Sunday, June 26, 2011

On with the fight! Duckproofing the garden

© 2011 Joshua Stark

In my attempts at urban homesteading, I'd come upon a small problem:  My laying ducks eat everything we humans might, especially those things that come from plants.  I've since also discovered that domestic ducks can jump high, that they can fly, and that they don't mind throwing their weight around to get what they want. 

Basically, I'd reached the conclusion that, if I wanted both free-ranging ducks and a garden, I was going to have to build something like the key-hole raised beds I'd seen - at considerable cost.  If you know me, you understand that the end of that last sentence rendered the concept out-of-bounds (although I am toying with a design that would include a first level of wall stones, then the next three or four levels of doubled-up cedar fenceboards...)

But earlier this year, I was inspired by two new ideas, and yesterday I put them to work.

The first idea was that one didn't necessarily need dirt to garden.  A.G. commented on a post about rained-on straw bales, and mentioned bale gardens, a very interesting idea. 

Next, at Little Master House's 1st birthday party, we noticed some interesting "raised" beds in the front yard of the Littlest Master's aunt and uncle's place.  At first, we took little notice - both the front and back yards were beautiful, and there was so much from which to take inspiration.  But as we were leaving, I noticed what appeared to be bamboo beach mats standing on their sides, shaped into cylinders, and filled with straw.  From between the bamboo slats, I saw plants growing... wait, those are potatos! 


What I liked about the idea (in theory) is that my ducks could pick some leaves, and the rest could grow above their grasp.  Then, when the potatoes were done, I could just remove the mat, "dig" the potatoes from the straw, and leave the pile for the happy ducks.

Well, a couple of weeks back, I walked into Big Lots and found bamboo mini-blinds for 50% off.  Yesterday, I pulled off the hardware and used zip ties and river reed poles to form a cylinder, filled it with some ducked-up straw, and added potatoes. 

My twist?  On top, I put some worm compost, then planted some potato companion plants:  Nasturtium, swiss chard, radishes, and a couple of bush beans.  As part of the experiment, I put some of the seeds straight into the straw, and others into a little bit of compost. 

Now I sit back and wait to see how the ducks will ruin this one.


Gary Thompson said...

Okay, so I have to tell you how I got started "hunting." When I was a young kid, eight I think, my folks bought a farm, 1,500 acres in mid-Missouri. My dad was a professor at the university and decided we needed to become country mice. It was a great decision filled with a decade or so of hilarity based on our inexperience.

The first year that we lived on the farm, my mother, notorious for her green thumb, planted "a garden." It was a small plot of ... oh let's say three acres. In addition, she bought some ducks and geese that she wanted to have free running the pond which was adjacent to the garden.

The garden was a huge success, more than we could eat, and turned into a business for me to replenish ammunition. My sole responsibility that summer was, in order of priority: weed, pick the asparagus twice a day, fend off the rabbits (got my first gun, an air rifle), repel the wolves (as described by our neighbors), and protect the ducks and geese. This was a finely tuned, well organized schedule of event. However, as you've discovered ducks and geese are terrific fans of lush well manicured vegetable gardens.

Within a week, I was instructed to kill the duck and geese, providing me with an opportunity to serve up dinner at the ripe old age of eight. Long live "hunting!" A carnivore is born!

Josh said...

Great story man! Had I known then what I know now, I probably still wouldn't have dispatched them, but my 'raised' beds would have been completely different.