This weekend we clipped the chickens’ wings. And as much as I am fundamentally opposed to clipping anyone’s wings, it was necessary because it is time to start the gardens! (If you’ve never kept chickens, you may not realize that 16 chickens can destroy, uproot, and scatter a good size garden in a matter of minutes. They are ruthless in their search for edible bugs) Now that their wings are clipped we can close the gate and they won’t fly over the fence of their pen. So many common phrases have come to life for us as we care for our chickens. They don’t like being “penned up” any more than the rest of us, but they’ll adjust. Just so long as they don’t fly the coop. The great thing about chickens is that they are incredibly forgetful (this seems like a kinder word than stupid) and in only a few days they’ll forget that they used to roam free on our range.
Anyone attempting an organic life needs a garden, even if it’s just a pot on your porch. If you own a home or have access to some open space – cultivate a garden. Nothing will save you more money or make you happier (except maybe free maid service). If your home is limited – be creative. You can build a raised bed on your deck or attach window boxes to the railing. There are lots of wonderful books on growing vertically. You’d be surprised what you can grow with very little space. Potatoes will grow in a garbage can and tomatoes can grow in hanging pots. Herbs will grow in a sunny window.
Do you have any friends who have the space but haven’t put in a garden? Maybe they are intimidated and worried about having the time to care for it. Together you could grow some wonderful stuff. You won’t just share the work – you’ll share the rewards!
If there is absolutely no way you can have a garden at home, or even if you do, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You’ll meet lots of great people who will share their wisdom with you and you’ll get a larger variety of plants than you could ever grow on your own. Some CSAs operate year round and have dairy and meats, in addition to vegetables and fruit. Check out www.localharvest.org/csa to find a CSA near you.
If you have a suitable space of lawn that you would like to make in to a garden, there’s a fairly easy way to do it. “Lasagna gardening” is a bit of an art form, but you need only to know the basics to end up with a lush garden next season. First you lay out your garden by placing thick layers of newspapers (no glossies and try to avoid too much color) in the shape you have planned. Water the newspaper until it is thoroughly drenched. Now you begin your layers using whatever you have available trying to alternate between “green” (compost, manure, organic liquid fertilizer) and “brown” (dried leaves, peat moss, ashes, grass clippings). You can put on as many layers as you like, adding in more newspaper layers. We have gotten lazier and lazier with this each year. Now we mostly use newspaper, horse manure, dried leaves, and wood ash. No matter how much effort we put in, the garden always ends up being a pretty great producer. Like I said, there are books about this if you’re interested (great primer called simply Lasagna Gardening). The high-tech gardeners amongst you may want to test your soil and add what you need to perfect your ph. I’m a pretty low maintenance gardener and I just trust the earth to do its thing each year.
It’s not too late to establish a lasagna garden for this year. You’ll just have to make your top layer mostly soil. Around here where rocks grow abundantly, it is easier to garden in a raised bed. If that all seems too intimidating, you can always purchase window boxes or pots. You can also build your own boxes with untreated lumber. The bottom of your box should be a sturdy screen to allow for drainage.
So look around you – where could you add a garden? The possibilities are endless – be creative! It’s hard to believe that in just a month things will be green and growing. But they will – it’s time to get ready. Tomorrow I’ll post about seeds and starting your garden inside.