The large garden around the big pond in the center of my back yard has several shifting purposes beyond its fixed purpose of being a test bed for roses that I have bred. Each summer the southern half is a sweet potato patch, with enough left unharvested so as to sprout and recreate the patch annually. Late last summer I made the foolish mistake of letting a hated weed, Spanish Needle Daisy, take over in there. So in late autumn I opened the gate and let my chickens buzz down the weeds (and hopefully eat the seeds) for about 6 weeks. They did a very good job of that plus pooped and "plowed" the soil with their vigorous scratching. They so enjoyed it that once I reclosed the gate they were OBSESSED with getting back in there and kept me from replanting! I FINALLY kept them out by: 1. Clipping their wings again 2. Running a strand of sky blue cable above the gate to add visual height 3. Raised the fence line by attaching sections of green metal garden fencing my friend Peggy gave me some months back (once again I've been rewarded for being a pack rat!). Plus I sealed up a small opening I FINALLY located where the new young chickens I hatched from eggs had been entering to my chagrin all day every day.
Last winter the sweet potato patch was a test bed for a VERY productive forage Brassica called "Bonar Rape" that made vast amounts of tasty tender leaves that friends and students would graze from raw, and that I fed to the chickens. Last May they made VAST amounts of seeds which I gathered plenty of, plus I know many tens of thousands fell to the ground that I hoped would sprout this winter. Perhaps many escaped the chickens' attention since we are having a wonderful wet La Nino winter that would make them sprout readily. Last week though, in that area, as another experiment, I scattered several handfuls of a Vetch called "certified organic AC Greenfix Chickling Vetch" that I bought from Welter Seed and Honey Company. I pretreated the seeds with nitrogen-fixing rhizobia bacteria specific to that strain I had purchased too. After scattering the seeds I covered them with about an inch of semi-decomposed oak leaves that had been in garbage bags since last spring, then did the first deep wateringf in that bed in a year. Today looks to be a TRULY wet day after a damp few days, with Friday being predicted to be a full blown rainy day again. So I expect good germination.
My hopes are: the Bonar Rape seeds remaining will sprout, the Vetch will sprout, and together both should provide greens for the chickens and me as the Vetch's root nodules harboring the bacteria will "fix" atmospheric nitrogen into my soil. Both should succumb to the return of summer heat, which will revive the dormant sweet potato tubers. This year I will NOT let those damn Spanish Needles grow one single bit and finally eliminate them from that bed....chickens LOVE to eat pulled seedlings. Five years ago similar determination let me eliminate a very vigorous WEEDY spreading summer annual grass I do not know the name of but utterly despise from that same bed.
I planted all along the outside of this area, and around the pond rim. a large number of seeds of 'Dwarf Jewel Mix' nasturtiums to add color as part of my effort to make my very productive back yard look MUCH less 'Third World', which it tends to due to my being a slob (my gay genes seem to lack the usual chromosome for compulsive tidiness so many gay men seem to luckily possess) and my being a dumpster-diving packrat tree-hugger-recycler for thirty years now.
The photo is of this newly revamped bed on February 1, the day after I watered it in....I plan on sharing a photo of how it looks on March 1, then April 1, possibly May 1. Vetches are usually associated with summer farms in northern states, but so are the various forage rapes and turnips I am having stellar success with the last 3 winters here in Tampa, so I am very hopeful this Vetch thrives in that garden.
The next posting will be of a similar effort in the east bed directly abetting this bed, with a photo taken on February one also.