I know permaculture theory suggests using pigs to rototill, and as we know my pigs are quite good at the job. However, setting up a space around my garden and herding the pigs into it seemed like a sizable undertaking so I went with a more conventional method to breaking ground for the new garden: a rototiller. The soil had the right amount of water, but being clay it was still hard as heck and after an hour of hard labor my wrists that are prone to tendonitis hurt, I was breathing fumes and the grass roots had hardly been cut into. i had a 20×40 square of ugly:large clods of dirt and grass with only 1 inch “fluffed” and holdouts from the former lawn waving their grassy blades like green standards in a war against my invasion into their property. Three weeks later those bunches of grass are looking fine and healthy with the added root space.
I then attempted to spade the space as Steve Solomon suggests….for all of two minutes. With as much weight as it took me to spade a single foot of ground no way could i do the whole garden.
So I gave in. I don’t feel comfortable using polyrope outside of the big permanent fence because the pigs still bust through it sometimes, but the garden needed tilling if it was going to do it this year i needed to do it NOW. First time I tried there was a heat wave and I didn’t want a wallow in my garden space (compacted dirt!) so i put them back with the other pigs. That movable pen i ended up giving to Cap the goat, so once the weather cooled down…nada. I finally made a electric fence around the garden this weekend and the pigs happily followed me in (?!!)
The kids got to work right away now that the weather has cooled off. But what really surprised me was after a day of “hard work” in the garden I treated them to an extra scoop of grain and they didn’t eat it! Infact, they weren’t even excited at feeding time. Whatever they are finding in the ground is filling them up, the grain is just supplementary. While I wasted a few pound of feed at least its in the garden where it will add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. Yes, this whole process works well to fertilize the soil for the coming plants.
I should have done this much earlier in the year. The whole space should have been managed totally differently, but life got in the way. Anyway, its May and I’m finally working on my garden space. Luckily it is going to heat lovers like eggplants and peppers that don’t have to go in for a few more weeks.