Orchard/Chicken run groundcover?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Pico de Gallo, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Pico de Gallo

    Pico de Gallo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 18, 2012
    ABQ, NM
    An afternoon of searches hasn't revealed any earthshattering new ideas, so I thought I might start a new thread here!

    I want to seed my 'orchard' run with yum-yums, and am looking for plants that'd be most ideal to my particular setting.

    I've got a 15 x 50' summer run planted with several mature fruit trees. Before I fenced it in the previous owner covered the ground with landscaping cloth and mulch, and the area supported a fairly patchy assortment of grasses, which the chickens subsequently decimated. I pulled most but not all of the cloth. We live in the historic floodplain (last one in 1904) of the Rio Grande in Central NM: our soil is rather clayey and alkaline, winds can be ferocious, and summer sun is brutal. Rainfall only ~9"/yr and is sporadic throughout the Spring and early Summer, though when the afternoon monsoons arrive in July, we might get an inch/hour. Fortunately I've got an irrigation well, but groundwater is a lot more alkaline than the rains.

    I overbuilt the 50' east fenceline as an arbor, flanked on the backside by a raised bed vertical vegetable garden: a buffet line for the chickens who nab whatever grows a little too close to the wire! My grapevines should be mature enough this year to cover the arbor; morning shade for the chickens, afternoon shade for the veggies, evening shade for weeding and browsing the garden. Also, grapes and leaves for the chickens, and a visual barrier/windbreak for our overall aesthetic pleasure. Runoff from any excess garden irrigation flows back into the run, often flushing roaches, pillbugs, earwigs, mice, etc to the chickens' delight!

    My ideal crop(s) must be tolerant of: alkaline pH, poor drainage, clayey soil, potentially shallow soil (where landscaping cloth still exists), high afternoon temperatures, and arid air. The arbor/garden and my tree irrigation schedule probably alleviates some of these concerns. They must also not out-compete the fruit trees' roots (ruling out most grasses, at least within the trees' driplines). I like the idea of planting nitrogen-fixing legumes of some sort, which might actually complement the trees. But what varieties?

    If I can get a list of viables within the week, I could seed the run right away and assess in a month or so what's doing best. Once stuff is established I'll unleash the girls and watch for what they prefer, and which plants can best handle the predation. I'm downsizing my flock to about 5-6 hens (from 20+) and with any luck, we'll maintain a decent amount of forage throughout the season.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Pico de Gallo

    Pico de Gallo Out Of The Brooder

    61
    3
    31
    Jan 18, 2012
    ABQ, NM
  3. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    I'd do the side by side. Try to give the plants some time to establish them selves before the chickens try to destroy them. I don't have the experience with your brutal conditions to be much help.
     

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