Project: Casa Cosmica
Posted by Juan Manuel Burgos about 12 years ago
In permaculture we think about systems, and speciffically we consider how this systems are made, what constitutes them, which interelations can we make between elements in order to make a more stable self-suficient system.
In this example, the idea is to fortify this self-suficient capacity of each element, when a proper design is made. On this property, already existed a hen coop used long time ago, that needs some restoration works, but before bringing the chickens in and start enjoying their productivity and work, it's a wise decission to work on a way to provide them at least some of the food they'll be needing in a near future. That's the idea of this self forraging system based on a raised sheet mulch bed. In the beggining for sure it won't be enough for the entire nutrition of the chickens, but with time, as the system grows, we believe that most of their feeding needs will be fulfilled from inside the system with a very little input from outside. at least that's the idea with every element we incorporate.
For those that have not heard about sheet mulch, the concept it's quite simple. Generate the conditions for the organic matter to compost in place, rising the quality of the nutrients available, creating soil, and protecting it at the same time from erossion. What we do is basically put layers of different materials that will decompose with time, without the need of turning piles or moving material to add into the bed, and set the required conditions for plants to grow.
First of all we start with a layer of cardboard (it definately can be thicker than the one you see, it depends on the availabilty of materials you have) so as to prevent weeds to grow into the bed, and with time they'll decompose as well, meanwhile the roots of our selected plants will pass through the cardboard and on to the soil, looking for more nutrients. Then we start piling other materials, in this case a layer of horse/cow manure, followed by a layer of stable bedding with some dry chicken manure and rice hulls, and finally a thick layer of straw. In between you can also add some soil or mature compost in order to provide a suitable surface for the plants to start rooting and growing until their find their way on the rest of the bed. At first we can expect the plants to grow not as big and tough as they can, because some nitrogen fixiation can occur because of the composting process happening on the bed, but on the second season, things will be completely different. nevertheless, you'll see on the pictures, that after almost 60 days after planting, the plants have grown quite well and are even fruiting! :D you can see a couple varieties of squash, some chard plants as well as beets, basil and tomatoes growing wildly. There were some peas and beans but they were victims of some pill bugs (surprisingly for me, i thought they just ate roots, but they seem to be starved because they have eaten lots of greens, even on the vegetable garden!!)
The plant selection it's huge, i believe also corn, millet, more beans and peas, some roots, etc can be planted so as to feed the chickens. Even some medicinal plantas suchs as tansy and arthemisa varieties.
From this point on, time will tell how it performs, and we'll have a reference on how much to plant in relation with the amount of chickens in the coop, and also which varieties they like most! :)
Comments and opinions, more than appreciated folks :)
Thanks for your time and have a nice harvest!
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