I have been pondering how to make best use of my garden, now that the chickens are [mostly] contained, and I am very conscious of the looming supply problems we will inevitably face thanks to the Russians invading Ukraine, one of our major grain producing areas in Europe. There’s also the death throes of the pandemic, and of course the biodiversity crisis…remember that?
So, as a result I am endeavouring to use what I have in the garden to create a productive space that serves me, nature, and my poultry. Flockdown is still in place so the hens are now used to a more confined existence, and consequently I can put some vegetable beds together with a little more confidence. I have a huge amount of composted bedding which I have put on the areas I’m allocating for growing as my aim this year is to be plastic free, and try out a nursery bed instead of using pots, and use my own soil/compost/worm cast mix rather than proprietary compost as peat-free bags are heavy so there is the transport cost to take in to account.
I have used old beehive boxes as little raised beds as I can put queen excluders over the top to protect them from getting investigated by the wildlife. There are lots of other areas where the birds particularly can find food. I currently feed sunflower hearts on the window feeders but I am going to be growing sunflowers this year as I would like to produce my own bird seed/chicken treats, which while they are growing will provide both support for sweet peas as well as food for pollinators.
As certain parts of the farming community are all for digging up the environmental areas to grow food to counteract the shortages, I am heartened to see that many are championing utilising our beleaguered agricultural ground more effectively with regenerative practices. I have had a long interest in biodynamics as the ethic of producing what you need for your farm actually on your farm, in order to feed yourselves and your local community seems so darn sensible, and I am wanting to recreate that sort of mindset in my garden. So, growing food and using the land to provide nourishment for me, my poultry, and the wildlife. I have a wormery so they eat the peelings and tea leaves, and I am repurposing some of my redundant pens to cover the newly-worked ground. A large piece of roofing felt came off the shed during Storm Eunice so I’m using that to starve out the nettles on one of the areas.
I will grow potatoes in the compost heap, and I have been given some seeds from compost-heap grown squashes from last year. The seeds I have are bought as I neglected the garden somewhat last year so saved no vegetable seed.
The borders get covered with couch grass, or twitch, over the winter, and at this time of year I pull up the great stringy swathes to give to the hens, and beneath is what appears to be bare ground, but is in fact just the roots of the couch grass. Removing the top growth allows the seeds in the soil to geminate but the grass’ root system keeps the soil structure undisturbed. Yes, I have some areas that are too persistent with the grass but the geraniums grow up and cover it, and I cannot get rid of the twitch so may as well accept it and work with it. It’s the same with bindweed – my compost is riddled with it but it’s an important flowering plant and it pleasantly covers the hedges and compost heaps over the summer with their bright green leaves and beautiful trumpety flowers that hoverflies seem to adore.
I’m growing lots of seeds that I know will grow well here, and I am trying to think really systemically about what I use and why and how. It is so normal to think externally about what we need and use and I am doing my best to just stop and think and see if there is something I have or could use or grow that would have added benefit or save resources. I need to sort out the water provision with some proper collection measures in place but neither the car port nor the shed have gutters, and the gutters I have on the house leak spectacularly in places so strategically placed buckets is the way forward for now!
The fritillaries are starting to sprout in the front garden…such glorious flowers.