Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chicken composter, part deux

Five-gallon buckets of win.
About 8 weeks ago I mentioned a new experiment I was about to undertake: the Chicken Composter. The idea, in short, was to let the chickens do the continuous mixing that is a requirement of a hot* compost pile.  You add carbon and moisture, they add nitrogen and energy.  The result, in theory, is a coop floor with lots of good compost beneath it. Everybody wins.

I can now testify that it works.  This was the weekend I was supposed to finish filling up the lovely and gracious Rogue's new raised beds.  And because I had not purchased a dumptruck full of topsoil or anything equivalent, I had planned to spend some time digging around the south pond** to acquire enough dirt to top them off. Then I remembered the chicken house.

Much to the hens' annoyance, I was able to pull enough awesome compost from their floor to finish Rogues' beds, the area around the cuke ladder, the oregano bed, and even the 2'x2' raised beds that are currently half-planted with garlic.  And that was just scraping the top 6" aside and talking the next 12" in a 30 square foot area.  There's plenty more where that came from, but for the first time in a long time, I don't have a single bed that could use more compost at the moment.

I have a few 'holes' around the raised beds that will get filled with compost for companion plants, and once the garlic is done I'll be deep-composting 100+ square feet of beds for the tomatoes and peppers.  I have no worries about where that will come from.  I still have a traditional pile and a compost cage.  But for now, the hens are prioritized to receive as much rottable carbon as I can generate.

The only potential downside - and we shall learn its effects very quickly I'm sure - is to what extent weed seeds survived the process.  Since I was heavy on shredded paper and leaves, I don't expect too much trouble.  But sometimes, creation baffles exceeds our expectations.

* That's the one everyone teaches, probably because it's fast.  It's also too much work for me in the volumes my garden demands, so I work very hard to find easier solutions.
** which is not a pond and never really was.  There's a dam there, and water, but in the wettest seasons the water is 30' across and a foot or two deep.  In drier times, the dirt is 30' across and who knows how deep. I was prepared to find out.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Last frost is a doozy

One green soldier rides away.
At least I hope it was the last frost.

So anyway, the lovely and gracious Rogue planted some tomatoes in the new raised bed last week. While I hadn't planned to put any in until nearly June*, she picked up a few Romas on the cheap and after hardening them off properly, measured them out and dug them in.

Unfortunately, the weather prophets got Friday night's numbers wrong by 10 degrees: instead of a low of 40, we woke up Saturday at 30 degrees and with a 5-for-6 killing frost.

But the forecast for the next 2 weeks looks good and hope springs eternal, and I see there's a really good sale on Romas down at the local farm store...

* The back tomato beds are currently full of garlic, so I have just started my tomato seeds and will transplant them at 6-8 weeks.