Simple raised bed readiness trial and proof of chicken power!

The vegie garden beds in my backyard (currently 3 with 2 more to construct……do I hear a workshop calling?) are part of a rotation grazing/manuring system which also provides housing and a run for chickens. One bed has the chickens while the other two are used for growing or resting (you can find out more information about this system in 2 previous posts here and here).

  • Raised bed 1 was home to the chickens for about 6 months and is now waiting to be planted out.
  • Raised bed 2 is currently housing the chickens.
  • Raised bed 3 is waiting for chickens.

To test whether the two empty beds are ready to plant out with vegies, I ran a very simple trial to assess the soil quality. I planted the 2 empty beds with a green manure crop (lupin, chickory, red and white clover) and waited for the results.

What’s in the beds:

Each bed has been treated differently as they are in different stages of the rotation system.

Bed 1: This was the chooks’ original home bed. It has been filled over a very long time with weeds, which have been converted mostly into soil by gradual decomposition, and manure from the chickens. This bed was also top dressed with manure.

Bed 3: This bed has not yet housed the chickens and contains a lot of old sticks (to fill the bottom) and then was dressed with very, very broken down mulch followed by a thick layer of cow manure.

Results:

Unsurprisingly, the Bed 1 was a great success. Almost everything germinated and looked incredibly healthy despite no supplementary watering. Clearly the chooks are working their magic!

I celebrated by digging in the green manure crop and let the chooks have a worm-hunting party in the bed (but you could also let the green manure rot down).

Bed 1: chooks demolishing the green manure crop (under careful supervision by the guardcat)

The next step is to supplement this bed with a little extra compost (just because the bed is not quite deep enough yet), and then I’ll be planting out my first crops of winter vegetables (carrots, beetroots, cauliflower, broccoli) for the year.

Bed 3 struggled with germination and only the lupins survived in the end. The lupins are still growing now but look pretty yellow and unwell.

3: Not ready for planting as hardly any clover and lupins are yellowed

Clearly this bed will not grow vegies well at the moment, so the chooks will be moved on to this bed for a few months.The nitrogen, phosphorous and minerals from foraging greens will pass into the manure and the beds making the soil fertile, just like Bed 1!

So, by having chickens who are fed good quality grains and a varied diet of forage crops from your kitchen and garden, they will provide almost all the minerals you really need for fantastic soil…not to mention beautiful eggs!

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About Healthy Harvest Kitchen Gardens

Healthy Harvest provides a permaculture-based kitchen garden service for existing food growers and people who are inspired to grow food. We sell fresh chemical-free seedlings, seeds and seasonal produce. We also provide educational workshops, courses, gardening consultations and services. We can help with new vegetable garden designs, maintenance of established gardens, or converting and improving existing gardens ready for growing food. Please see our website for more information: www.healthyharvest.com.au Check out our blog at https://healthyharvestnsw.wordpress.com/ for news and interesting bits and pieces.

Posted on January 25, 2012, in Chickens, Gardening techniques, Raising chickens on pasture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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