As the gardener here at Polyface I have 5 hoop houses to fill with veggies from about the middle of March when the chickens move out of the hoop houses, eagerly welcoming the tender green grass, till Thanksgiving, when they again call hoop houses their home.
In the spring, for planting preparation I just ran the tiller through the hoop houses, after the chickens had come out and the tractors had scooped out the deep bedding from the winter and left me with rich black soil.
Four of the hoop houses I can run the tiller through, but our newest hoop house is a little different and unique. You see, it was designed for pigs. Most people know that pigs LOVE to root through the soil. Joel likes to say that all pigs have a sign on their forehead, “Will work for corn.” That is why we put them in the cows deep bedding because they love to root through it looking for the fermented corn and in the process make fabulous compost.
Anyway, the Salatins have found that deep bedding for pigs works best if underneath all the bedding there is a concrete floor. The pigs can still root around but they can’t make huge craters all the way down to China. So the plan for hoop 5 was to pour a concrete floor so the pigs couldn’t make huge holes all over the place, and to make it easier to clean out in the spring. The only problem was that with pouring the whole floor with concrete took away the ability to grow vegetable in the summer. One night Joel finally came up with the solution. Pour sidewalks! So we did.
Admittedly, it was more difficult to pour, more expensive, and more time consuming, but we can still grow plants in the soil and it worked great when we had pigs in it all winter. I planted it 3 weeks ago and everything is doing well so far. A few of the pros are the lack of weeding that I will have to do and the concrete acting as a heat sink and keeping the temperature fairly consistent. I am really tickled to see how the plants do this year. I love the whole idea of this experiment and how Joel figured out how to keep the hoop house dual purpose.
What things are you experimenting with this year?