I really love having my chickens free range. Their eggs are much better (and healthier), they are very happy, and I very much enjoy seeing them in the woods, on the lawn, and on the compost pile. They were born last April, and didn't free range until the harvest was over. This year, it became clear quickly that some measures would have to be taken to keep them out of the garden. They will likely eat some seedlings, but the bigger problem is the scratching. They love to dig for insects, and do it pretty much nonstop.
But I love the idea of the chickens scratching between the raised beds, walking freely under the berry bushes. I guess I'm a chicken-romantic! Instead of locking up the chickens, or fencing in the garden, I figured out a way to protect the beds while the seeds are germinating, and while the seedlings are small. I tried chicken wire - not good! It is hard to control and the chickens liked to duck underneath it and peck at the strawberry plants. But welded wire worked like a charm! You can bend it, and I made sort of welded-wire fencing "roofs" for the beds.
I think I can remove these when the plants get big. I use a lot of wood chip mulch, and when the root systems of the vegetables are well-developed I think they'll have trouble doing too much damage.
What do you think? Any other methods to keep the vegetables safe from the dinosaurs?
The issue with aminopyralid is not that you might consume some amount of herbicide. The issue is that aminopyralid in the manure can kill your garden plants.
This herbicide is used to kill non-grass "weeds" in hayfields. It is used on hay for horses, which apparently must be of a higher quality than ordinary hay. One of the brand names for this herbicide is "Grazon."
Otherwise, the manure looks pretty well-rotted and decomposed. If it doesn't smell, and you feel sure about the aminopyralid, I would go ahead. But first do the tomato test - you don't want to kill your whole garden!
Interesting! I have never had much of a problem with surface weeds, likely because I like to bury my gardens in mountains of wood chips. But the weeds that give me trouble are the sort that have to be dug - ragweed, creeping Charlie, and many grasses. The underground roots or rhizomes seem to like nothing better than to be separated so they can sprout a new plant.
What a great thread! If it were a book, we could describe it as a page-turner!
My past experience includes filling the foundation hole of a 5-bay garage with leaves that turned into lovely soil in a couple of years. I've also had wonderful experience with wood chips over time. I'm a little too random to make beautiful compost, but a pile of chicken poop mixed with leaves, garden waste, and food scraps slowly makes itself into compost, even with neglect from me (and attention from the chickens).
Here in my new house in Vermont, while I don't have serious clay (in most areas), total sand, or some other soil disaster, I have built my raised beds on dirt left after a construction project. It is hopeless stuff, a happy home for occasional tufts of bermuda grass and some other random undesirables. So any description of creative soil-building gets my rapt attention. My raised beds have rotten wood on the bottom, chicken bedding, leaf mold, and more-or-less compost layered above. They produced quite well last year, and we have added three more this year. But I am also adding fruit trees, berry bushes, a Jerusalem artichoke bed, and making a food forest this year, so the hunger for soil continues unabated.
I'll be watching this thread with serious interest!
Like Jay, I am very excited by what I see here. Unlike Jay, I'm inexperienced in permaculture and quite impulsive, wanting to accomplish everything at once. So my advice will probably be much less useful. I'll try to avoid giving any, and stick to observations.
A couple of random thoughts:
- This is beautiful land, an in the city! Amazing.
- I would pay large amounts of money for that compost pile.
- (amateur here, remember) It seems there is plenty of fertility in the land. With the addition of that compost, and probably a soil test to see what might be missing, I imagine you could grow quite a bit in that garden. The raspberries, too, will want a taste of that compost. You're going to be so pleased with gardening once you start using deep mulch. It will make such a difference - the soil gets better and better and there is so little digging, and when you do have to dig a bit or pull a weed, the soil is incredibly cooperative.
- Shade is hard on typical garden vegetables, but there are many plants that thrive in it. This will take some research, but you'll be pleased with the results. Water is important - heavy trees often result in "dry shade," where the rain almost never reaches the ground.
Congratulations on making such a good choice with that big piece of land (complete with orchard and nut trees!) in Munich. Wonderful!
I'm not sure about oregano; I guess I've cut mine too quickly to let it flower? But cilantro is notorious for going straight to seed. The flowers are beautiful, and the seeds are coriander.
If you want to use cilantro during the summer, you have to plant it in succession, because the first one(s) you plant will be showing their pretty flowers and turning to coriander quite soon. (I learned this last year when I planted cilantro for the second time. The first time was a plant start, and last year was from seed. It grows slowly in the beginning and then whoosh, it's gone!)
Ahh, Rufus, thank you for the shout-out to Chihuahua lovers!
Sprocket (all 5.5 lbs. of him) is not really cut out to be a Vermont farm dog. He doesn't like the cold, and he doesn't like to get his feet wet. I'm not certain of his ability to guard the chickens because Blackbird (top of the pecking order) pecked him in the ear once and he ran across the yard and fell down the steep edge. In his younger days, though, he was amazing. In the first week I got him, he faced down a Great Dane. When he played with bigger dogs, he was usually the one chasing, which was a sight to behold. Once we had another bear incursion, onto our screened porch. When I shouted the bear away and finally came downstairs to survey the damage, Sprocket smelled it and began making this chuffing sound I'd never heard him make before! That should scare any bear.
Now he is 18. He is losing his sight and hearing. He pees in odd corners. He bumps into the wall and is confused by a pair of slippers in his path. But we love him, and he loves the woodstove!
I would love to see the progress on this hugel-thing! I'm a big fan of rotten wood. It's under my woodchips in my nascent food forest, it's at the bottom of my raised beds, and it makes up the bulk of the debris "berms" on my steep hill.
I've been living here a little over two years, and began vegetable gardens last year. I'm 66. I was in continual pain last summer, in my knees, hips, elbows, wrists . . . oh, and back. (This has happened to me over the years when I do a lot of gardening.) I started physical therapy. It's been slow changing, but now that I'm gardening again I can really feel the difference! I've had PT before for many of the same problems, but either this PT is more talented, or they've been improving what they do over the years.
I ski in the winter, so I hadn't slacked off completely, but the movements are different. I even started (online) Pilates classes a month or two ago, which is a form of exercise I never thought I would be able to do. And I can tell how much stronger I'm getting. Sadly, it hasn't gotten rid of the arthritis! My hands (and toes! who said arthritis could go into my toes?) are weaker than they used to be, and the swollen joints hurt.
Sounds like you've been strong much of your adult life, Carla. This might not apply to you. But I've been really surprised at the difference. I retired last summer from a very sedentary job and I'm doing more physical work than ever.
You might start to like vegetables more when they come from the garden - my family certainly did. Made a convert out of my husband.
But, sounds like you have a bigger plot than you need. A great opportunity to plant flowers from seed! Marigolds and chrysanthemums repel many pest insects. Most others (especially natives to your area) attract beneficial insects.
Craig, I read that pine-scented cleaners might deter a bear! I wonder how my chickens would like that, though. I could let the poop build up and it would smell like ammonia, but that's bad for the hens, too.
Ken, we've thought about shooting it. There are regulations in our state that we would have to scrutinize - it depends on the amount of loss the bear is causing as to whether you're allowed to shoot it, if I remember correctly.
Others here will have the answer to your actual question, I expect. But I wanted to say hello, and to tell you that I've had magnificent results with (1) cardboard + wood chips, (2) piles of leaves (I made a huge garden from a foundation hole with nothing except asking everyone to dump their leaves there for two years), and (3) chopped weeds, hay, and aged manure, covered with cardboard and weighted down with more of the same.
All of these methods produced amazing soil, teeming with earthworms and as fertile as could be. The resulting organic matter will diminish the proportion of pebbles, too. Leaves decompose more quickly if they are shredded, but will work either way. Oak leaves, though, take years to break down.
Irene, what a wonderful report this is! I found it extremely helpful. You gave me many ideas. My chickens are just one year old now, and last year they were confined and no trouble in the garden. This year - I need to work fast to keep from fencing them in somewhere or worse, keeping them in their run. I have used some lightweight sticks where I planted a row of turnip seeds, and I have chicken wire laid over the beds. But I have been at a loss to figure out how to protect seedlings that need to be planted shortly.
Jumping worms destroy the understory of the forest. In areas where they’ve been rampant for years, walking through the forest is a completely different experience. The forest floor is “clean.”
In Vermont, researchers are worried about this dramatic change to the nature of our forests, including the possible loss of sugar maples. I’m familiar with the work of Josef Gorres. His focus is on the forest, and far less on agriculture.
These worms are a genuine menace, completely transforming the nature of forest duff. I’m worried.
I found myself with a man who has his own tractor, a 1947 Ford 8N. He can fix anything that goes wrong by himself. Parts are cheap. He paid around $2,000 for it and it’s been running for years.
He plows the snow, carries stuff in an attachment called the carrier, mows the field, pulls a trailer, and he also has a York rake, though we haven’t used that so far. I’m learning to drive it, although it’s not intuitive.
There are other attachments we could get (like a wood chipper, log splitter, and whatnot) and I don’t think a bucket loader is a possibility - it’s small and not all that heavy. But you know what? It’s affordable. And that’s great!
I have been pondering this question. The litter in my chickens' run is black and there is material in it quite decomposed. But also some that hasn't decomposed at all. And they add fresh manure most days! This seems like a good solution.
We will have to ask the woman we met who grew up here. She goes to Florida in the winter, but comes back all summer and attends a Bible camp near here. Before she stopped by last year, the upper pasture (previous house site) was always a puzzle. An apple tree, flowers that were obviously from a garden, but up a steep hill from the house? After she told us, it all made more sense.
There is an old barn site across the street (but still on our land). There is very little left of it, but you can make out that there was something there due to the unnatural contours of the land. We could explore down there, also. I live in a very rural area and there are old foundations down most of the dirt roads. We love to explore.
I should have added that with my 6-family we re-financed to a 15-year mortgage, so the margin became slim. We've been very frugal, but the management fees (10% in the US), huge snowstorms one year, city-required changes to the water system, ever-increasing insurance costs, and other issues that came all at once depleted our reserves. We recently had to put over $4,500 into an apartment during turnover that was completely trashed. It rents for $950.00.
Our property managers are under strict instructions to rent only to tenants who have jobs. But they also have lives, sometimes turbulent, that result in loss of those jobs, divorce, unexpected pregnancies, and now this pandemic.
My point to the OP was that there is labor, skill, research/knowledge, legal issues, and luck involved in being successful in this business. When I managed my two-family by myself, I had good tenants and managed several huge repairs (major asbestos removal, incredibly expensive) without breaking into my personal savings. But with outside management, the quality and personal relationships with the tenants disappeared, the two-year saga of "withheld" rent occurred, and the property became a serious liability. Like any business, risk is involved. The ability to buy in cash decreases the risk, but when your tenant (accidentally) sets fire to the kitchen, owning a rental property is a bigger problem than you encounter in many businesses. I have no mortgage on my personal home now, and it's certainly lower stress!