Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Planning the spring garden

Yes, I know it's still December, but this winter will be my time to plan, build, and prepare for Spring.

Much of our new land is cross-fenced, which was one of the main draws of this property. Of the six acres, there's about two fenced acres of pasture on one side, two fenced acres attached to the barn, a smaller 100-foot section, and a 3/4-acre plot we'll use for the garden. I'll divide that 3/4-acre plot into four sections, each rotated counter-clockwise every year.

Originally, we were going to make a path around the fenced parts, but that would a) reduce the growing area and b) be way way more expensive. So we decided, mostly for money's sake, to just split the plot into four sections, but only really fence in the section containing the hog. That section will be done with temporary electric fencing that will be moved every year. The way it's set up, I'll only have to move one side during the rotation each year.

I'll also electrify the entire area to keep out the deer, raccoons, foxes, elephants, dinosaurs, and whatever else tries to get in. I'm considering this a learning period on what works best (as with everything), so I plan to adapt once we actually get the pigs.

I also plan to make a hog shelter that is low and wide, probably around 8 feet long, 4 feet deep and 4 feet tall. I'll put wheels on one side so I can tip it up on its wheeled side to roll it (i.e. pull it with my truck) through the gates to the new section each year.
So basically, I will make two of the sections garden, one a cover crop, and the other to house a few pigs. Let me explain why I'm going through all of this trouble for a garden.

First off, rotating crops is extremely important to a garden that uses no pesticides or chemicals. It allows a natural order of insects to thrive, nutrients to replenish, and the soil to heal itself periodically.

The cover crop is important because it adds alternate nutrients to the soil (grain is especially good for this) and it can be used for either grazing animal feed or mulch when its cut down. Since the order of rotation will allow the pig pen to always follow the cover crop, the hogs will always make sure to uproot the grain plants so they won't be present in the garden the following year. In turn, the garden sections will always follow the hogs, so the ground will be freshly tilled with plenty of natural fertilizer.

Which brings us to the hogs themselves. The reason I'll introduce hogs in the mix is because they are natural ground tillers. They forage under the soil for roots, bugs, and even the dirt itself for their balanced diet. Plus, their manure will help create some amazing soil for the garden which will follow next in the rotation.

Two of the sections will be dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables, so we'll certainly have enough to eat and store each year. The fruits and veges that require more time to grow (such as asparagus, rhubarb, etc) will have its own garden section just outside of this area. Eventually, I'd like to get into the crop-selling business, but right now, I'm only concentrating on food for the family. A goal is to one day never buy from a grocery store again.

So there you have it. Rotating the sections is a natural way to make sure the soil is healthy, the pigs are happy, and my family is getting the best organically grown food possible.


  1. Really enjoying seeing what you're planning here. I'm keeping a few notes and can't wait to see how this works out.
    This is what I want to do with my wife when we stop renting and get our own place.
    Thanks for the continued inspiration and keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks! I'm excited to see how it works out, too. Good luck on getting a place soon, the housing market is still in a slump, which helps buyers (especially rural buyers) out tremendously.

  3. Deer, raccoons, and foxes... the scourge of the homesteader! I suggest to compliment that electric fence a nice varmint rifle or .223! The only folks that really like deer are the people in this world that get their produce from a grocery store and have never owned a rural garden before. Terminate with extreme prejudice :)