Monday, October 13, 2008

Shameless Pig Exploitation! ((more of the Dream))

I'm not going to try to take credit for the fantastic idea that I am about to bestow upon you. I read it somewhere in passing. I 'want' to say it was "Five Acres and Independence", but I recently checked it out from the library and didn't seem to find it in there.

O.K. enough with the disclaiming...

On with the idea!!!

I was thinking about the 22 acres at my mom & dad's and how best to use them. I mentioned before that 2 acres or so are covered in blackberries, overgrown fruit trees and whatnot. My parents usually have a large garden each year too. But the land has to be reclaimed from mother nature every season. Seriously, in the Willamette Valley if you do not mow, the grass will be 6 feet high by May. So this is where my ultra-clever, semi-swiped-from-someone-else idea comes in.

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you know about little things like crop rotation to foil pests and disease. But in case you don't, I am going to explain it in great detail.

Stop me if I go too fast ;)

In nature, multiple plants are in the same genus - so tomatoes, peppers, nightshades, potatoes, and tobacco are all related. Brassicas are cauliflower, broccoli, turnips and the like and they are all kissing cousins.

If you grow the same types of plants in the same areas year after year it's like putting a neon diner sign out for pests. If plant diseases are a problem (we have powdery mildew like crazy starting in August every year!) then what I am about to tell you will possibly change the way you garden.

Two words...

I bet you have no idea what words...

Drum roll -



O.K. so you already guessed, but it was still fun no?

In order to actually maintain a good crop rotation schedule, you have to plot out ahead of time how and where you will place your plants (keeping in mind the kissing cousins et al). This is a lot of work and makes my head go foggy. If you are constrained by a small space then you will have to plot and graph your way to pest free living. If you have a large space (say 22 acres?), then you can passively rotate your crops by following my simple plan.

First divide your area into 3 plots. Obviously the 3 areas should be appropriate for vegetable gardening (6 hrs + a day of direct sun). No special fertility or any other requirements need be met at this point. I highly recommend an overgrown plot that needs a lot of work. That way, my Spectacular Idea will seem all the more wonderful.

So you have your 3 spots picked out right?

Now fence at least one of them with hog or cattle fence. It's probably cheaper and easier to do all 3 at once in the long run, but do whatever feels best for you at the time.

Each section will need its own gate.

Buy some piglets in the spring and place into the first pen. Apply appropriate TLC.
Feed them all the compost scraps that are fit for the pigs to eat...and then let the pigs work their magic on the soil in the first pen. They will root out the weeds and chomp down the brush like nobody's business! Word to the wise though, make sure any plants that you want to keep are protected.

So that's pen #1. Let the pigs stay in there until butcher time (here it will be spring to late fall).

In the second pen, either have a garden or pasture poultry. Do the opposite in the 3rd pen.

The next year, put the piglets into the plot where the garden was and move the poultry to the pig pen. Into the chicken pen throw any leaves and non-edible compost items. Don't worry because when the pigs are in that pen, they will destroy anything that is left.

Each year the pigs will churn your soil and reduce pests and disease to a minimum. The chickens are just for fun, but will benefit from the fresh pasture too.

This method takes a bit of work, but not very much planning which I like!

I'll lay it out in simple terms before I go...


Plot #1
Piggies and edible compost items

Plot #2
Garden (will be limited in size a bit in year 1 unless you are incredibly lucky)

Plot #3
Pasture Poultry and other compost items


Plot #1
Pasture Poultry and other compost items

Plot #2
Piggies and edible compost items

Plot #3


Plot #1

Plot #2
Pasture Poultry and other compost items

Plot #3
Piggies and edible compost items

And so on, and so on, and so on into infinity.

What do you think? Am I on to something?

1 comment:

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I have been studying up on (and struggling with) crop rotation principles this last week. Though not with pigs in mind. lol. That's an interesting twist I would not have thought of. One question, though, did you read somewhere that pigs will take disease-ridden/infected soil and fix it? Why would this be?

I'm also wondering about what the chickens will find useful in a pen that has been completely overhauled by pigs the previous season. There isn't going to be much left for them. You may want to consider a 4th fenced off garden section and you can divide your compostables between pigs and chickens, thereby allowing each species to work their magic on the ground (and amending it w/lovely rich manure).

Now, here's what I'm struggling with: I get the whole concept of not planting anything from the same plant family for successive years in a row, but this can be very difficult if one's garden plot is limited in sunlight. Say that one section is brilliantly sunny and warm, perfect for tomatoes, but a spot 8' down is less sunny and better for spinach. It makes rotation much more difficult. Where I've got my spinach now, my 'maters are not gonna be happy. So, you see my personal crop rotation dilemma.