I am a lover of all things nice and neat. Most days, my life is anything but nice and neat. Apparently I am only capable of taking care of and cleaning up after myself. Doesn’t bode well for a family of five. There are days when I can almost grasp the feeling that the stars have aligned and everything is in its place. So I sit for five minutes to enjoy the awesomeness, and turn around to …..oh holy crap, what happened? It’s like my children have a panic button. If they can see three square feet of floor space clean, they feel it is their job to fill it back up. If you would like proof here it is people. That floor had been covered in groceries, toys and every utensil that we own (thank you dear, sweet Logan who loves to empty my drawers) ten minutes prior. I had a gloriously clean floor for ten precious minutes. And that dear, sweet boy’s panic button was hit, so he decided to hit some eggs.
Surprisingly, my house is not the battlefield I set out to discuss today.
The battlefield I was talking about before I got distracted by gloriously clean floors was…and is…my garden. In The Garden Progression, I shared my love of weedless gardens and perfect paths. I also shared that perfection has yet to be obtained. Not that perfection will ever be obtained, but it’s the idea that keeps me pulling weeds and fighting the battles. Before I had gardens, I would have never thought I would seriously consider them a battlefield. However, at The Givens Grove the battle is on many fronts. As it is with any homestead, farm, etc. I currently have four battle fronts. I am sure that these fronts will be ever changing in number and in cause. But for now we attack these bad boys.
First and foremost my enemy:
THE WEED- noun:
Our plan of attack this year utilizes raised bed gardens, to keep paths out of my garden completely. I can mow the paths down till my heart’s content and never have to worry about weeds creeping from the path into my garden plot. We are also using wood mulch from trees we had taken down earlier this year. This will block out sunlight to the weeds and also help with water retention. I love it when a plan is two fold.
Secondly, from the front lines:
THE FOWL-noun: a gallinaceous bird kept chiefly for its eggs and flesh; a domestic cock or hen. There have been many times during my gardening years since acquiring said fowl, that I have contemplated using them for their flesh. There is no gardening ground that is sacred to these foragers. In truth, it is the price you pay for truly free ranging your birds. I am okay with that, but it doesn’t mean I have to sit on the sidelines and watch it happen. We put fences up in years past, but the light ones would just fly over and the chunky gals would find holes in the fence from the weed eater to squeeze through. Note to self…no more plastic fencing, even if it is on sale. Unfortunately, I have made a promise to my girls that I would never make them eat a chicken they have named. Technically, they were pardoned before they even committed the crime. Lucky birds.
To keep every one honest, we have built removable structures that are covered in chicken wire. This set up lets all the sun/rain in, minimal weeding can be done through the 2″ holes, and most importantly keeps the devastators at bay. The structures are moveable for when I need to get in to harvest or do a better weeding job. This fall and winter we are going to try and make mini green houses with plastic over the structures in attempts to extend the growing season. In theory it sounds great. But until we try we will never know.
Thirdly, on the side of guerrilla warfare:
The Pest – noun: a destructive insect or other animal that attacks crops, food, livestock, etc. The bugs come out of nowhere, play by their own rules and care not about the destruction they leave behind. There are a whole slew of sprays and pesticides available to kill just about anything. But if I had intentions of using those chemicals I might as well buy my produce from the grocery store and save myself a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Organic pest control consists of more hands on approaches and planning ahead. With each new pest problem I learn new and awesome information. There are too many to count but slugs, vine borers, squash and potato bugs are just a few.
Our approach has turned from fighting each individual pest as they come, to inviting predators in and warding off some of the bad guys. This approach is done through companion planting and dispersing our plants around. A great source of information for companion planting can be found here. Companion plants are either sacrificial plants that attract the pests to themselves, or actually help repel the pests away. Dispersing our plants around means for example: we have 4 different kinds of tomatoes, so we are going to put them in 3 separate beds instead of one bed devoted to only tomatoes. The theory behind plant dispersal is that the pests, instead of being hunkered down in one spot, will travel from plant to plant and have a greater chance of running across a predator species. I love both of these methods, it lets me be creative in format when traditionally a garden consists of mono-crop rows.
Lastly, the unseen sniper:
The Feline – noun: a cat or other member of the cat family. Don’t let these sweet, furry faces fool you. Lucy and Bella have probably caused just as much or more destruction than the front line fowl. One would not tend to think that cats are a garden pest. But my friends, outdoor cats have a great love for awesome, loose dirt for their…..um….facilities. That was as nice as I could word it. Chad bought me quite a few ornamental plants to put in flower boxes he had made me last year for Mother’s Day. Probably 15 plants in all. Everyday I would go out and another plant would be on the ground. I would yell and blame the chickens. But truth be told, I would watch most of the chickens scratching around my flower boxes just waiting for them to look cross eyed at one of my plants. It never happened. I maybe saw one chicken take a nibble of a flower and then move on to something tastier. So why in the world were all of my plants ending up on the ground? And then finally, one glorious day, I caught the sniper, in action. I waited and watched Lucy fling my sweet petunia plant right out of the way to get to the perfect “facility”. I was furious. But you see, yelling at cats gets you nowhere….they could seriously care less. Generally speaking, cats tend to do their business when no one is around, and honestly I wasn’t going to stand guard all night either. So one by one they killed all of my beautiful flowers. It was sad, but at least I knew where to lay the blame.
The plan of action for the cats is one in the same as the chickens. The removable structures were meant to keep the feline species out as well. We probably did a better job in terms of strength and making sure there were no gaps because of the cats. I am glad of it now… I actually watched Bella trying to find a way in between two structures last night. I have an idea on how to save my flower boxes from the snipers this year. If you have any ideas or success stories, please share. Surely I am not the only gal out there with sniper cats that have it out for beautiful flowers.