If you’ve ever had fantasies of making your own little house on the prairie but don’t think you have the space for it, think again. There are creative ways to grow your own food, make your own honey and keep chickens in almost any yard.
Gardening Made Easy
So you have a little piece of land and have decided that you want to grow something besides grass and weeds on it. The first thing you need to do is pick a bright, sunny location and clear the area of any grass or weeds that are currently growing. Then you will want to loosen the soil down six or eight inches. Take a gardening hoe and churn up the soil in your predetermined location. Doing this will promote good root growth. Next, consider how many rows you would like to have. Use the small garden hoe to create the rows. This also gives plants a natural drainage area where water can collect when it rains or when the garden is watered. The rows only need to be dug a few inches into the soil.
Once you’ve made your rows, it’s time to plant. If you’re creating a garden for food, consider the time of year and whether you want to use seeds or starter plants. Good plants to start from seed are lettuces, peas and herbs. Some good starter plants available at most garden centers are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and tomatillos. There are also many herbs available as starter plants.
Once you have chosen your seeds or plants or a combination there of, it’s time to get to planting. Give plants some space between one another. Think about how a plant will grow, it will need room to do that. Plant in the rows you’ve dug out. Once all the plants are nestled in, give them a good watering. This will help to “glue” the plants into the ground and help them to establish themselves into their new home.
When watering your newly planted garden, opt for a good, deep watering once or twice a week as opposed to a light watering every day. Watering plants once or twice a week will promote deeper root growth, and it will save water. Gardens only need about one inch of water per week.
Need a hands-on instructional class? In Providence, the South Side Community Land Trust offers gardening instruction. In Warren, visit the New Urban Farmers.
Beekeeping for Beginners
Bee-lieve it or not, there is a movement towards keeping your own bees, and with good reason. Keeping your own bees will increase your garden’s productivity, provide you with pounds of honey and help add to the declining bee population.
But there are many things to consider when starting an apiary. First, check your local laws and do your research to make sure that you are allowed to own bees in your town. Additionally, owning bees isn’t like buying a cactus that you may or may not kill. Bees are living organisms that require care and have costs associated with them. Because of this, there are classes available at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College offered by the RI Beekeepers Association to teach you everything there is to know about keeping bees. Beginner beekeeping classes begin every February.
Everything a beginner beekeeper needs to know is covered throughout the course, like the honeybee life cycle, buying bees and equipment, choosing the best site for your apiary, where and how to buy bees, types of equipment you’ll need, how to put the hive together, getting the bees into said hive and nectar sources. During the course there will be demonstrations and equipment available for viewing. By the end of the course you will well on your way to your goal of beekeeping. ribeeker.org/bee-school
Everyone knows that free range eggs taste the best. Happy chickens lay even happier eggs, and you can have them every morning if you’re in the market for some backyard chickens. Of course the first step is to check your local laws to see how many chickens you are allowed to have, if roosters are allowed or if you can have chickens at all.
Once you’ve figured this out, talk to a professional – someone who can tell you everything you need to know about what it takes to keep chickens. Cluck! Urban Farm and Garden Supply in Providence is a wonderful resource for keeping chickens and beyond. A quick perusal of their website and you will find out ways to start your flock, where to get hens, chicks or fertilized eggs and how to choose a breed. They even offer services such as coop consultations, which is a great way to determine where to keep your flock. Consultations take into account all aspects of your backyard. Drake Patten, the owner of Cluck!, will suggest the best management practices including setback, size and building strategies. She can also give you her advice for the best way to start your own flock. This practical overview covers how you want to start your flock – with chicks, pullets (a young hen) or egglaying hens – and which breeds are right for you. With a little know-how and great advice, you’ll be well on your way to farm fresh eggs straight from your backyard.
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