Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cold Season Crops - Planting a Garden in your Chicken Run



Born and bred in New England, since moving to Virginia it's been hard for me to get used to Southern planting schedules, but this year I am determined to plant a fall garden - one that we can share with the chickens, of course! 

Our vegetable garden this past spring didn't fare well due to an overzealous rabbit who munched on pretty much everything we planted and the blazing summer heat.

Last winter we never even had a hard frost, so those in the 'know' here in Virginia kept planting kale and Swiss chard all winter long. I am thinking that cold weather crops might work a bit better here in the South AND I have a plan to thwart the rabbit, so I'm ready to try again. 

My first stop was to the feed store to buy some cold season crop seeds. I 'cheated' and did buy some seedlings - broccoli, kale and beets - but everything else I will grow from seed.

So these are the seed packages I ended up coming home with:

beets 
carrots 
caesar lettuce 
cucumbers 
kale 
mesclun mix 
peas 
Swiss chard 
cover crop mix of rye and winter peas 


They also had cauliflower and Brussell sprout seedlings but I passed on those, neither being a big favorite of anyone in our family - or among the chickens.

(Note: since writing this article, I have become a member of Seeds of the Month Club and just LOVE receiving a set of non-GMO seeds each month perfect for my area and the time of year. I now successfully plant year round !)


So back to my fall garden. Here was my plan: I would section off a part of our chicken run and plant our fall garden right inside the run. That would keep it safe from the rabbit as well as deer and raccoons we have prowling our property at night. 

But of course I would need to protect the plants from our chickens and ducks until we had harvested everything we would be eating ourselves and then let them have the rest to pick through.


I pulled out a roll of plastic deer netting that I usually use to section off the garden in the spring when I plant grass seed for the chickens to eat. Of course everyone was interested in what I was up to!

Since our run is covered, and only about four feet high in one area, it was easy to just attach the poultry netting to the sides and top of the run with clips. 


I made the garden area about 8'x10', which would be plenty big enough and still leave enough run space for the chickens.

I was ready to start planting. We have been tossing the horse manure over the fence into the run all summer. The chickens love scratching through it looking for undigested seeds and corn and they are wonderful roto-tillers, so the dirt in the run is very rich and dark. 

No need for any additional fertilizer! 


I carefully dug trenches for the peas and other seeds, scattered them in straight rows and then carefully covered them with the soft soil, giving each row a nice drink of water as I went. 

The peas and cucumbers were planted along the edges so they can climb the run fencing.


There's something about planting and growing, kneeling in the warm earthy soil, that brings me back to my literal 'roots'. I remember planting vegetables with my mother when I was little and walking across the street to pick flowers from my grandmother's flower garden. My grandmother, a chicken keeper herself, died last year at the age of 99, so having my chickens there watching and being part of my afternoon just made it even more special.


Everyone watched with great interest as I kept digging holes and tossing seeds in. They were hoping against hope they would be let inside the garden area to eat some of the seeds. But no luck!


Charlotte, our Australorp, seems to be saying, 'But I eat seeds! Don't bury them and tease me like that....hmmm, maybe I can somehow get over this thing!'


Eve and Praline are assessing their chances at getting through (or over) the netting also!


As long as the weather cooperates and the chickens don't figure out a way to get into the garden, in a few days the seeds should start sprouting and by late fall, we should have a nice crop of vegetables and salad greens.


I decided to plant the carrot seeds inside the 'salad bar' that I built in the spring. Charlotte eagerly watched for any stray seeds to fall in her direction!

For instructions on building your own salad bar click HERE


Planting a small garden inside the run is something I have been meaning to do for some time now so I'll be interested to see just how it ends up working out. I'm excited to see how my first foray into fall gardening here in Virginia goes and am so looking forward to a bumper crop of fresh beets, carrots, broccoli and all the various greens. 

Did you know that the very top of a silo is called a 'bumper'? One theory as to the origin of the term 'bumper crop' is that it was originally used to describe the results of a harvest that would fill a silo all the way to the top - literally to the bumper.

~photo of PJ the bunny courtesy of www.louisescountrycloset.com~

So now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some nice cool weather and a bit of rain to help my garden along - and maybe I'll even feel generous and share a little with the rabbit!

9/17/2012 Update: The ducks figured out how to sneak under the fencing and get into the garden....


so I opened it up to them all. The chickens and ducks had a wonderful time, ate every bit of the greens and vegetables AND then tilled the soft earth so it's perfectly smooth and ready to be planted again!


By early afternoon, you would never have known there was ever a garden here! Every bit of green gone and the earth perfectly flat and tilled. C'est la vie! A good time was had by all!


BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST BETTER WITH CHICKENS!

©2013 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc. All rights reserved.




























10 comments:

  1. A bumper crop also referred to the wagon the corn or whatever crop was loaded in. The deep trailers have padding on the top, called bumpers.
    Or so my husband said, haha.
    I like your silo story better. Makes more sense. ;o)
    What a great idea for your garden. Good luck!
    Have a blessed week! ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the silo story. Before I looked into it, I figured a bumper crop was one that reach the back bumper of the farm truck bringing it to market !

      Delete
  2. I had to laugh at those chickens' expressions! They certainly are curious creatures!
    Can't wait till spring when we plan to add a small flock to our backyard!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your hens are so nice and plump, our pullets all look so "gangly" cant wait till they are little fat hens running around the yard!! You may just have inspired my hubby to make a winter garden, keep your fingers crossed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, pullets are sort of gangly. They'll fill out in now time!

      Delete
  4. Awesome Post ~ I love all your beautiful photos.
    I live in Ontario, Canada and was also interested in creating a year round garden. I just got this book by Niki Jabbour 'The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener'. Once I get the coop done I'll be building some cold boxes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like your chicken run garden. I have one too and though my fence is only 3' tall separating the greens from my hens, they don't seem to bother jumping it. They do eat the vines and leaves that get within striking distance of the fenceline though. I did not know about the silo tops. Interesting. I got the chicken saddles last night and they are adorable and very well made. I'll post about them later this week.Thanks so much to you and Louise.

    Heidi

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dang!!! As I was reading and looking at the pics. I was sooo looking forward to how it would turn out. I was getting pumped to do my own.

    ReplyDelete

I love your comments! I reaad them all even if I can't respond to each and every one. Please stop by again soon!

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily