Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pigs an asset to the garden? You Bet!

Pigs penned in front yard to help convert a lawn area to a garden

I live in central Virginia were the soil is hard and rocky.   Not just a little hard or a little rocky either.  I mean very hard and very rocky.  Wheel barrow after wheel barrow full of rocks have been pulled from every bed I've planted here.   I lived and gardened in Denver most of my life and I thought the clay there was bad but this soil makes that look looming by comparison.  

I've tilled and dug and dug and tilled every year and still more rocks and back aches and now its been pointed out to us that tilling every year isn't the right thing to do if we want to keep what little topsoil is left.  So I am going to no-till beds now.   I am using all the spent hay from the goats, chickens and pigs, for mulch and planting medium on top of my soil.   Along with compost and a base layer of newspaper, I've been assured this will give me an easier, more productive, earth friendly environment to grow anything I want.   (More on this no-till method in another post)

On to the pigs... before I put down the the newspaper, hay, compost and anything else organic I may want to add, I am giving it over to the pigs.  With their powerful noses they are amazing little tillers.  They eat the weeds and grasses and then root down 12" - 18" leaving me an area to start with.  The difference is you only need to do it once before you start your no-till beds and pigs don't grind the soil to a dust the way a tiller does so it either erodes or blows away.  It is broken up into clods so roots of the plants you deem worthy of planting there can get in easily and deeply.   It also feeds the pigs.  Once an area is broken up I move them to another spot.   I do this by using hog panels for their pen.  You can get them at Tractor supply or feed stores.  There easy to move and make rotating the pigs fairly easy.   Or you can use electric netting which is also easy to move.

We have American Guinea Hogs which are a small homestead pig that aren't known for their rooting ability but are doing a great job none the less.   These guys are smaller than most pigs and very friendly. They are a rare breed and on the endangered breed list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy.


  1. I am planning (hoping) to move to central virginia soon...also on 3 acres! You are right VERY ROCKY..I'm thinking I should try polishing the stones and have Rock bed gardens!(jk) LOL
    Good Luck with your no till garden - I recently checked out a book from the library on Lasagne Gardening - same principle cover the ground with newspaper then add layers of compost mulch ash grass clippings etc - i am planning to use this method. I found your blog thru Country Life & Homesteading

  2. We just got pigs and put them in to till our garden. I was planning on planting our warm weather plants there, but now am worried about the pig poo. Is it safe to plant this year, or should we wait? Thanks for any thoughts.

  3. I would say if you have wormed your pigs you should be fine but I've read it takes five years for the land to be safe if not. Round worm eggs evidently will survive that long in the ground. I did worm my pigs and they had some huge worms. Hope this helps.


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