This weekend, in between rain showers, we got most of the fall garden in. We will be seeding the entire main summer garden (the round one) with winter cover crop once the summer crops are done. That garden is a bit farther from the house and not as much fun to tend (and easier to forget about) when we aren’t spending as much time out in the yard. So for the fall garden we are only planting in the smaller “kitchen” garden that is up against the house. This space holds water better and is easier to tend so next summer we may make it our primary garden space. The only problem with it is that it isn’t fenced in and so the chickens get into it and make a mess, killing anything weak or tasty.
Step 1 for Fall Garden: Chicken Proofing with Row Covers
To keep the chickens out of my new fall garden beds we covered them in netting. We bought some thick wire (I can barely bend it its so thick, but I’m not sure the actual measurement- we found it laying haphazardly in a pile at the hardware store without a real label on it) and made hoops to fit over the lettuce bed. Then we used bird netting from the garden center to cover it, securing it to the ground on three sides. The fourth side we were able to tuck in against the wood platform that makes up that side of the garden. This makes it easy to lift up the cover to access the lettuce without letting the chickens in.
We made a similar but taller and more square shaped cover over another section of the garden where I have planted broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. In this photo you can also see the remnants of some of our summer herbs- basil, dill, stevia and chamomile). This cover has a slit down one side which is held together with clothes pins (not seen in the photo) so that we can open it up and go inside. It is tall enough that I can comfortably squat in the middle to pull weeds or harvest veggies. To do something more major like dig up the whole plot to add in compost the entire net cover can be pretty easily removed by pulling out the stakes around the sides. This will only need to be done once per season, though.
One thing that I really like about these covers is that they aren’t very visible. As you can see in the photos, you can barely see the netting at all and the metal hoops are pretty discrete. This way when you look out the windows of the house or are looking back towards the house you don’t really notice the covers. This is important since this garden is right up against the house where we want it to look nice.
Once it starts to cool off we can add sheets or blankets over the covers to keep in heat, especially at night. There is a whole world of crop cover materials out there that I’ve just started to learn about but apparently you can have different covers to keep bugs out but let sun and rain in, keep some of the sun out for plants that get sunburnt easily, keep moisture in when you are having a drought, keep warmth in when its cold and many combinations of the above. And all of these different types of covers are supposed to increase your garden’s health and production and lengthen the growing season. We’ll see. For now I’m just happy to keep the chickens out!
Stay tuned for my next blog post which will be Part 2: irrigation