Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Warm March breezes...

Spring is definitely in the air! We've been enjoying the balmy weather all weekend and it was difficult to head back inside (to the computer!). I noticed the greens in our cold frame tunnel have really perked up - parsley, chard, kale, various lettuces, arugula, Asian greens, chives - these seeds were planted last October, had just enough time to germinate and then sat as if in a refrigerator, all winter long. Now, with the longer hours of direct sun, they are thriving - the temperature inside the grow tunnel was near 30C yesterday at the peak of the day! These cold frames, whether grow tunnels like we have with hoops and plastic sheeting pulled over the entire raised beds, or just old-fashioned glass windows hinged onto a wooden box frame, are amazing aids in helping to extend our growing season. By April we should be eating fresh salad out of the grow tunnel!

We've also been doing quite a bit of tree pruning, including some fairly large overhanging branches which were casting increasingly more shade over the periphery of the garden each year. We'll have our work cut out for us, cleaning up the brush, and chopping and stacking firewood before we need to get into the garden soil! However, during the next warm spell, when we can't do much gardening yet but long to be outside, this is the perfect kind of work.

While working outdoors in the yard we have also let the hens out of their run, into the wider yard so they can truly roam around. They love this blissful warm sun, and frolic in the muddy patches scratching at seeds and the odd grub or tuft of green grass, and generally being their usual sociable selves. When we took a break to sit on our patio and soak in the sun, all five hens gathered around our feet preening their feathers and gently nipping at our pant legs to remind us they like to be petted, and looking up hopefully for a snack. We can't say enough good things about hens - they make great company, are child-friendly, provide hilarious entertainment, have quirky personalities, lay wonderfully tasty healthful eggs, keep insects at bay in the garden, help till the soil , eat kitchen compost wastes and turn it into rich manure, are loveable... In case anyone reading this is considering getting a few hens, now is the time. Usually around Easter time (early April) the day-old chicks are available from local hatcheries, and very affordable - about $1 per chick! Frey's, in St. Jacobs, is where we got our hens.

Just wanted to mention that all our herb seeds are now up - although lavender and rosemary are the slowest, and with a poor germination rate so far. These tend to be difficult seeds to start, at least in my experience. The basil is starting it's second set of leaves (or it's true leaves) so I am hopeful for a small batch of fresh pesto by early May! We have two indoor growing racks, each with three sets of shelves and full spectrum lights. We've wrapped plastic sheeting around the racks (or an old shower curtain could do in a pinch) to hold in the heat of the lights and give those seeds extra warmth as they get started. We also tend to water them with warm water, as our house is cool. In a warmer house this wouldn't be necessary.

We're hosting a seed starting workshop here next Saturday - facilitated again by Angie Koch, our friend who operates a new and very successful Fertile Ground CSA (community supported agriculture). More on the details of this workshop after it happens! We've written about her in other posts, and check out her site at:


  1. Karin -- you can also get pullets, which are 6 month old young hens ready to lay. We have 5 coming in early April and are looking forward to our own fresh eggs once again.

  2. Forgot to mention - I am glad to hear you have gone ahead with some pruning to open up the garden to more light - you won't be sorry. It took us years to cut down a big manitoba maple at out place, but it was the best thing we ever did for our garden.

  3. hey- i'm preparing to move to kw this fall, and i'm a little out of the loop when it comes to the chicken laws/acceptance in the city. last i heard they weren't allowed. has this been overturned?
    thanks for you help!