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Sharon Kitchens

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse. In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more. Sharon can be contacted at or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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The Root with Sharon Kitchens
Posted: June 23, 2014

Backyard chickens, beekeeping, and groundbreaking food gardens

My chickens looking for bugs in the backyard at the edge of the field.

The past few years I could not wait to start seeds indoors and then transplant my homegrown seedlings to the great outdoors. June was all about dirty hands and knees and a sense of hope that the weather would cooperate and my table would be filled with greens from the backyard.

Somehow this June has gotten away from me.  I went away in the spring when I would have done some of the garden prep and came back with a lower sense of energy. The cool temps, rain, and daily maintenance – backyard chickens, bees (May and June are busy months for beekeepers) – and life just got in the way of me digging into the gardens.

I did plant the pollinator garden. The chickens, bless their little feathery selves dug it up. I did plant it again, and the second time I added a small fence. The chickens got in again, but decided the fence was too much of an ordeal – they have since moved on to the rest of the lawn. I also bought a beautiful tomato plant at a local feed store and promptly placed that on my front porch. Edible gardening is moving to the front you know.

Two weeks ago I got all the seed packets (thankfully I thought ahead and did not purchase as many as in the past) out and laid them on the kitchen table. They are still sitting there – a daily reminder I should do something with them.

Finally, this past weekend I pulled all the weeds out of the two raised beds in the back. This morning I deposited them in the compost. Well, things are getting moving around here – even if at a glacial pace.

Have you been spending time in your garden?

Garlic I planted last fall. Will harvest next month.

Garlic I planted last fall. Will harvest next month.

There is some serious garden inspiration in Niki Jabbour’s new book Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden. She interviewed gardeners in the United Kingdom and North America about their gardens. There are diagrams, tips, dos and don’ts, tricks, and more. No yard, want nonstop salad, got chickens, how about growing your cocktail or pizza ingredients? All in there. The following are the gems I pulled from it:

A beginner gardener – how about focusing on culinary herbs Susan Appleget Hurst (a garden writer/editor in the Midwest) suggests. Mix annuals with perennials in a wide range of flavors. I’m so doing this!

A brilliant garden plan for folks (like me) who have (and love) their chickens from Jessi Bloom (a landscape designer in the Pacific Northwest). Have three sections – large part with fruit trees, perennial edible plants, shrubs, and ground covers to provide biodiversity. This is where the chickens will spend a bulk of their time. Section 2 – small area with hardy fruits e.g. raspberries, blackberries…use a simple T-bar trellis system. The thorny, upright plants will provide shelter from predators. Section 3 – Intensive annual vegetable production area. Beds hold flowers and vegetables. During the growing season chickens are allowed during “supervised” visits – or more practical think chicken tractor. At the end of the season let them go in and do cleanup. A fence around the whole area will help protect them from predators.  Maybe this will be my 2015 project!

Soon as I saw this one I phoned a colleague who recently informed she and her husband want to put in a garden/farm on top of their business. Love that! The folks at Seattle Urban Farm Company (love them!) use half-barrel containers for dwarf fruit trees, potatoes, hot peppers, squash, and annual flowers. *I actually participated in a somewhat extensive urban garden project with neighbors when I lived in Boston – and Colin from SUFC is on the money with his barrel suggestion. Worked for us!  Trellis tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, and hey what the heck, hops.

My garden in Maine last year.

Part of the rooftop garden I shared with my neighbors in Boston.

Part of the rooftop garden I shared with my neighbors in Boston.

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