Weeding Around Your Crops: Use A Chicken Tractor

Back in April I filled you in on my plan to convert to square-foot gardening and I figure it's probably time to give you a mid-summer update. The truth is, a late, wet spring (and summer) along with the two weeks in May I spent bear hunting, put me way behind in my planting schedule. Normally, I shoot for my first crop of radishes by Memorial Day, but this year I'm embarrassed to say I didn't even have my little red bombs ready by 4th of July. Sad, I know.

We've had (very) few really hot days this year, but the garden is finally starting to hit its stride. Of course, so are the weeds. The square-foot plan has helped me keep up with weeding in the beds, but the areas surrounding the raised beds are carpeted in weeds of all types, from common mallow to chickweed, which isn't near as hot as it sounds.

Enter the chicken tractor. I've been wanting to build one of these for a couple years and finally cobbled one together from scrap wood I had laying around. After setting it outside my office window for a few days to monitor the Lab - Hen interaction, I moved it into the garden, where it has become an automatic weeding machine. My tractor is fairly small, with just enough room for about three hens, but they've been weeding about 20 square feet a day.

As for the garden, it's come in fits and starts. I've pulled a few batches of radishes and the lettuce is ready to be cut any day now. Carrots are finally starting to come in, as are the turnips and kohlrabi, but the beets are non-starters. That's the second year in a row my beets haven't come in, so I obviously have a seed or soil problem I need to work on. Onions look great and, of course, the zucchini is coming on strong. Tomatoes and cucumbers are struggling, but growing.

How about the rest of you? Are you starting to enjoy the fruits of your labors, or has this crazy spring made you dependent on the local farmer's market? Any input on my beet problem?