Vegetable Garden Varities
When you’re ready to start a vegetable garden, it’s important to plan your planting and weeding strategy. This will help you get the most out of your new plot.
You can use vegetable garden zones to ensure your plants are getting the right amount of sun, water and nutrients. These zones also help you grow crops that are suited to your area.
The high price of supermarket eggs last winter has many consumers considering raising chickens. To vegetable gardeners, I will say that a small flock of chickens can make you a better gardener.
This is mostly by making manure fertilizer available but they also rake the garden after tilling in the spring and fall. I would rather give my kitchen scraps to chickens than put them in the compost where they might attract undesirable animals
Chicken manure has a higher concentration of the macronutrients nitrogen phosphorus and potassium (NPK) that plants need. Many farm manures can bring in weed seeds but the gizzard of a chicken grinds up most of those weed seeds.
Manures from hay-eating animals can transfer still harmful herbicides from the hay crop that can kill your garden. Know the source of your manure and make sure the chickens get grit (small stones) to grind the seeds.
Chicks can be bought at any of the farm stores in the area. High demand for chicks means you probably won’t get chicks before June now. Be sure to ask for pullets only and no roosters. Chickens purchased in the spring will begin laying in the fall and will produce up to one egg per day the next spring and summer.
I order a mix of white, red and blue-green egg layers for a mix of chicken and egg colors. The white egg layers are the most feed-efficient and best layers but they fly out of the coop more. Red egg layers are the most colorful birds and Americanas produce the colorful eggs.
Chickens can survive our cold winters in a draft-free building without heat. Some people with heated chicken houses have lost all of their birds when the electricity went out because the chickens weren’t acclimated to the cold. Make sure they get some drinkable water each day.
After 16 years of raising chickens, my garden is pretty fertile, so I give buckets of manure to friends who can take them directly from my chicken house. It looks like they are helping me clean the house but I would never ask my friends to do that for me.
I rotate six sections in my annual vegetable garden and I chicken manure fertilize before planting corn and squash which both use a lot of nitrogen. I let it decompose for two years before planting root crops like carrots. Manure can be bad for fruiting crops like tomatoes and especially peppers. The high nitrogen will produce big, beautiful, healthy plants that don’t produce or ripen fruits.
I once side-dressed fresh manure around small squash plants and they immediately started wilting because of the ammonia. I raked it away and they recovered. My potatoes are amazing when planted over a trench filled with corn stalks, squash vines, leaves, compost and a scoop of chicken manure. Water it in thoroughly to activate decomposition.
Fall is a good time to apply chicken manure directly to the garden. Chickens produce manure all winter long and the house needs to be cleaned in the spring so put this on the compost pile to mellow out over the summer.
Chickens can be raised in town but check with your neighbors first and find out if the city has regulations where you live. The Bemidji Joint Planning Board handles livestock permits in Bemidji for a $50 dollar fee. Anywhere you are, avoid noisy roosters and have a plan to control odors and flies. There are plans available online for small chicken coops.
These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on “Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.
Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 and leave your name, number and question.