…cute how they leap from branch to branch…
…from branch to fence…
…from fence to deck…
…from deck to pot…
…from pot to plant…
…from plant to fruit…
…from fruit to fruit from fruit to fruit from fruit to fruit…
Man squirrels aren’t cute at all. Maybe squirrels are delicious.
I’ve been lazy composting for years. Tossing leaves, rabbit litter, kitchen scraps, and whatever else into two mounds in my yard for years. I rotate which mound is resting and which mound is active, but I’m a really lazy composter.
It’s not covered.
I don’t turn it.
I just let nature take its not so slow course.
This spring nature took a different route. A large colony of fire ants took over my compost pile. I suspect they migrated from a flower pot I had dumped in there when I decided I wanted to refresh all my container dirt this winter by adding it to my compost.
With all the scraps and all the bugs, the ants thrived in the pile. As the days warmed, I wondered what to do. My plan had been to reclaim the dirt and fresh compost, but with fire ants, that was impossible. Poisoning the ants wasn’t an option as this compost would be used to grow food, so I had to find green solutions.
The internet told me that ants hate their mounds to be disturbed and wet. So I grabbed a garden rake and took to aggravating the ants at least twice a day while adding items to the other mound. I made sure to rake down to where they had their eggs. While I planned to also soak the pile once a day, I never managed to grab the hose during these outings. Less than a week after starting this, I got rid of the ants in my compost.
Now over two months later, they haven’t come back.
As planned, I reclaimed the dirt and planted my summer container garden:
Normally I allow my garden to function at mostly a natural equilibrium. Fruit that’s some bug has burrowed into just get fed to the chickens. I mean bugs have to eat too, right?
This year, these bugs are different. Cutworms, other caterpillars, and pill bugs have been vexing me. Cutting me where it hurts.
I’ve had too many peppers eaten down to the stalks. Whole crops of okra disappeared starting with the leaves. Who knew pill bugs (rolypolies) ate living plants and not just rotting wood?
At least some caterpillars had the decency to allow me to catch them eating my peppers and basil plants so that I could capture them and feed them to my chickens.
So, I’m using pesticides. Ugh, guilt. I’d rather not have to kill things, but I’d also rather have plants.
I’m blaming this problem on the non-winter we had. Too many bugs survived and now we have to get them back down to a reasonable number.
I guess that’s the trade off of being able to plant in February and March.
Let’s take a peak of what’s growing at our house:
Will chickens destroy your garden?
If they can get to it, almost certainly.
You know how chickens slow the growth of grass and eliminate weeds?
You know how they rid of your backyard of many pests suck as ticks?
You know how they take those hilarious dust baths?
All those behaviors will lead to garden decimation; however, this doesn’t mean you can’t have both chickens and a garden.
I’ve found keeping items fenced away is the only thing that works for us. Unfortunately after having a year to work at it, my chickens defeated one of my fences from last year.
I repaired it, planted my garden, and came out to find 3 chickens scratching it to pieces. So I repaired it, replanted my garden, and never caught another chicken in there but saw the ruined plants and a tale-tell mound of chicken poo as a calling card.
What finally worked was raising the height to consistently over 6 feet and adding logs around the bottom to be sure they weren’t squeezing under. So save yourself some time and make your fence tall and eliminate any gaps or loose fencing at the bottom. If you can, make it so they can’t even scratch around the bottom.
If and when they foil your plans, remember all the good things about chickens and trade their eggs for the veggies they won’t let you grow.
Garden progress photos from April and early May
1. Garbage disposals
Our fridge has never been cleaner since getting chickens. When I get tired of leftovers or something starts to turn, out to the chickens it goes! They particularly love spaghetti and cake.
Their energy and curiosity added to their brashness means you’ll never know what you might see them do, but whatever it is will probably make you laugh.
3. Bird songs
They do more than cockle doodle doo.
4. Chicken butt
Chickens are funny and they will make you laugh when you catch them during a rather good dirt bath or hunting a bumbling cicada. You’ll find yourself making entirely too many chicken butt jokes.
5. Weed control
I realized the other day that I haven’t seen a dandelion or clover flower in years. Weed control explains why we don’t have to cut the backyard very much anymore.
6. Outdoor fun
They encourage you to go outside, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
7. Garden assistance
When I was almost read to plant my gardens this year, I opened up the beds to let the chickens in. They scratched up the weeds and tilled the soil effectively. Let the plots clear, light, and ready to plant. They even left a little fertilizer.
My chickens visit everyone who enters the yard. They follow you around. They’ll come to the door. They are very curious and interested in what’s going on, and yet they are independent.
9. Pest control
We had a tick problem until we had chicks. If only they ate mosquitoes and gnats!
The ones at the grocery store don’t begin to compare.