October 23, 2014

Working Smarter Not Harder With Pigs

Awhile back I told you about the pigs and the ground ivy. Also about what an amazing job they do as natural tillers of the soil. They have been hard at it.

Our pigs have done a lot toward eliminating the ground ivy.
Much of it is just lying loosely on the ground.

They haven't done a perfect job, but they've made better progress than we ever could have done. Results are pretty inconsistent, but what they do get, they really get. Apparently they are eating part of the root system because after it lies uprooted for awhile, it dies.

Pig killed ground ivy

As every gardener knows, tilling, plowing, hoeing, even had pulling of weeds isn't this efficient, because if some bit of root system is left behind, the weeds don't waste any time taking over again. The timing was perfect, however, because it is time to plant for winter pasture. Once Dan had the front porch torn down and the roof supported, we moved the pigs and goats out, got to work.

Raking up the pig-pulled ground ivy

The above attachment came with our walk-behind tractor. I would have thought it's a cultivator, but it was advertised as a rake. It was perfect for raking up what the pigs had turned up.  The chickens got this.

Ground ivy for chickens. Well, not the ivy, but they found stuff in the dirt!

Dan disced it too, and then I planted with a mix of orchard grass, ludino clover, chicory, and deer forage seed (contains things goats like: wheat, annual rye, oats, brassicas, clover). I added saved garden seeds such as peas, kale, radish, and parsnip, plus herb seeds I'd gathered from my herb garden: thyme, yarrow, echinacea, marjoram, and mint.

The camera lens makes it look much more expansive than it really is.

I planted the two ends of the field, where the ground ivy had completely taken over. I'm guessing it will take over again, but thanks to the pigs, we've been able to reclaim it for awhile.

This is one of two pasture areas we're working on. The other is the buck pasture, the one Dan plowed earlier this month.

As you can see, it's a lot more work without the pigs!

It's doing beautifully.


I had the deer forage seed first so I planted it first. The orchard grass is just beginning to sprout and grow.

Now we have to wait and pray for the right amount of rain to get things growing. This will be winter and spring forage for our goats. The orchard grass is a perennial and I'm hoping it will last for several years without being overrun with the ground ivy.

8 comments:

  1. That's looking good. When my wife and I planted our meadow, we had a hard time because the soil is red clay,and that land is very much sloped. Eventually, we put down a winter fescue and covered it with straw. It grew and now it holds the soil in place, for the most part. Your fields look really good. I'm glad the pigs are doing their share for the farm.

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  2. I'd never have thought of including brassica and root seed in the winter forage mix. What a good idea. Looking forward to seeing the result.
    While not having the funds to finish a task (such as your porch) is frustrating, it does free you up to do the jobs you should be doing! And goodness knows here is always something isn't there?
    Gill

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  3. Harry, not losing the soil is important! My first batch of orchard grass washed down the hillside from heavy rain. I scooped a lot of it up and tossed it back. LOL Second field will likely sit naked until it rains.

    Gill, I first read about that in Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. Apparently he plants enough for the animals to eat and the humans to harvest. An added bonus with root crops is they help loosen heavy soil. Goats like variety so I figured extra garden seed was a good thing to add.

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  4. Sounds like keeping pigs is a good idea for extra reasons

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  5. Given enough time, the pigs would do a perfect job on the ground ivy. We would turn a group of 15 or 16 pigs into a pen perhaps a little over an acre in size and they would have not a single weed growing in it before the summer was out. In one pen we had weeds higher than my head and a mound of dirt leftover from a project about eight feet tall. The had the weeds knocked down and the dirt leveled out in just a week! They are amazing creatures.

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  6. Leigh,

    Your pigs did a great job clearing out the pasture. I should probably borrow someone's pigs and let them have at it in my garden next season.

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  7. I love the way pigs work! Something you might try when they leave some weedy patches, is to toss down a pan of peelings, or a handful of grain, where you want them to root.

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  8. With such a variety of seeds, that's going to be one tasty field.

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