There is nothing more wonderful for a gardener than sharing the love of gardening with another. In this case, we are talking about sharing that love with your chickens! Not only will chickens love to be included in your garden, but they also can take some of the gardening work off your shoulders. In this post we will go over how you can work with your chicken’s instincts to prep and clean up your garden during the growing season, fertilize your soil, and till your cover crops under when the timing is right.
Wow, I can't believe it's June already! The garden has been planted (and replanted). The chickens are happily free ranging and getting bigger everyday. The trees in the back are shooting up like weeds, despite a few being munched by deer. The workshop is 98% done with just some upper cupboards waiting to be built. We are BUSY with a capital B!
Pictured you can see one of my cheater tomato plants. I planted seeds indoors in April only to have them all fizzle out. They were hardened off and everything, but no dice. These cheaters I got at Menards, 6 for 6$. They were very happy and green, unlike the ones I tried to transplant.
Consumer report: I am not a fan of Burpee's Organic Seed Starting Mix. The stuff turned to cement after a week of watering. I also had trouble with the seed starting pods, which are supposed to disintegrate once planted, but of course they didn't. All my pumpkins, squash, and zucchini became root bound and died. So replanting it was! Now they are coming up just fine, albeit three weeks later than anticipated.
Right now the potatoes, gooseberry bush, herbs, arugula, and lettuce are robust and lively. Of course my cheater peppers are being finicky, but fingers crossed I'm watering and feeding right. Only time will tell...
This last week my father and I put up a much needed barrier between our soon-to-be garden and hungry Wisconsin wildlife. Putting up a sturdy fence can keep munching deer, nibbling rabbits, and peckish gophers from enjoying your bounty. After observing the amount of wildlife that lives on our property through the wintertime, I concluded that a tall fence was in order. I also talked with fellow gardeners in the area and asked them what works. The general consensus was pro-fence. Keep in mind we live in a more rural area with a young forest, so if you are in the middle of the suburbs you might just need a bunny fence. Regardless, there will be lots of insight in this post on the DIY fencing building process so read on to learn more!
This last week my dad came out a third time to help me out. We ran into some serious issues digging holes with the hand auger thanks to all that Wisconsin clay. Sunbelt Rentals to the rescue! We rented their 9" earth auger and attached it to the bobcat to get 4' down. The day was definitely not without its set backs, but we got all 33 holes dug, all 33 fence posts in, and all the joists attached. I don't think I've ever worked as hard physically for two weeks straight on something as this garden. My father and I collectively shoveled five tons of mulch, three tons of top soil, two tons of manure, and three tons of stone (seriously, not kidding, I did the math). Thanks to this 58'x48' garden and chicken coop I am truly ready for bikini season.
As you plan your first garden are you running into serous trouble with your soil? Does it hold water like an old sponge or hemorrhage moisture leaving your growing surface bone dry? Don't fear, raised beds are here!
I went through a gamut of options as I was trying to deal with my sandbox of a garden spot, literally. There was a 60' x 50' plot of sand where I wanted my garden. Why that spot? With a young forest covering about 60% of our property, I needed a spot with 8+ hours of sunlight and shelter from the wind. This was our only option that wasn't on the opposite end of our five acres. Having your vegetable garden close to your backdoor is imperative. The thought of trekking a wheelbarrow and garden tools all the way to the back of your property seems to me like the opposite of fun. Even if we did put the garden back there, the soil is nearly 70% clay, and the water sits for days before it drains. That is not the type of soil you want for your veggies, unless you want their roots to rot.
So back to raised beds. With raised beds you have much more control over what type of soil you are planting with because you start from scratch. Let's talk how we built ours, what we used to make them, and what their shelf life will be.
Can you believe this gorgeous weather we are getting in April? Wisconsin is smiling ear to ear over these 70 degree days. My father came back into town to help me put the garden together. After much deliberation on how to deal with the massive amounts of sand we have exactly in the spot that gets the most light, raised beds became the answer. If I wanted to try my hand at some serious gardening this year, I had to fork out a little cash to get the supplies. To learn more about how we did it and how much it cost, click here.
Next on our to-do list was getting the fence posts in that surround the garden. My dad had his 3 foot auger handy, but it was no match for the the fist-sized rocks we encountered 10" down. The other issue we faced was the clay was so thick it would just stick to the blades of the auger. After four hours we had sunk only three fences posts. Defeated, we returned to working on the raised beds.
Enter the neighbor's S-150 bobcat! I've got my name on an auger attachment for this next week, so hopefully with my dad behind the bobcat the process will go smoothly.
This last weekend my parents came into town and thank GOD! We got so much done. My dad works as the Trail Boss for the Burnett County Snowmobile Club, making him the most efficient guy I know when it comes to taking down trees.
There were about six nasty old half dead trees that lined the garage, all blocking much needed sunlight into the only south facing window we have on the house. My dad and I had them out, stumps and all, in one day. The yard looks so much more open now, plus we have plenty of logs now to build hugelkulturs in the back of the property. I also plan on using the thickest stumps as the sides of my raised garden beds.
To see all our pictures and learn more about the process, click here.
The last five days were like a landscaping bootcamp for me. My parents came into town to help me get the yard and garden headed in the right direction, and thank goodness! Having all the extra help was so relieving. In the picture to the left you can see all the logs piled high from the trees we took down.
I'll be stacking the logs on their cut sides to create raised garden beds in my vegetable garden. I read about this method in Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist. This book has been one of the most incredible resources as I plan out what to do with my five acres of property. The reason I like this book the most out of the permaculture books I have read is that it gives you concrete step-by-step ideas on how to work with your land to deliver specific results. Most of the other permie books I have read are a little to "read your tea leaves" for me. I like actionable steps!
Today I picked up the first (of many) organic seed packets. A vital step in cultivating a garden that can provide you enough food for a year is preparing. Preparing to me means figuring out where the garden will go, if the soil is good shape for veggie growing, and what you need to build the basic structure of the garden. Today I’m going to go over our plan to put in a 2250 sq. ft. garden, what materials we are using, and when we are going to break ground. Preparing here we come!
Growing enough food for yourself to last a year is a hefty challenge no doubt, but if you are looking for an excuse to get outside and be more active, then getting a garden started is a step in the right direction. Whether you have 1/2 an acre or upwards of 20 acres, planting a garden to provide you enough food surprisingly only takes a little bit of planning with a calendar and some (much needed) time in the sun tending to it. In this post I’m going to show you how I got myself organized to get ready for planting a year’s worth of food. Are you ready to plan your pants off?!
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we strive to live a toxin-free life and turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Sustainable World
2. The Chicken Chick
3. Mother Earth News
4. Liz Wolfe
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Joe Salatin