Sunday, 8 February 2015

Land Management

If there is one thing that this winter has taught me it is how to make best use of the space I have in my garden.

Back in September I fenced my chickens in on what was to be a new vegetable patch on the south facing side of the garden. The idea of this being that the chickens would dig up the soil, keep it weed free and fertilize it at the same time. The real test of whether this has worked or not will come when I start to grow in it but first impressions of the soil are looking good. We had three chickens in total two penned in on the veg patch and one from an older group free ranging in the garden with the ducks. The two penned in were specifically bought as table birds so last week the time came to move them on. One had grown much bigger than the other and was definitely starting to show signs that it was clearly a cockerel, so this one was selected for the pot. The other seemed a little small, a shy and timid hen that was worth keeping.

With panels from the old run I have built a new enclosure that could house the two remaining chickens, the benefit of the new one being that it is easily transportable and the coop fits on the end so I have now earmarked three potential patches of grass which the run will be rotated on.
With a bit of chasing and bribing with corn the chickens were in their new home and getting along well. I say a bit of chasing, it involved propping the run up on a stick with a long bit of string attached. After a sitting on the back step for a while in minus temperature both chickens discovered the food was inside and in my mind all I had to do was pull the string to drop the run down and trap the chickens. Of course this didn't work the string snapped, the stick didn't move and I ended up running down the garden and kicking the stick out before the chickens had realised what was happening. I'm sure the neighbours already think I'm mad so if any of them did see me doing something like this it probably wouldn't have shocked them.

 The grass on the lawn has taken a real battering from the wet autumn and freezing winter. having three ducks digging about on it all day doesn't really help, but with my new mobile chicken coop and a few temporary fences to keep the ducks where I want them the lawnmower should be seeing very little use this summer. I'll sow grass seed at some point in April and then only cut it if it gets really out of control. I've said before I'm only interested in growing vegetables but if the grass is going to supplement the chickens and ducks diets in return for eggs it's worth spending a little time ensuring that plenty is available.  

With the new veg patch this has now been dug over, all of my home made compost has been added to the existing veg patch so I had to buy a few bags of manure to mix in whilst digging. Improving the soil now will make a huge difference come the summer. However it is worth noting the cost when it comes to these things, the more compost I can make myself from the animal bedding and garden/kitchen waste the better. I don't want the cost of my soil to outweigh the cost of the vegetables that I am able to grow from it.

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