My Garden Ecosystem
I love growing my own food for so many reasons, but how do I make it all happen? Introducing my garden ecosystem, affectionately known as ‘Chicken City’.
Inside the meshed walls of Chicken City I have a central chicken house, which is connected to four separate ‘rooms’ – two containing annual vegetables, one containing dwarf fruit trees and one containing berry canes. Each of these rooms can be opened or blocked off to the hens via gates. So when the plants are fruiting the little ladies are locked out so we can collect the harvest, but then once the season is over we let them in to clean up the fallen fruit, eat pests and bugs and turn and fertilize the soil. We apply this principle to all the ‘rooms’ at different times of year, so the chickens always have a room to explore and subsidise their feed. The mesh keeps the chickens safe inside, and also prevents the juicy fruit being nabbed by the many native animals outside.
Chicken City itself is set inside a hilly paddock, which contains our other beautiful ladies – our alpacas. They serve three purposes – they keep the grass tame, they fertilize the soil and, most importantly, they keep the chickens safe from foxes and other predators!
Inside chicken city we have three large compost bins turning all the kitchen scraps from the alyce alexandra cooking school and the alpaca and chicken manure into rich compost. This enables us to grow delicious and healthy fruits and veggies, literally from waste, and without the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (read more about growing food from waste here).
So in a nutshell, that’s my largely closed-loop ecosystem. With the whole system working in harmony from the soil microbes to the worms, chickens and alpacas, there is no waste and no chemicals, just plenty of healthy food for everyone! I couldn’t think of a more meaningful nor enjoyable way to spend my time.
While this whole project may be beyond the space, time and financial capacity of many – what elements could you integrate into your life? How about a worm farm in the garage or a few pots of tomatoes on the balcony? Or maybe a couple of hens free ranging in the suburban back garden?