The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

More mulching the garden beds

Using leaves as mulch in combination with chicken tractors.

I'm still working the kinks out of my garden bed mulch plan.  Leaves are awesome (when you can get enough), but they really need an input of nitrogen to decompose well.

The method I used while away on our honeymoon worked pretty well.  We filled the chicken tractors up with leaves and let the hens shred and fertilize them, then shoveled the resultant goop onto garden beds.  The downside of this method is that it requires two rounds of leaf movement, and I'm always trying to handle our soil amendments as few times as possible.

Lately, I've been trying a different method.  I've been letting the chicken tractor sit on a bare raised bed for a few days, then moving the chicken tractor on and covering the poopy soil with freshly raked leaves.  I hope that the unshredded, unmixed leaves will still decompose due to the high nitrogen poop under them.

Of course, the real problem is that I want my garden completely covered ASAP, at least within the next few weeks.  And I just don't have enough chickens to poop on each bed in that time period.  Drat!  What shall I do?

Did you notice the old hen drinking out of a homemade chicken waterer in the background?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Humanure? Just kidding... Maybe for your fruit trees, but I wouldn't put it on my tomatoes. :-)
Comment by Everett Tue Nov 3 11:51:50 2009
Actually, Mark told me this morning that he's been peeing on the leaves --- that might fit the bill to add nitrogen without a bunch of extra work.
Comment by anna Tue Nov 3 13:42:06 2009
Why don't you put the chicken tractor on a garden bed, then fill it with leaves? That way you don't need to add the leaves when you move it to the next bed, and they'll be nicely poopified.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Tue Nov 3 18:12:30 2009
It's a good idea and works great on level ground. Unfortunately, when I move the tractors off the raised beds, they tend to scrape any accumulated debris (like leaves) off with them. I guess we just need to work harder on building a tractor that can roll off a raised bed without disturbing it...
Comment by anna Tue Nov 3 20:23:45 2009

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