Gardening

Warm winter allows chickens to help prepare garden for spring planting

Earlier this week I decided to move some of my chickens into the lower garden.

That area is poorly drained and water sits there almost every spring. Since the last couple of summers were so damp and rainy, that spot was waterlogged for much of the growing season. I couldn’t plant anything. I couldn’t even till the area, so I let it go fallow.

Right now the spot is dry. Since it has been so warm, the soil is not frozen and there is no snow cover so the chickens will be able to scratch to their hearts’ content.

Carrying the hens two by two turned out to be the best option. We moved 20 hens into their temporary home.

Carrying the hens two by two turned out to be the best option. We moved 20 hens to their temporary home.

There’s an old garden shed in that spot that I sometimes use as a temporary chicken coop. And I have the area fenced to keep out deer, woodchucks and those wascally wabbits. It also keeps chickens in.

The weeds in that low spot really took over after two years of non-use. Some weeds grew over 3 feet high last year. That will be a real challenge this spring. I’ll have to cut down all of that plant material and try to till it the best I can. The chickens can help quite a bit by tearing into those tough weeds ahead of time.

A chicken's favorite thing to do is scratch in the weeds. They are already making headway.

A chicken’s favorite thing to do is scratch in the weeds. They are already making headway.

So why even bother with that area? Why not turn into lawn or let it revert back to a wild area?

Well, the National Weather Service is predicting a warmer than average spring and summer. They are also predicting below average precipitation, at least through spring and maybe well into summer.

If it turns out to be hot and dry, my sandy-soil upper garden — which did very well last season– will probably be too dry to grow much of anything without a lot of irrigation.

During past years when we’ve had droughts, my lower garden rarely needed irrigation until well into the summer.

So that’s where I’m placing my gardening bets this year. If things change, I can always move the chickens back to their normal spot.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.