Gardening — If you just got here, don’t forget to read part one – backyard chickens – revisited.
As I mentioned, I re-purposed wood from an old deck into raised bed gardens for gardening in our chicken run and then decided to purchase chickens. Gardening and chickens do not go together, but we have made it work. Time to share the garden — All of what I am doing with gardening is trial and error and I hope this helps others who are giving it a try. I’m in Zone 7 so make sure you check out which zone you are in for what applies to you.
This is what I planted this year and the result as well as my future plan. Everything was from seed or root bundle (i.e. strawberries) or propagated from an old plant (i.e. blackberries).
Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts: I planted them too late. They bolted from the heat. I have since built a small greenhouse (almost done and will share what I did here) and will be starting the seeds much earlier next year.
Spinach and Lettuce: Did wonderfully. I’m going to look for a warm weather variety next year so I can extend growing. I also ended up taking some old burlap and sewed onto the hanging planters (and lined inside with plastic) and the lettuce did well there too. When you don’t have space, build up! Hanging planters were great. Wait until you see where I am planting these next year – another project!
Strawberries: Didn’t take. No idea why. Will give it a try next year nice and early
Carrots: Wow they take forever. I pulled one to check – got a colored one. They are still not quite ready for harvesting. Will plant them earlier next year and every few weeks to have constant harvest.
Peas: These did wonderfully. I did plant them a little late, but they still grew up the cotton string I tied from ceiling to floor. I’m getting ready to pull all and replant cold variety. Well, sometimes they grew up it and sometimes they grabbed a hold of anything near by.
Blackberries: We originally had huge blackberry bushes in front of the chicken run and I cut them down as I was tired of them being wild and out of control, and for some reason, I didn’t research pruning to keep the giant blackberries good every year. Even though I had tried to rid us of the blackberries that were not producing well, they kept coming back from little roots still in the ground so I pulled them and replanted them behind the run. They are still small and thriving well; they were only about two to three inches at the beginning of the season. I absolutely love being able to propagate from what we already had. And hey, if you see that little white thing in the picture, that’s the mini greenhouse I am almost finished building.
Cucumbers: Thrived incredibly well. Ridiculously huge. Next year I will use Sevendust early to ensure no cucumber wilt as I have discovered a bit…. I think. Not positive. Will keep an eye on it.
I know everyone likes to avoid using pest control on their vegetables, but really, a certain amount is necessary.
Tomatoes: Wow… yeah… most are still green but I have several varieties and so many! I did plant them too close and had to resort to transplanting when they were three feet high. They say not to do it, but it worked very well for me. They survived the transplanting with watering morning and evening.
It’s about time these are starting to ripen – I have had basil in my herb garden waiting for months!!!
A little tip – when using tomato cages, if you have any old spray paint sitting around, paint them. They look really cool in rainbow colors while the tomatoes are growing. I am very visual and love to decorate everything!
Pumpkins & Gourds: I planted a few pumpkin and gourd plants but I’m not sure which ones are which. I think this vine growing up the side is actually one of them. We shall see. Mystery plants are fun once in a while.
This little guy looks like he wants out of jail.
Peppers: I’m still waiting on my peppers. This is another situation where I should have gotten them in the ground earlier. The hot peppers are doing well though….
Butternut Squash: I only planted two plants, and there are so many on the vine!
Watermelon: I decided to try them vertically on a trellis I put together with scraps. Doing very well.
I may find some old pantyhose and make a little sack of support around these to help relieve the pressure on the vine.
Sunflowers: Just for decoration. Can’t have a garden without them! I had to pull the bird netting on the back of the chicken run to let these ones escape out the top. I think I have a better spot for them next year.
Blueberries: My blueberries went dormant. I think I terrified them. I transplanted them because a certain horse (Pixie) decided that’s the place to eliminate – right on the amazing blueberry bushes that were bearing tons of berries….grrr!!! (She’s also been known to use our newly planted small trees as a belly scratcher. *sigh* If you ever see my garden areas, you may see them “taped off”…. she’s such a fun horse 😉 I will be transplanting again this fall to another area near the small greenhouse and adding some new blueberry bushes as well. I will let you all know in another post where I get my starter plants… the prices are insanely good!
So yes, the chickens and the garden are doing well together! Success! It’s very nice when I’m pulling weeds or discarding something organic, I can simply toss it in the run and the chickens will eat it up. They make their little pleased sounds when I sit on the edge of the beds and weed. Except for that nasty rooster….. I’m still angry with him. He started off by doing the mating dance for me, one wing down and shimmied up to my side…. and then when my back was turned, he attacked me. One more time, he’s dinner (Update: Last night was the night. After the rooster injured a hen, he was done for… then the other rooster started being mean immediately – he always did follow the first one around and emulate him. He’s gone now too. It’s a necessary part of chicken ownership for sure. These two did not even have their spurs yet and left marks when the one attacked me. Some say you can tame roosters but I don’t believe it. There are nice roosters and mean roosters. I had a nice one in 2009, I know what those are like.)
A few tips on gardening that I learned
If growing from seed, start early. We are in zone 7 so starting in March is a good idea, but if seeds are sewn indoors, you can get away with earlier.
Water – DAILY. During drier times, water once in the morning and once in the evening. It’s amazing what water does! haha! You can literally see some vegetables grow from morning to evening. Gardening is easy if you pay attention and water the plants 😉
Know the difference between cool weather and hot weather vegetables and calculate getting two harvests out of the cooler weather types – one early, one late. I’m getting ready to plant my second set of cool vegetables for fall harvest.
Stagger some vegetables like carrots, to allow for harvesting all season.
Composted horse manure is AMAZING for growing; however, it compacts down. I started with compost to the top of the beds and overflowing and it settled down during the growing time so now I have to add much more which is good, but I should have realized it would shrink a bit.
But guess what…. apparently I am really good at growing mushrooms! Aren’t these little “sombreros” adorable? I think I should start researching mushrooms and see what type – as of right now, I have three different kinds growing.
I personally do better with “containers”… whether that be a container on the deck or the raised beds, I just do better keeping my garden organized in this way. It also doesn’t feel overwhelming. I know everyone has a different experience, and I encourage others to find what works for them!
Plans for Next Year
Next year I’m adding beets, cauliflower, pole beans, garlic (which I need to get into the ground now), zucchini, spaghetti squash, and onions. I love the way that everything filled up and exploded out the sides of the chicken run. I will be expanding the raised beds to outside of the run as well – another L shape but outside. I’m also going to add a little more back here – but especially some extra emerald green arborvitae we have – I will be placing it to make another wall between us and the other neighbor. I’m done with the nosiness.
I am finishing the greenhouse project so seeds will be started sooner as well as adding a cabinet-like greenhouse on my deck. I have two large planters I am building (well, re-purposing material) that I will be adding to the lower deck where it stays a bit cooler to continue to grow more lettuce and spinach and probably the mini carrots (I will share step by step instructions here on the blog). There is one more place I am adding another small garden. Near the barn next to our storage shed is an area that needs fixing. It was originally a retaining wall that is oddly shaped and had no real purpose. I’m going to reinforce the retaining wall (actually, adding an entire part that had fallen), and put composted manure in that area during the winter to be ready for planting a raised bed in there as well.