1 It was an early morning start for the tractor. Wilmer made several trips to the compost pile for manure to top-dress the asparagus beds. A well-maintained asparagus bed can provide delicious vegetable spears for at least 10-years.
2 Wilmer unloaded the manure at the entrance to the flower garden and carried smaller loads by wheelbarrow to the beds. Only use composted manure. Raw manure releases highly soluble nitrogen and ammonia, which could burn plant roots and interfere with seed germination.
3 Composting manure above 131-degrees Fahrenheit for at least a couple weeks will kill harmful pathogens, dilute ammonia, stabilize nitrogen, kill weed seeds and reduce objectionable odors.
4 This is the flower garden, but in the back, I have a few vegetable crops, including asparagus, that have continued to grow well at this location.
5 Several varieties of asparagus are planted here, and benefit from a top-dressing of manure. Manure contains three elements crucial for plant health: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. It also contains humus, which is a great soil amendment.
6 Asparagus grows well in full sun, and in fertile, well-drained soil. When planted in a good soil and composted manure mix, asparagus doesn't need additional fertilizers.
7 Two rows done - cleaning up the garden beds and adding rich, composted manure at the start of the season is a good way to ensure big, bountiful crops come summer.
9 I love growing all kinds of berries -- gooseberry bushes have a height spread of about three to five feet. When pruning them, any shoots older than three years should be cut down.
10 Cut lanky shoots to keep them tidy and nicely shaped. These gooseberry bushes will be ready for picking in early July. Gooseberries are low in calories, and rich in flavones and anthocyanins - compounds found to have health benefitting effects against cancer, aging, and inflammation.
12 Removing all the dead grass, old leaves and various twigs leftover from last fall encourages new growth, and tidies up the beds.
13 Spring raking is also a good time to survey the lawn for any matted or bare patches that need re-seeding.
14 Down by the coops, the chickens were given access to the adjacent garden. Not only are they naturally fertilizing the soil, but their scratching and digging breaks up the soil for proper aeration.
15 The chickens will have access to the area for a few weeks - the result will be a rich, prepared garden bed with healthy soil. Of course, they will only be in the garden during the day, and in their coops at night.
16 I decided to use an additional space this year for planting vegetables. In order to make this area suitable for chicken grazing, we had to build a temporary fence to keep them safe.
17 We used wood, and deer fence netting to make the temporary enclosure.
18 Wood was placed at the bottom all the way around and then screwed into the upright supports.
19 The netting was pulled taut underneath the wood, to protect the chickens from clever animals that may want to squeeze in through the bottom.
20 The fence looks terrific, and soon the chickens will be free to roam in this new area as well.
21 A permanent fence will replace this temporary structure at a later time.
22 After less than one week of chicken grazing in this space, the soil already looks so rich and healthy.
23 The chickens will do the same in this area. Chickens love eating many common yard weeds. Weeds are perfectly safe as long as they haven't been sprayed with any chemicals. Some of the weeds they enjoy include chickweed, clover, and dandelion.