There's still snow on the ground in many places, the ground is frozen solid and will be for several more months, but that doesn't mean that you can't start to plan your spring garden. One of my favorite winter past times, in addition to knitting, drinking tea and making up my chick and duckling wish lists, is flipping through seed catalogs and planning what to plant in my herb, edible flower and vegetable gardens.
|-photo courtesy Baker Seed Co.-|
While I do have some perennials that come back year after year, I like to add a few new things each spring to my annual favorites. I have a large 100 square foot herb garden plus a comparably-sized edible flower garden and plant vegetables both in and around the chicken run as well as in a separate garden. By focusing on edible flower and herbs along with vegetables that the chickens love to eat, I manage to supplement our flock's diet and health very economically as well as grow nutritious, organic produce for our family.
I use non-GMO, organic seeds and don't spray or treat my gardens. One of the nice things about having chickens is that any buggy or bunny-eaten produce AND the bugs can go right to them, so nothing ever goes to waste. I don't mind sacrificing some of our bounty and sharing with the chickens one bit. I don't allow the chickens access to our gardens - that will be the topic of another post in the weeks to come - because they don't discriminate and will eat literally everything you have planted!
I get asked all the time what I plant, so I thought I would share what I have planned for this year:
In my vegetable garden, I will be planting fennel which I love to cook with (and the ducks love), Brussels sprouts (another particular favorite of the ducks), peas, cucumbers and a few different types of squash. I also plant several varieties of tomatoes, plus cantaloupes and watermelon.
I plant several types of lettuce and leafy greens, plus cabbage and arugula. These make wonderful salads all summer as well as healthy chicken and duck treats.
In the herb garden, I have lavender, pineapple sage and thyme as perennials along with several types of mint including spearmint, chocolate and orange mint. This year I'll be adding some lemon mint in addition to dill (hey, I'm Scandinavian, I put dill on everything!), parsley, coriander and some cinnamon basil, along with sweet Italian basil and lemon basil. Nearly every culinary herb has such amazing health benefits for both you and your chickens, it's worth adding some to your garden.
For a tour of last year's herb garden click HERE. For a list of health benefits of some common herbs click HERE.
In my edible flower garden have perennial echinacea, bee balm and roses, as well as white and purple violets. Each spring I plant nasturtium (a natural chicken wormer, read HERE for more on that) and sunflowers that I start in eggshells in the house. Read HERE for instructions on starting your seeds. I also plant marigolds which help contribute to yellow egg yolks if you add the flowers to your chickens' diet. Read HERE for more information. For a list of more edible flowers read HERE.
I am getting excited about this year's garden, as I do each year. I love spending time working in the warm soil, nurturing the seedlings and watching as they bloom into full-fledged plants. It's amazing how much I can reduce both our grocery bill and our chicken feed costs by growing a variety of produce myself.
All my seeds for this spring will come from Mike the Gardener Enterprises. If you don't belong to the Seeds of the Month Club, you should. For less than $4 a month, you will receive four packets of non-GMO seeds (8 the first month) specifically chosen for your climate for that month. It takes all the guesswork out of gardening and the variety I have received so far is just astonishing. Membership also entitles you to a significant discount on other seeds and products from the website.
When you browse the seed catalogs, you will need to know your planting zone. Here's a handy chart:
And here's a great reference guide for the soil temperatures needed to sow/plant various types of plants:
So while we're clearly still a few weeks from getting started planting our gardens even here in Virginia, I can dream, can't I?
BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST BETTER WITH CHICKENS!
I would love for you to join me here...