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  • Writer's pictureFellow Gardener Sara

Garden Super Food

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

My girls have done their part. Sheltering more than in the warmer months, our hens made a store of rich fertilizer we can't wait to spread over the garden. Besides the delicious eggs we've been grateful to have (for less than $5-$8 a dozen...!) they're ensuring all the weeds we pull from the garden and throw into their run will be lush and green.

But seriously now, that chicken coop is full of pure gold. I can't think of a much better way to enrich our soil naturally, and right from our property, than with broken-down straw and droppings from the coop.

My husband comes from a line of true gardeners, I'll see him stooped over our garden, and I think he can read its mind. Slowly scooping a handful of the soil into a calloused hand, his eyes will grow thoughtful as he crumbles it gently, watching how it shifts and falls through his fingers. Then he knows.

After David had handled our soil, peat moss, sand, worm castings and lime were all worked into our Canadian garden in the spring and of course leaves and grass clippings in the fall when we had the long winter months to break them down. Barn or coop cleanings need extra time to break down before being worked into your garden, otherwise they'll be what's called too "hot". Typically, we pile our coop cleanings outside for about year before using them as a soil amendment. This way our garden plants will be fed instead of burned by too high nitrogen.

Last spring on a fresh, sunny, morning we had fun spreading our composted coop cleanings over the garden with our sons. Then the tiller was fired up and I watched the boys trotting, giggling and barefoot, in the deep furrows behind Daddy as David worked that rich natural fertilizer deep into the soil.

Summertime came, and the heavy-fruited plants were evidence of healthy, nutrient rich soil. The back story is always revealed when you garden! So, grab a pitchfork and thank a chicken for the free fertilizer.

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