Around here, tomatoes and beans don’t go in until June. They need warm soil and no threat of a frost. So, I’ve fenced off the part of the garden with the cold-hardy veg that are already planted – the carrots, peas, lettuce and chard – and I’ve let the girls continue to scratch around in the unplanted areas. They’ve also been allowed in the mint bed. I’ve got four types of mint: chocolate, orange, apple and spearmint. I’ve heard that mint is indestructible. In fact, it’s invasive, which is why I’ve got it in a separate raised bed. But yesterday I noticed that Candy had eaten the orange mint down to the ground. I guess the orange variety is her favorite. And the girls had scratched around the mint until the roots were showing. I do love mint in iced tea. And my mint and zucchini frittata is yummy. So I’ve surrounded the mint bed with chicken wire. The mint is protected and the chickens will have to do without their aromatherapy mint dirt baths.
The girls have been helping me get my raised beds ready for the summer vegetables. They’ve been busy in the garden. Their scratching aerates the soil. They eat up grubs and they leave fertilizer. Then again, they’ve been a bit too enthusiastic in my potato patch. Last fall I circled a section of the garden with a low fence. I’ve filled it with leaves, compost and dirt. Perfect for potatoes. The hens say it is also perfect for digging. The soil is so loose that their enthusiastic scratching sends the dirt flying a couple of feet. In just a week, my nice half-foot deep potato bed has been reduced to an inch of soil. This is why, once the vegetable beds are planted, the girls will be kept in their fenced yard. You’ll see them looking longingly into the veg garden. Don’t feel sorry for them! They’ll still have a nice plot of loose dirt to scratch in and take dust baths. I’ll be tossing them bad bugs and weeds. Which is a fine set-up for backyard hens.