Organic Gardening

 

VIDEO: A behind-the-fence look at two inspiring urban homesteads

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Jessi Bloom and Erica Strauss on Growing a Greener World

This episode of Growing a Greener World on modern homesteading aired a while back, but I just came across it again on Northwest Edible Life and wanted to point you to it. Click here to read the post and watch the show.

It features two of my favorite chicken/gardening writers and a closer look at the worlds they’ve created in their backyardsJessi Bloom, author of Free-Range Chicken Gardens, and Erica Strauss, author of The Hands-On Home as well as the blog linked above. (See our Buyer’s Guide for links to their books.)

Topics covered include:

  • Deep-litter method
  • Free-range vs. confined range
  • Keeping ducks and chickens together
  • Involving your kids in garden and chicken chores
  • Making your home more productive
  • Perennials vs. annuals for growing your own food
  • Compost
  • Tips about growing backyard fruit, and more. . .

Enjoy the tours, interviews, and inspiration!

 

Po-boy & The Garlic: Or how to protect your vegetables with a secure garden enclosure

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Here in the city, we don’t have to worry so much about our vegetable garden getting gobbled up by foragers like deer or rabbits. But we do have our own band of interlopers to contend with: squirrels, crows, and, in our case, a curious tomcat named Po-boy.

Po-boy is our neighbors’ cat. He’s adorable, and he’s perfectly welcome in our yard. He’s welcome to visit the chickens. . .

Cat at peace with backyard chickens

He’s welcome to climb the persimmon tree. . .

Po-boy climbs the persimmon tree by the chicken coop

But he’s no longer welcome to frolic in our garlic.  (more…)

VIDEO: Clog-free way to keep debris out of your rain barrel

Friday, April 17th, 2015

I changed out our rain barrel filter today and shot this quick video to show how we keep leaves and roof debris from entering our barrels.

Simply wrap a nylon stocking over the funnel between your downspout or diverter and your barrel. Insert the closed end of the stocking into the barrel and let it hang down. Debris will collect at the end, but won’t impede the flow of water (at least not for a while), since the stocking stretches and remains permeable above the debris.

7 tips for building a garden-friendly chicken coop

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

In the urban or suburban garden, limited space, pests, wary neighbors, and the like can make the idea of keeping chickens seem like more hassle than it’s worth. But by designing and building the right kind of coop, you can quickly get past these hurdles and add a whole new dimension to your garden.

Here are seven tips to put your coop project on the right path. . . .

1. Let it breathe.

Window on the front of Dan's Austin chicken coop.

A well-ventilated chicken coop helps keep your hens from suffering and your neighbors from complaining. Of course, you do need to stay ahead of any odors, making sure you balance out their poop with plenty of high-carbon bedding like straw, wood shavings, leaves, or shredded paper. We use the deep-litter method and continue to add straw as the chickens add droppings. This mixture begins to compost in place, and the volume builds only slowly. From time to time we move it all to a compost bin to finish doing its thing, then incorporate the rich fertilizer into the garden.

NOTE: The pictures in this post feature coops built by us and by customers of our chicken coop plans. Click on them to learn more about each DIY chicken coop build.

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Introducing The Basic Coop

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Our latest coop design is ready! It’s called The Basic Coop, and plans and hardware kits are now available. Take a look. . .

The Basic Coop Chicken Coop Plans

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How to build raised garden beds to fit The Garden Ark mobile chicken tractor

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

How to build a chicken coop that fits a raised garden bed.

One of the nice things about The Garden Ark mobile chicken coop is that you can move it around your yard or garden to focus your chickens’ grazing activity where you want it — just roll it across your lawn or place it atop your vegetable rows.

But what if you prefer to garden in raised beds? How can you incorporate The Garden Ark into your garden rotation so that your hens can graze, till, and help fertilize your garden before or after harvest?

In this tutorial, I show you how to build a raised vegetable bed that fits The Garden Ark design perfectly.  (more…)

New Book: Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and while I’m admittedly biased in this case — that’s a real-life Garden Coop chicken coop in the background of the cover shot! — garden designer Jessi Bloom’s new book Free-Range Chicken Gardens is as lush and inspiring as the chicken paradise featured on the front.

The premise of the book is simple: how do you best integrate chickens into a backyard vegetable or permaculture garden. Bloom does a wonderful job of showing you how, drawing not only from her own experience as a garden designer and chicken keeper, but also from the experiences of a diverse group of chicken gardeners she profiles throughout the book.

Topics covered include all the basics of keeping backyard chickens plus how to create a plan for a chicken-friendly garden and what plants to include/avoid in your chickens’ day yard. The illustrations are clear. Kate Baldwin’s photos are gorgeous.

Seriously, if I were a chicken, I’d want to live in this book — or at least in one of the gardens featured in this book — one of which is the handiwork of horticulturalist Alana Meyer. Alana’s sumptuous Washington State garden adorns the book’s cover along with the chicken coop she built using The Garden Coop plans and her own two hands.

Have you read Jessi’s book? Follow her blog? Leave a quick comment and let us know what you think, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve been inspired to do with your garden and chickens.

Make It Your Own: Bree’s Garden Ark, Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

This Garden Ark chicken coop was built to fit perfectly over the raised gardening beds.

Bree built her Garden Ark mobile chicken tractor to fit perfectly atop the raised beds in her Portland, Oregon vegetable garden. And she trimmed the skid ends to work as handles. Here are some notes she shared about the project. . .

I have eight garden beds the same dimensions, and my plan is to move the ark along twice a year or thereabouts, fertilizing and composting in place. I tinkered with the dimensions slightly to have it match the footprint of the beds. And I reversed the egg door and double door sides so that the full panels would be on the south and west sides for better weather proofing and optimal chicken viewing.

The plans were great! Thanks so much for such detailed instructions. By the way, I found it much easier to work with the hardware cloth on the roll. I left it on the roll as I laid it out and stapled it, and then cut it after I’d secured enough to know it wasn’t going to start curling up on me. This was especially helpful for the longest stretch of cloth covering the front and top.

Finally, I’m proud to say that as a newly single mum, I did it all myself. Every bit. I had help moving it, and that was it. It really is possible for one woman who is reasonably handy to do this herself.

** UPDATE: I’ve since created this tutorial for building raised beds that are sized to fit The Garden Ark perfectly. Take a look! **

Thanks to Bree for sharing her ideas for building and personalizing The Garden Ark. If you’ve found this post helpful, let her know in the comments below.

Compost Cupcake

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

We had to move our “Green Machine” compost bin a few feet to make space for a garden path. When we pulled the black plastic shell away, we were treated to this, well. . . hmmm. The fluffy-white “frosting”  is actually our family’s most plentiful carbonaceous material: shredded junk mail. Dig in!

Growing Gardens’ primer on double-digging and sheet mulching

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Great post at Growing Gardens’ blog on how they prepare vegetable beds for their garden installations. They use a combination of double-digging, a method that loosens the soil to a depth of about two feet while incorporating rich compost, and sheet mulching, which involves layering newspaper or cardboard with compost, leaves, straw, and the like.  

We’ve used both methods separately and together in our own veggie gardens with great results. What’s more, the abundance of composted chicken manure we get from our hens makes a super fertilizer to mix into a newly prepared bed. That’s right, it ain’t all about the eggs.

Guest article at The Urban Garden Project

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I’ve got a guest article up at The Urban Garden Project offering seven tips for building a garden-friendly backyard chicken coop. Check it out, then click around The Urban Garden Project site for more tips on backyard gardening, square foot gardening, chickens, and more.

Thanks, Ben, for inviting me to post!

Living on the edge

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I’ve been thinking more about the Bjarke Ingels talk I posted about last month. You know, I almost can’t believe this now, but when we were building our first coop, I wanted to tuck it out of the way in a far corner of our yard.

Luckily, a friend of mine who’s into permaculture happened to come by at the right time and suggested that we move it closer to the center instead. He explained that one of the principles of permaculture is that life happens on the edges. When you create edges, as with a garden bed or structure, it opens up new possibilities for viewing, using, and organizing the space.

So don’t hide your coop. Show it off, and see where it leads you next. Think about things like vining plants, flowers, edibles, rainwater catchment, compost bin, tool rack, hammock or sitting area, clothesline, or even housing for other animals. Have any edgy ideas to share?

Some nice examples from our customers:

Click on an image to read more about each coop build.

Backyard chicken coop and tractor

Pergola chicken coop

Rain barrel chicken coop

Rain barrel chicken coop

Growing greens in the chicken yard

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

While we feed our chickens a high-quality organic feed, we also like to make sure that they get plenty of greens and grass. They love grazing, and fresh greens improve the amount of vitimins in the eggs as well as the fatty acid profile of the yolks. Yet it took just a few days for our flock of 8 to completely denude their daytime grazing yard, a 200-or-so-square-foot fenced area next to The Garden Coop. (more…)

Which wood is best for a chicken coop?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Chicken coop with log roosts in run area.

[Post updated Dec. 2017] Most chicken coops are made of wood, and all wood eventually rots. Our coop designs feature overhanging roofs to protect the structures and their occupants from rain. But your coop will still get wet and be exposed to humidity, insects, and UV light. To protect the wood from the ravages of being outdoors you have a few options:

  • Build with wood that’s infused with pesticides (pressure-treated)
  • Use a naturally rot-resistant wood (like cedar, redwood, or tropical hardwoods)
  • Choose a softwood (like Douglas fir, hemlock, spruce, or pine) and apply a nontoxic sealer or treatment
  • Choose a plywood designed for exterior use and stain or paint it

In this post, I’ll go through each of these options, weighing the pros and cons. I’ll start with my least favorite and end with my preferred approaches. For a quick overview of our 10 tips and takeaways click here.

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