Im going to try getting some minerals then. I figured our dirt here was pretty good. Strawberries grow wild like crazy here. I guess Ill be getting some supplements for the soil lol. Maybe it will solve the problem. If not, Il try removing the fertilized soil and putting in some regular dirt.
Are there any safe slug killing things that wont harm my chickens? I have lots of bedding i can use as a cover for winter. What does the cover do?
Sometimes the soil can have adequate nutrients/minerals, but the pH affects the plants' ability to absorb and use them. That's why I suggested a pH test.
Organic soil supplements, such as the Espoma brands (Plant-Tone, Flower-Tone, etc.) work really well to augment deficient soils. I think they're available in Canada, or there must be a Canadian equivalent. Your soil will benefit from organic matter, much better than just straight mineral-fertilizer supplements (which are the quick fix I mentioned to help your plants immediately while you build the soil for the longterm by adding organic composts).
One thing is certain -- no matter what the cause of your plants' problems, adding a good, well-balanced compost that includes rotted/composted cow manure, composted poultry manures, chopped up/semi-composted leaves and lawn clippings, straw, etc. WILL help build your soil for the long run, and the more you use, and the more time it has to break down and become part of the soil, year after year, the more your garden will thrive.
The soiled bedding (poop, shavings and all) from your chickens can and should be part of this. You can either compost it in a pile (that you turn over weekly) and then add the composted material, or you can top- or side-dress with it and let it break down over time in the garden itself. It serves several purposes: the nutrients within the mix will break down and become available to the plants to use; while it is not yet completely broken down it will serve as a mulch that helps keep moisture in the soil during hot, dry weather -- especially if you water well first then add the compost; in winter it helps keep the soil temperature constant and prevents frost-heaving, and it protects soil organisms so that they stay active later into the winter and continue to break the organic material down into rich compost-soil, ready for planting next spring.
Slugs: Diatomaceous earth, which is the calcium-carbonate crystalline material left over from the shells of billions of tiny sea creatures, is safe to use. you sprinkle a thick ring of it around the base of each plant, or around the perimeter of the garden itself or sections of the garden, and slugs can't pass over it. It has to be replaced after a hard rain or heavy wind, however. A lot of people still like to use shallow pans of beer, which the slugs climb into and drown. Chickens may drink it, though! You could put a cage of chicken wire around the pans to prevent that. A third method is to provide wooden planks or other flat objects that provide a moist, dark hiding place beneath. Slugs will hide under it during the daytime, and you can turn the planks over daily and remove the slugs.
Plants can't live on "dirt" alone. Soil is a universe unto itself, with myriad living organisms within it that create the hospitable evironment and provide the available nutrients that plants need. Think of feeding the soil, rather than feeding the plants, and the problem will take care of itself!
Edited by GardenerGal - 6/6/12 at 9:17am