Tag Archives: slugs

Garden Update

Look at this gorgeous poppy!  And this daisy!

I love my ornamentals, but this year I’m loving my veggies as well.  We have beans, peas, and radishes ready to pick, and last night we harvested a whole bunch of Bull’s Blood Beets.  We chopped the little beets into little squares and steamed them with their greens, and it was wonderful.  Beet greens have such wonderful flavor!  I have a lot more beet seedlings started.  More Bull’s Blood, and also Golden Beets.

New and exciting in my garden this year are Ground Cherries.  I’ve never grown these before, but so far the plants and the fruit are looking good.

Also completely new to me are gooseberries.  We have our first one beginning to ripen, and I can’t wait to taste it!  Assuming it’s not a complete dislike, we’ll be putting in more bushes next year.

The apples are looking great….

….and so are my peppers!  I think I finally found a place they like to grow in my garden.

My favorite veggies of all this year, though, are my cabbage.  I don’t know why, but I just find them tremendously pleasing.  I’d grow them as ornamentals!

In fact, I’m loving my fruits and veggies so much this year, that in addition to turning the south-east chicken run into a garden (the hens will still get to use it during the off-season), I also have plans to turn about 1/3 of the front yard into a veggie garden.  Right now I’ve just dug up a section in the middle of the future bed, and planted a bunch of squash, beets, and various other sun-loving things.

Eventually, we’ll fence this section in, and then the Girls will get to do a little off-season bug patrol here as well.  And I really can’t tell you strongly enough how incredibly helpful they are.  My garden was always OVERRUN with slugs and other nasties.  I had a ‘Slug Patrol’ of ducks, which helped, but not nearly enough.  I used to go out in the evening, and the grass would be full of huge slugs.  It was the Great Slug Migration every night!

Then I got chickens.  Suddenly, the slugs vanished!  Now I only see the occasional ‘baby’ slug, and my lettuce aren’t destroyed overnight, my pansies aren’t eaten off at the stem, and my strawberries aren’t full of holes.  Chickens, you see, unlike ducks, eat slug eggs.  And if the slugs don’t hatch, they can’t infest your yard.  Next year, I plan to get a couple of ducks again, but just to patrol the garden and pick up the few slugs that do manage to hatch.  It’s going to be the perfect system, and I just can’t wait to put it into practice!  The chickens will get to run in the garden in winter and early spring, before the plants get going.  The ducks will get garden access year-around, because they don’t scratch up and eat plants like chickens do.

And in case you think my slug situation is a fluke, my gardening friend Laura recently started letting her chickens run through her garden in the off-season.  In Spring she came to me and said: “It’s so strange.  I have no slugs in the garden, even though I still have lots of them in the front yard!  I don’t understand it!”  I knew immediately why….

Gardening with Chickens

Now that the weather is finally Spring-ish (we hit 60+ degrees yesterday!) I’ve been weeding/pruning the garden.  The Girls – my six gorgeous hens – could see me from their coop, and wanted VERY MUCH to come out and help.  They know that my trowel turns up more worms and bugs than their feet can.  Ellie, my Welsummer hen, was particularly demanding because she knows she is “my baby” and she’s spoiled rotten.  She kept running back and forth in front of her door, yelling for me to come and get her.  She’s so spoiled that she knows her name, comes when called, and has a favorite place to sun-bathe – my lap.

So finally, I let her out to garden with me.  I’d tried having all six Girls out in the garden at once last summer, when they were very young hens.  It hadn’t worked out too well, since they promptly scattered in six directions.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I didn’t want them in certain parts of the garden, digging up my more fragile plants, and I can’t watch six hens AND garden at the same time.  Molly (my Rhode Island Red) had a particular knack for going exactly where she shouldn’t be.  But I’d taken one hen out at a time, and that was perfect.  Ellie, Antoinette (my Delaware), and Josie (my Barnevelder) were great at sticking right beside me, and providing conversation and spider control for their arachnophobic owner.

So Ellie was allowed out.  But then, of course, the other Girls could not only see me, but they could see her.  And they didn’t approve of such special treatment.  Sophie (my Silver Cuckoo Maran) was especially vocal, standing high on her perch and delivering a constant stream of arguments for why this wasn’t fair.  So then Sophie was allowed out too, and then Molly, and then Josie (to distract her from being broody), and then….before I knew it, all six were out.

But they were good!  They stayed close to me, working industriously, and it was only after they’d been out several hours that Molly started doing her disappearing act.  When I put them back in their yard (except for Ellie and Antoinette) they were contented.  And Ellie and Antoinette were soon tired too, and mostly wanted to sit on my lap while I weeded.  They love to squeeze in tight against my chest. and reach their heads up under my hair so that their beaks are against my neck.  We call this a “chicken hug”, and sometimes they are so happy while hugging and being petted that they actually purr.  Antoinette has a very growl-y rasping purr – it can be startling when she puts her beak close to my ear and purrs without warning!

One benefit of the chickens helping to garden is that almost all of our slug population seems to have vanished.  My friends who live nearby are complaining about having to put out slug bait, and I’ve barely seen a slug since we got the hens.  For the first time EVER, my violas are blooming without being eaten!  I love my chickens for so many reasons!