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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:50 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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Howdy,

I have a chicken tractor on my raised beds, see below.

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I have had the tractor on the same bed now for 4 months and using the 'Deep Litter' method have built up a good layer of compost rich soil. I imagine that this soil is now high in nitrogen, so i was wondering;

What winter crop/green manure can i plant in this bed when i move it at the end of summer which will like the high nitrogen.

Winter Wheat?
Rye?
Barley?

I dont know....even clover maybe?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Regards
Raphael in Canberra (Where we have a real winter)

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:46 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Not clover or other legume plants. They fix nitrogen from the air with the nodules on their roots and don't do particularly well in already nitrogen rich soils.

I'd try leafy green vegies - silverbeet, kale, maybe cabbages, anything that you want to grow an abundance of leaves as nitrogen stimulates leaf growth. No root or flowering crops (carrots, cauliflower etc.).

Unfortunately the patch may be too rich when you first shift the tractor and you will have to turn the soil over and allow maybe a month or two before you plant anything. Poultry manure is very concentrated as poultry do not urinate so the urine is in the faeces; it is the whitish part of their poo.

I am sure one of our resident gardeners could tell you length of time and best plants for the plot but if you can't possibly wait the required length of time you can always plant a punnet of silverbeet and if it dies then you'll know to wait another few weeks. :D :D :D

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 7:00 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Forgot to say how much I liked the tractor! It is lovely.

And what a good idea to make the garden beds the same size. Very clever.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:46 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Thanks Ginny,

I am so proud of it. The best part is it actually looks nice too, which keeps my dear wife extra happy and all my friends want one.

I was thinking along the lines of a green manure crop, but your idea of leafy greens is a good one as it provides winter greens for the chickens.

I am going to have a large amount of Comfrey seeds from the 8 plants I grew this summer which are flowering now. Will they grow through winter?

Any gardeners, please comment.

Raf

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:37 am 
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Showy Hen
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Yes I realize you meant green manure crops for you to dig in or feed the chooks on. I don't know much about them so sorry I can't help you. I have never grown something just to dig in or feed to my girls. If and when I can get a vegie garden growing I usually end up with excess for them anyway. LOL

In a broad acre sense oats and wheat have a fairly high nitrogen requirement - oats because we want a lot of leaf matter for hay and wheat because it boosts the protein in the grain at harvest. Most grain crops still require a good side dressing of potash for flower and seed production but that isn't necessary if you intend to put the chooks back on before it finishes off.

Green manure crops are generally dug in to improve the soil nutrition and structure. With the chooks already doing that you may find it more rewarding to grow something for yourself where excess can be fed to the chooks and everyone benefits.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:00 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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You are spot on Ginny.

I just found the Canberra Organic Gardeners website, COG's and they say that Wheat, Rye, Oats and Barley are great non-legume crops for winter, and legumes like peas and clover are good for my beds which havent yet seen the rear end of a chicken.

I am trying the no dig, organic way of gardening, and I want to see if the benefits of cover crops/green manure are 'all they are cracked up to be'.

Also keeps my hens in green feed over winter.

I have 5 beds free, and I am thinking I will trial different crops on each.

1. Clover on the bed for next years tomatoes (to add nitrogen)
2. Peas and beans on the bed for next years Chillies, Capsicums and and Eggplants (to add nitrogen).
3. Cabbage and other brassica's on next years root vegetable bed.
4. Wheat, Barley and Oats on the just pooped on bed (too use nitrogen)
5. Root vegetables for Winter veggies (Potatoes, turnips, beetroot, carrots).

Does this sound reasonable? It's just my first draft and I hope someone out there can help firm up my ideas.

Thoughts?
Raphael in Canberra.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:08 pm 
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Showy Hen
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I hope some gardener can help you better than me but in the mean time I would look at following a legume crop ie peas, beans, clover with a leafy green crop ie silverbeet, spinich, kale, cabbage. What goes after I hope someone else will be able to help you with but maybe a root crop? The legumes could go on the cereal patch?

Remember most vegies are only there for a few months so the turn around will not be very long unless you plan to have one perrenial bed for something like asparagus or rhubarb. If you can, locate a good book on growing vegies for Canberra/NSW. Your Dept of Primary Industries has some agfact .pdfs which may be useful even though they appear to be for the horticulture industry. I can't vouch for it and have no affiliation but at least it is local info more applicable to you.
http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/vegetables

This book looked interesting from a purely soil point of view but I would like to have a look first before buying it at that price.
http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/floriculture/gardening-down-under

Hopefully someone from NSW or closer can help you more
Cheers

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:03 pm 
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Golden Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
You can actually buy green manure seed mixes from various seed places - I _think_ Eden Seeds (www.edenseeds.com.au) has a pack. When I was at some shows a couple of years ago I scored a few packets of "winter" and "summer" green manure packets. I haven't used them yet because I've been waiting for gardens to create!

I've just joined COGS, although officially I'm not in the ACT (they don't seem to mind, and I do work in Canberra) ... I'll check their latest newsletter for info about what you're after.

I would also check out magazines like Organic Gardener and Gardening Australia - the ads in the back can be very helpful!! They also do a regular roundup of each climate zone across Australia to help with plantings.

Jackie French is a local to the area - she's in Braidwood - so check out her books on fruit'n'veggies for our cold ACT region. In summary, however, we can plant the English/northern European edibles that don't do so well in warm humid places like Sydney; but owing to the very hot and dry summers, can just get away with mediterranean annuals as well (*phew* ie tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, basil - often useful to start these in the greenhouse to avoid late frost issues, as we had last year).

(Note: chook newbie but slightly more experienced in gardens :). I mainly want the chooks for their manure!).

I love your portable chicken system, and am now contemplating something similar when I get around to extending my garden area. Are you bribable for re-creation of your system?? :)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:46 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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Congratulations on your garden bed tractor great idea. I don't think you are utilising the nitrogen that the chooks have given you to its permacultre potential, unless you are planning on making bread etc fro the cereal crops. I am also in Canberra and the best winter crops I have found are peas and broad beans. Why don't you grow these, in one of your beds (not the one the chooks have just been on) and move the chook tractor onto that bed for the chooks to have in late spring. I am nowhere near an expert but maybe the best thing for the nitrogen rich bed that the chooks have just been on is to leave it fallow until spring?? what does everyone else think?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:55 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Thanks guys.

Quote:
Are you bribable for re-creation of your system??


Sure thing. I love this stuff. PM me if you need me to help out, advise you, or if you want me to build one for you.

Leanne,

You are on to something. I think I read that the Nitrogen in its current form is not as useable as it could be and benefits from being taken back into a plant and then composted down again or just composted.

I would love to harvest the grains and make my own bread, but the green manure idea requires you to turn in the crop before seed set while still green.

I would love some more info though. Better get my membership form in to COGS.

In regards to the beans. Absolutley. I plan to grow beans for sure to fix nitrogen through winter in at least one of my beds this year, but Im not sure putting a nitrogen machine like chooks onto a bed which just had nitrogen put in by the beans is what I need. Seems like doubling up. The chickens do love the beans though, so I will be feeding the crop to them, but the nitrogen enriched soil in the 'bean bed' would probably support summers 'solinacea' (sp?) plants.

As for the 'Hot' chicken bed, like you say, maybe just mixing the current litter (high in nitrgen) with Autumn leaves and letting it compost down until spring might work (leaving it fallow).

Keep the ideas coming. What to plant in winter in my raised bed after I move the chicken pen...? Any ideas for my garden are welcome and enjoyed. Thanks Leanne and Infoaddict.

Raf.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:11 am 
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Phoenix
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Raf,

Not sure if have visited the greenharvest site but if not, here is a link.

http://www.greenharvest.com.au/seeds/or ... index.html

The bottom of the page goes into what to grow for chooks and green mulches. Lots of good info on this site.

J

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:08 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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Yes you are right, it would be wasteful to put the chooks on the green manure crops. I just had an idea if you have the room. Why dont you do an experiment? Leave the chook bed fallow after you mix in some autumn leaves and then in another bed plant your green manure crop and mix it in. Then in spring plant the same crop in each bed and see which bed gets the best results. My prediction is that the chicken compost? will win hands down.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:15 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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I would put my house on the chook bed winning as well.

The plan is to try a few different things this year and see what works best. I went to a fair bit of effort to incorporate the chicken tractor and raised beds, so i am hoping this bed is the steller performer. It will be interesting to see how long it needs to be on each bed to maximise performance. I will let you know in a few years of trail and error. :D

I just cant stand to see garden space not growing something! Even in winter.....

Raf

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:45 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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i love your tractor & have printed out the advice you gave me in the other message - the next project is to make some beds like yours & have 2 chooks on the beds only :D
i see you used wood for the base of the vegie patch - would that not rot & attract termites?
excuse my ignorance if that is a stupid question, we are new to oz & paranoid about termites :D
do you have instructions / wood sizes for the coop?? i would live a copy if you do
if not you can always fly over to w.a & build me one :wink:

heres hoping
sam


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:18 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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For the raised beds,

The timber I had was 60yo Hardwood beams (125mm x 50mm (or '5x2's)) from a house demolition that had been stored for about 10 years under some corrugated iron. It had done all the wearthering it was ever going to do. It is so hard i couldnt drive a nail into it.

But, i also painted the bottom and inside with some non-toxic'rubber paint' waterproofer. I used galvanised angle iron, screwed into the inside corners to secure it (using 50mm long galvanised roof screws).

Once assembled. I laid it out level and ran clear plastic sheet around the inside and tucked it out under the walls, so that water and soil would not sit against the timber on the inside and it is effectively sitting on the plastic sheet, so water should run away. It should last for about 10 years? by then I can build new ones.

You can use treated pine sleepers (~$10 each?). It is 2 timbers high, so you need 4 long timbers and 4 short ends (which you would imagine would be half the length of the long ones for ease of cutting). So 3 meters by 1.5m? Make the dimensions fit what you have at hand.

You are right to be concerend about termites, and yes, termites might like my timber, but i will have to take that chance. Treated Pine should be termite proof.

For the Coop
I never actually drew anything more than scribble designs, and made it up along the way. Its best I show you pictures. Again I used old hardwood mostly and some radiata pine for the inside.

It was pretty simple. I housed all my joints for strength, but really that was because i wanted to practice woodworking skills. I am a begginer with a chisel.

I have some good construction pictures. Let me get them together and I will post a new thread. Heres one to whet your appetite. :wink:

Image

I am happy to pass as much info along as I can.

Raf

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