds are then killed before the crop is planted or right before the crop emerges.

This is sometimes accomplished by flame weeding with a propane torch, which won’t disturb the soil or bring up new weed seeds. It can also be accomplished with cultivation, but that may cause more weeds to come up.

Another approach to weed control is to cover bare soil with mulch. The key to success with plastic and biodegradable film mulch is to get it on while the soil is free of weeds, and to stretch it taut for maximum soil contact. Keep planting holes as small as possible, just big enough to accommodate the mature size of the crop but with no extra space where weeds can grow.

An effective strategy for getting ahead of annual weeds is to keep the soil covered with cover crops whenever possible. The key is to choose the right cover crop that will germinate and grow quickly, outcompeting weeds. For more information about cover crops, visit:

Next month, we will discuss perennial weed control.

Soil Testing and preparation

Once you’ve cleaned out your growing fields, it’s a great time to think about soil tests and amendments.

Have you had your soil tested in the past 5 years?  Fall is the ideal time to have this done, as the labs aren’t too busy and the turn-around time is fast. Visit to see how to collect and submit a soil sample.  You can amend your soil in the fall, top dressing with compost, and till it in come spring.  This way you’re one step ahead of the game!

Land Rent

This is also the time of year land owners and renters begin to negotiate the coming year’s rental rates.  University of Minnesota Extension has a wealth of resources to help land owners and renters walk through this process.

Later this fall, UMN Extension will present “What is a Fair Farmland Rental Agreement” workshops that will provide information about how to establish rental rates, and what to expect in the coming year.  These free meetings are designed to assist land owners, farmers, and agri-business professionals with farm financial issues related to farmland rental rates, ownership, management, leasing agreements, and related issues.

The meetings are sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension and will last approximately two hours.  For more information about farm business management and economics, visit:

Author: Robin Trott, Extension Educator in Horticulture - Douglas County

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