Please excuse the dismal condition of my backyard. It is winter, after all, In a few months, the perennials will be in flower and the whole thing will be quite cheerful. But here's my problem–and if you've got an idea, you might win a book, so read on:
I've been growing very little in the way of vegetables the last few years, in part because I travel too much to take care of them, and in part because the chickens free-range and will either eat or dig up whatever I plant. But this year, inspired by Michele's fantastic book, I am determined to make more of an effort. I've got a timer for irrigation and I'm prepared to use it. Now I just have to figure out how to keep the chickens out of the veggies. In addition to the six raised beds you see here (placed roughly where they will go–more clearing and adjusting to come), I'll put a straw bale garden back there along the fence, next to the run. That's always been an easy place to exclude the chickens, because I only have two sides to worry about. (video on my straw bale experiment here, btw.)
So! I need help. I need to figure out how to keep the girls out of my vegetable beds. Fortunately, there's a new book devoted entirely to the subject of gardening with chickens: Jessi Bloom's Free Range Chicken Gardens, just out from Timber Press. Everything you want to know about gardening with chickens–including how to keep them away from poisonous plants, a subject close to my heart–is here.
And yes, as you can see, I blurbed the book. So–you know. I already know I like it, and I've already read all of its good advice and studied the very pretty pictures.
Now it's your turn! What's your advice for me? Short of fencing off half the yard, how can I keep the girls out of my raised beds? What would you do for something short like lettuce as compared to something tall like cherry tomatoes? My two smaller Ameraucanas can fly–at least a little–and they can squeeze into some pretty narrow gaps. So how do I keep them out but make it easy for me to get in?
(And by the way, I don't really need a wooden structure around a vegetable bed. I just thought that would make it easier to attach chicken wire or whatever. I could even go taller than the boards, making them all straw bale beds.)
Post your suggestions, or just make a comment, and feel free to link to something you've tried or you like. Or ask your own chicken/garden question. Next week, we'll have Jessi on to offer her ideas, respond to your comments and questions, and choose a winner!
Oh, and by the way–Jessi's doing a bunch of events, primarily on the West Coast, but she'll be in Maryland, too. Check out her schedule here.
Also, there's a contest going on at Timber to win a chicken garden start-up kit. Check that out.