January 17, 2015

Garden UnReport

The garden is boot sinking muddy these days so the only garden activity going on is drooling over seed catalogs and planning. I have made an observation, however, that I'd like to share. Regular readers of my blog might remember that last November, we let the pigs and goats have the remains of the summer garden.  In early December Dan leveled out the ruts, but then it started to rain so we've left the ground alone since then.

The pigs spent all their time rooting in the upper part of the garden where the vegetables were growing. It now looks like this ...

They ignored the lower part, where the amaranth stalks remained (although the goats enjoyed those). It now looks like this ...

It catches my eye that nothing is growing where the pigs had been rooting. In the lower part all kinds of things are beginning to sprout thanks to our bouts of mild temperatures.

Coincidence? I don't know! I'd like to think that the pigs have done a superlative job in clearing out weeds and their seeds. Or is that wishful thinking? I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

I know "nature abhors a vacuum" and things will start to grow there eventually. I'm curious to observe what and when. I even have a slight hope that I'll beat everything to it and get my spring garden in before that happens. Unlikely, but a gardener can hope!


  1. we found our pigs were choosing particular areas to root, we then started moving onto untouched areas with electric fencing and they did a great job, well like you time will tell how good a job they did. :-)

  2. I'm anxiously waiting to see how long it takes in our garden as well. If I get a chance this weekend I'll take a photo of our garden sections so you can see how well our pigs did. Now I have more than 2, we have 25, but broken up by age groups and area. They did a fantastic job for sure! Much better than I could have ever done!

  3. Interesting observation, Leigh. I'll be watching to see how it turns out.


  4. every late winter/early spring I hope again, that this year I'll beat the weeds in taking over the garden! never happened though - a few warm spring days and I couldn't beat them even if I worked through the night:) the best I can do is try to clear everything as quickly as possible and cover the rest early enough with plastic, until I am ready to work on that area, too. I've given up hope to have a perfectly clean (aka weed free) garden - there is just too much area to work on for one person, esp. if that person doesn't want to work in the garden 18 out of 24 hours every day:)

  5. I suspect their rooting just buried the seeds deeper so it takes them longer to get warm enough to germinate. After our pigs were done rooting in their pens, the weeds always came back. Like you said, nature abhors a vacuum. It will be interesting to see how things work out.

  6. I can remember the days when small hog farms used to dot all over central Missouri and a drive in the country meant at least half a dozen odorous areas. I used to see the direct effects of hog pasturing. Interestingly enough some 30-odd years later a few of these hog pastures are still noticeably lacking in a number of plant types.

    So they can do a job on the weeds that's for sure.

  7. I've always understood that pigs are good at getting rid of perennials as they eat the roots, annuals are spread by seed, which are not so easy to root out. It will be interesting to see if the weeds that return are the annuals.

  8. After Christmas is over, I'm always ready to get back in the dirt! :)

  9. Dawn, that's a good idea. We have the electric netting, I just have to set it up.

    Izzy, it's so good to have someone else doing this experiment as well. I like being able to compare notes. Dan and I will never have that many pigs though!

    Fern, it's been a great experiment so far. Hopefully I'll have good things to report as time goes on.

    Bettina, that's the conclusion I've come to as well, that I can never conquer the weeds so I just do the best I can. Once canning season starts, the weeds take over!

    Ed, I read somewhere that one way to plant things like pasture grasses is to broadcast them where the pigs are. They will bury the seed for a good pasture the following year. I'll be reporting on that one day too!

    PP, whew, I'm glad we don't have to keep pigs like they did in the old days. Animals do have their preferences. I know our goats have wiped out several things, so I imagine the pigs will too. Glad to hear you've seen how effective pigs can be.

    Gill, that makes sense. It's mostly the perennials we're hoping to eliminate, so we'll see!

    the Goodwife, that is probably true for about 99% of us gardener types!

  10. The chickens certainly knock them back when I have them on a patch so I imagine they'd help a fair bit. Like you said - it doesn't take long for the weeds to make their way back in!

  11. Oh I have seen the effects of many types of animals not just pigs. The real question is how long you keep em on a specific patch. If you really want to kill just about everything in a patch of ground leave the pigs in there for a year or more. They will eventually kill everything completely along with any seeds retained in the soil as well.

    Pigs will even kill off things like Morning Glory and bindweeds as they keep em eaten back so well the roots lose all their energy.

    Now how well they will set the weeds back after only being there one Winter I cannot say for sure.

  12. Kev, I really want to keep the chickens and pigs together in the future because I think they'd do a better clean-up. Chickens love newly turned soil and the pigs would provide a lot of that. Might help with insect control too if they find the grubs.

    PP, this is our learning year for pigs so I figure no matter what we'll learn something useful. Hopefully we'll be able to utilize that knowledge more fully in the future. I can't expect for any of our critters to love all of our weed and insect problems, but I definitely appreciate whatever help they give!


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