Organic Pest Management and Organic Fertilizer Options Simplfied!

More from my part-time job answering folks questions about gardening…

What can you use for organic pest management?
Organic gardeners have several options for pest management. The most important methods work with natural systems to provide long term protection:

Beneficial - Dogbane Beetle

Beneficial – Dogbane Beetle

Beneficial Insects: Plant hedgerows and flowering insectary plants to attract beneficial insects that help control crop pests. See our flower section for the best varieties to use.

Companion Planting: The age-old practice of companion planting is another method used to repel and deter pests. Certain flowers and herbs grown in near other crops are known to deter pests, improve vigor, and increase yields.

Here is a general list of some of the most common solutions:

Insecticidal Soaps: Some come pre-mixed while others are just mixed with water and sprayed on plants. These are effective for controlling aphids.

Diatomaceaous earth: A fossilized shell which when ground-up, breaks the outer layer of an insect and dessicates them externally on contact or internally by digestion. Useful to control slugs and snails, among other pests.

Pyerethrum Daisy grown in South Africa used to create the insecticide pyrethrin dust

Pyerethrum Daisy grown in South Africa used to create the insecticide pyrethrin dust

Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis: This is a naturally occurring bacteria with many powerful insect-specific strains that effectively kill caterpillars and insect larvae, minimizing the harm to beneficial insects. This is usually applied to plants and then ingested by pests.

Pyrethrins: A natural insecticide derived from a specific species of chrysanthemum, these are often combined with soap to provide broad spectrum control of pests. Use only as a last resort since this will kill the beneficial insects as well as the pests.

Organic fertilizers?

There are many organic fertilizers on the market today, and sustainable agricultural methods, such as cover cropping, composting, and rotating crops will provide most of a plant’s nutritional needs. Below is a general list of some of the most common materials:

Compost: Well decomposed compost is the best thing you can add to your soil to improve its structure, fertility, and water holding capacity. Make your own or buy from a reputable certified organic source.

Manure: Well decomposed animal manures provide nitrogen, but care must be taken to ensure they are fully composted to prevent potential health issues. The National Organic Program does not allow the use of fresh, raw manures in organic agriculture.

Fish and Kelp: Liquid fish emulsions supply nitrogen, while liquid kelp extracts supply micro-nutrients and help support strong roots and stems. These are especially useful for fertilizing seedlings until they are ready to plant outside.

Ground Rock Powders: These can be mixed with soil to provide Phosphorus, essential minerals and trace elements. Phosphorous supports lush flowering and fruiting.

Natural Fertilizers: Dry powders derived from vegetable and animal sources can provide nutrition and modify the pH of your soil. These include alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, bone meal, blood meal, and greensand, among others.
Happy Living!
Messy Shepherdess

lacewing

Beneficial – Lacewing

 

Seeds of Change FAQ – http://www.seedsofchange.com/faq.aspx

http://www.earthgauge.net/2012/spring-compost

https://www.sunlightsupply.com/page/quick-reference-conversions/

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Seeds… Really, what is the difference?

Hi Folks,

I am really enjoying a part-time job answering peoples questions about gardening and thought it would be good to share some of the questions and my answers here. Plus I have found some interesting articles written by others, that deserve to be spread around so have included links to those articles below.

“Heirloom” Seeds?
Heirloom seed varieties have been preserved and kept viable for multiple generations of gardeners and sometimes passed down for hundreds of years. They typically have unique attributes that are considered to provide some value, such as exceptional flavour or disease resistance.stock-photo-cereal-grains-and-seeds-rye-wheat-barley-oat-sunflower-corn-flax-poppy

Not all Heirloom Seeds are automatically considered to be Organic seeds.
Just because a seed is heirloom does not make it organic. Organic refers to the way the seed is grown, without use of chemicals, while heirloom refers to the seed’s heritage. Both “Organic” and/or “Heirloom” seeds are Non-GMO.

What are “Open-Pollinated” seeds?
When seeds are pollinated naturally by insects, birds, wind or other natural mechanisms, they are considered Open Pollinated and the seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those plants.

What is a “Hybrid” seed?
Hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. For example, often planting two different varieties of the same family of plants close together in the same garden, will result in the flowers of both varieties cross pollinating. Then the seed produced could have attributes from both varieties appearing in the next generation. Hybrid seed production is predominant in agriculture and home gardening.

F1 Hybrid refers to the first generation of offspring plants produced by a cross of two genetically different parent varieties, usually of the same species. Hybrids can have advantages, including robust growth known as “hybrid vigor,” uniformity, and the fact that they are often bred to be disease resistant. Since the 1920’s, many hybrid varieties have been bred using traditional breeding methods. Seed saved from F1 Hybrids will not grow ‘true-to-type’.

What makes “GMOs” so different?
“Genetically Modified Organisms,” or GMO type of plants or animals are created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology, also called genetic engineering, or GE. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

You may have heard the term GMO and that many groups around the world are fighting to have foods containing GMOs be labeled or in some cases banned; many countries already require mandatory GMO labels.  GMOs are usually only planted by large-scale mono-crop farmers and cross contamination is a big concern for open-pollinated corn and other crops in the same area as GMO fields.

For how long are seeds “good” and “plant-able?”
Each species is different, but most will last at least 3-4 years under proper storage conditions. The exception is alliums, such as onions or chives, which might only keep for 1-2 years. If you are unsure the seeds are still good then start just a few of the seeds to test their viability.

To keep seeds “fresh,” store them in a cool, dry, dark place. One technique is to put the seed packets in an airtight container with some dry rice grains in the bottom to moderate the humidity, (like mixing dry rice with salt in the salt shaker to keep it flowing). If space allows, you can also store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, in a zip lock bag or airtight container. Allow seeds to return to room temperature overnight before opening the container to prevent condensation that may spoil the seeds.

 

Happy Living!
Messy Shepherdess

 

Organic seed expert: Phil Winteregg – http://www.organicitsworthit.org/learn/organic-seed-expert-phil-winteregg

Seeds of Change FAQ – http://www.seedsofchange.com/faq.aspx

The Wonderful and Amazing Advantages to Mulching

When I first started to garden professionally, many many years ago, 🙂 I became obsessed with the perfectly clean, weed free, garden bed, edged in neatly trimmed boxwood hedges or framed with lovely planks of raw wood. All arranged in a very neat geometric pattern, with connecting pathways made out of traditional materials and all very formal.
Wow! Absolutely gorgeous to behold for that one moment when everything is done and there’s not a weed in sight.

But… what a lot of work!

When I look back on what I was able to accomplish given this penchant for achieving perfection, I have amazed many but none as much as myself. However, as the toll of all that labour over the years has taken its effect on my poor, ageing and abused body. I have found myself not visualizing the perfectly formed, symmetrical garden anymore, but rather thinking on how much bounty can I achieve without breaking my back and being bed ridden for weeks in recovery from too many hours spent bent in the same position while performing that never ending chore of weeding. As a result, I have taken more and more interest in the various forms of mulching, that perfect garden cover that provides heat and frost protection, significantly reduces or eliminates the need to weed, minimizes watering and conditions the soil, all at the same time!

Ruth Stout is renowned for gardening into her 90’s, due to her ability to develop a garden with such rich, loose soil that she no longer tilled or weeded or did anything much other than shuffle over a bit of mulch, throw in a few seeds and let nature take it’s course. Ruth used a permanent mulch on the surface of the garden to maintain an on going composting process and in this way fed her garden soil while minimizing the weeds. Any weeds that did occasionally dare to show themselves, would get pulled and added to the decaying matter before it could set seeds. In this way, Ruth was getting an abundant harvest from minimal work. I would say she was definitely using her brains instead of her back. And since my back isn’t so great anymore, I have joined Ruth in her philosophy of less work with more results through the use of mulching.

However, I still plant my crops in loose rows and have a semblance of order in the garden. For example, my potatoes … first I clear the soil of any sizable weed remnants that may have occurred in the off season, then I lay a strip of 4 ft. wide black landscape fabric down over the soil, weighing the edges of the fabric down with some rocks that are laying around the pathways. The fabric, with holes cross cut about a foot apart down the center of it’s length, is porous, allowing water to go through to the soil but preventing light to penetrate. Also I can use it repeatedly for many seasons, so a worthwhile investment in my opinion. Then I place a seed potatoe in each of the holes and walk away. If I use 2 or more strips of fabric side by side I can plant along the edges where the two pieces meet as well.Mulching

Once the potatoe sprouts have started to poke through the holes, I mulch the surface of the fabric with hay or some other loose organic material, such as; straw, leaves, or canary grass. I do this so the black fabric doesn’t cook the potatoes if there is a really hot, sunny spell and because the combination of both mulches, fabric and hay, almost eliminates the need to water. I rarely use actual compost on the fabric surface, as I find the potatoes will grow too many leaves and only produce small potatoes due to the overabundance of nutrition from too much good compost.

When the potatoes start to die back I just lift the fabric, mulch and all, off the garden bed and pick the potatoes up that are laying on the ground underneath. I generally get about 200lbs of potatoes from 20 lbs of seed that way and never use a shovel or water or weed. Once I’m done picking up all those lovely potatoes, I flip the fabric, mulch and all right back onto the bed and leave it there until I’m ready to plant something again. Every time I do this, I have less and less weeds to contend with. If it is nearing winter time or the bed is expected to rest for an extended period of time without being planted , then I will pull the fabric out from under all that mulch, leaving the organic materials behind, in order to put the fabric away from the prolonged exposure to harsher weather elements and in this way prolong it’s life span. I’ve used the same fabric for 10 years so far.

This same method works really well for tomatoes, all the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.), pumpkins and any of the summer or winter squashes. I usually just use a hay mulch around my beets, carrots and beans, after they have sprouted, although the timing is important because if I wait too long then the weeds will sprout too and I’ll be back to weeding again before I can mulch.

I haven’t become quite as smart as Ruth, in that I still have not achieved a completely permanent mulch system but I’m working toward that.

Hmm… to get started you need about 8 inches of organic material such as old hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, sawdust, seedless weeds or any vegetable matter that rots, covering the existing soil surface. An equal amount of those same materials should be readily available to add to the garden regularly to keep the process going. Scatter a bit of green sand, now and then, along with maybe some other organic amendments, like crushed egg or oyster shells, kelp, or some compost made from kitchen scraps and if you can get it, composted animal manure and you’re on the way to a rich, loose soil base for your entire garden.

By the way, there are lots of references to Ruth Stout’s method of No Work Gardening techniques online. Well worth a Google.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

Gathering & Drying Herbs

Food was simple on the farm, plain flavours without a lot of seasonings beyond the basics like salt and pepper or an onion and maybe some garlic. So I was in my late teens when I discovered culinary herbs on my own. At that time there wasn’t much in the way of reference materials as there is now, so I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about what was commonly available in culinary herbs, which eventually touched on some medicinal benefits of herbs and as the years went by I naturally gravitated to expanding my knowledge in both areas when opportunities arose.

As a result, I became quite proficient at growing herbs, rosemary was my nemesis for a long time but eventually I figured out what it liked and have since proudly grown immense trees/shrubs of rosemary. I even grew for gourmet kitchens for many years. I had one chef challenge me by saying I couldn’t possibly grow enough basil to overwhelm him and of course I couldn’t, because even though I brought it to him by the multiple garbage bags full, he would just as quickly make pesto out of it and sell it as fast as I could grow and he could make it!

Every garden I have ever installed or worked in has had a herb section as part of it. My own herb garden has always supplied me with sufficient dried herbs, seed and flowers to more than satisfy our own needs along with having lots to give as gifts to folks around me. One of the greatest benefits to my mind, is I can grow and preserve varieties that you wouldn’t normally get to have in abundance or even available to purchase from a store such as, a couple of my favourites, Lemon Thyme (try it sprinkled on a grilling steak), Siam Queen Basil (to sweeten a roast leg of lamb) or Chocolate Mint (for a lovely tea).

Gathering herbs is very simple. For drying, pick them around mid morning when any dew has evaporated and wait til the herbs are at their peek of growth, preferably before they go to flower. With scissors cut them where the leaves are thickest, leaving the woodier bits with fewer leaves behind. Don’t cut them all though, grow enough to leave some to mature! With Bay, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Parsley, Summer Savory, Marjoram, Tarragons, Basil, Mints, Lemon Balm, usually if you cut them just above a growth node they will grow back again, so you can later collect their flowers or seeds if you want. Shake the leaves prior to placing them in the bag, to dislodge any possible insects that might be hanging about.

I have always used a brown paper bag such as they provide in grocery stores, loosely filled with a herb to dry my herbs in. I have never found it necessary to use a dehydrator or microwave or any other appliance to to do the job. Lightly fold the top of the bag closed, leave lots of room for air to circulate around the herbs in the bag and give it a couple of weeks sitting in a cool, dry place. I then check on them to see how they are progressing and maybe shake them up a bit or strip the leaves off the heavier stems and leave them sit for a little longer if necessary, especially the herbs with a higher moisture content such as Basil and Mint. Otherwise, if they crumble easily when I crush them in my hand, I then dispose of any discoloured leaves and any thick stems I may have missed before and put the dried leaves in mason/canning jars with appropriate labels. Simple as that! Fresh. flavourful, potent and colourful, dried herbs to use all winter long.

Dried Herbs in Mason Jars

Dried Herbs in Mason Jars

Keep containers out of the sunlight, a dark kitchen cupboard usually works well. Don’t forget dried herbs are more potent than fresh because the oils are more concentrated, usually 1 tsp dried is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of fresh. If they start to loose their colour then they are also loosing flavour. Normally, I keep the leaves whole and only crush them when I am ready to use them but recently I reduced the amount of jars I had by using a blender to crush the herbs allowing me to put more into a jar and taking up less, much needed, cupboard space and it worked well.

Chives tend to loose their flavour once dried so freezing them in small amounts seems to work best. Although, I find Garlic chives and French Tarragon are still much better fresh.

Herb flowers need to be harvested as soon as they open or within a day or two and they can also be dried in a paper bag and stored in jars same as above.

Collecting herb seeds is addressed in my post about “Seed Collecting” here at  https://messyshepherdess.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/seed-collecting/

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

A Sheep Farmer!

After I left the Ontario family farm, my working career eventually went in the direction of providing property maintenance services and operating a small business, which eventually lead to me learning, not only about landscaping and design, but more and more about the benefits of organic growing.2013-01-08_22.28.53

Not that we used a lot of chemicals on the old farm but there were a couple of times when, as a youth, I witnessed first hand the damage caused by chemical spills on neighbouring farms. One case in particular, was a spill that ended up in the stream that ran through the middle of our farm and devastated the entire stream bed of life, all the minnows, tadpoles, etc. along with the vegetation for about a 10 foot swath on either side of the water was dead.

It wasn’t until I moved my family to British Columbia and we randomly ended up on one of the small Gulf Islands that I was exposed to sheep and poultry as livestock on a small farm. Our first sheep was an orphaned lamb from one of the older farming families on the island. The lamb was given to my eldest daughter to raise as a 4-H project. And if you’ve never had a lamb romping around in your house you’re not living!

Of course, we all fell in love with this lamb and when she became the Champion Lamb at the local fall fair that year, well, there was no turning back, for me or my children. 4-H and sheep took over our lives for many years after that. Eventually, we outgrew 4-H but the sheep had turned into a flock of purebred registered sheep, that were being produce for gene stock across the country.

Suffolk Purebred Sheep

Suffolk Purebred Sheep

It didn’t take me long to realize though, that sheep and gardens just go together… I mean it’s one of those “Win Win” situations. The best, well balanced, garden requires a good quality healthy soil in order to produce the best of plants, be it flowers or vegetables. In order to get that good soil most gardens require copious amounts of compost, aka black gold, and one of the best ingredients for a high nitrogen base in your compost/gardens is to add animal manures and sheep manure is one of the best.

Invariably though, at some point, the gardener questions where all this compost goodness is coming from and especially when it comes to adding manures to the mix. Concerns begin to arise about the potential for harmful bacteria being introduced via animal waste products, what’s the animal eating and is that being passed through to the end product, etc. All good questions, especially this day and age when who knows what is being fed without having a lab do a feed analysis first, right at the feed trough.

The list of advantages to having sheep is long but for me what tops the list, is that they are exclusively herbivores and they have 4 stomachs! Why does this matter you ask? Well, they only eat vegetation or plant material, green food as the children would say, and once that has been processed through their extensive digestive system, there is nothing left but a mild, weed seed free, brown pellet of nitrogen rich goodness coming out the other end. Perfect for the garden.

I had enough fresh but mild, (meaning not overly saturated with urine causing there to be too much ammonia) sheep manure mixed with spent hay from the barn that I would often skip the composting part and apply it directly on the garden beds, as a mulch in the fall and early spring, without experiencing any problems associated with burning or die off or fungus, etc.

Rabbit droppings are good too, but with only one stomach they will often pass along weed seeds, same with horses, cows have almost too much in concentrated amounts to offer and definitely should be composted first, also because of their bulk they naturally require a larger amount of land to keep them on and chickens are nearly liquid with a high concentration of ammonia and thus a high potential for burning.

Winning fleeces at a Fleece competition!

Winning fleeces at a Fleece competition!

Sheep also have a lovely fleece/wool that needs to be sheared off annually and often there is not much of a market for their fleece (although I hope that will change, as it’s an undervalued commodity in Canada). But their fleece makes a great weed suppressor in the garden when spread as a mulch on dormant garden beds or around the base of fruit trees and I have used it as substitute for moss in ‘moss’ hanging baskets. I’ve also given it away to be used as insulation in eco friendly housing. So if you don’t have a spinner or knitter in your household, there are still lots of practical uses for their wool.

And then of course, there is the perspective of self sustainability, where knowing what you are eating by raising your own meat for the table is, in my opinion, one of the most satisfying experiences you can ever have. Of course, there is no comparison between store bought and home-grown meat that is free of radicals with no hormones added and provides an ample supply despite rising costs commercially in all markets. Not only do you know how it lived, how it died and the role YOU played in all of it, that knowledge brings comfort, respect and gratitude for the role these animals play in nourishing you and your family.

I know, I know, not everyone can have a flock of sheep in the backyard. But hopefully this will inspire you to seek out your local shepherd (they are usually a quiet bunch so you might have to make inquiries far and wide to find one) and beg them for a portion of their manure supply. Even if it means you have to stock pile some in a corner somewhere. Believe me, it is well worth the effort and I have found it has a natural, earthy smell to it, in most cases.
Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

————————————————————————————————————————-
Internationally recognized rights for animals under human control…
The Five Freedoms
1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
4. Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
— Compendium of Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Farming, Organic Livestock Research Group, The University of Reading, UK

Vermiculture, aka worm composting.

Many years ago, I set up several garbage pails in the basement to collect all of our family’s kitchen waste and with 4 young children in the home, that can add up to a lot of waste.

red wigglers

red wigglers

We would regularly check on the worms, red wigglers, to see their progress. For the kids there was a big fascination to see the process and look for worm egg sacks that might have just been shed, full of tiny little wigglers ready to grow on all the new waste just added to the pail.

But the big pay off was all that rich black soil conditioner, in the form of worm castings, that could be collected and used in the garden, potting mix, house plants and anywhere we want to see lush healthy plant growth.

For those interested in getting started, it’s a pretty basic system… you need worms, a container and bedding. That’s about it.

The Worms ~ you need red worms, no others kinds will do the job… Eisenia foetida (also known as red wigglers, brandling or manure worms) or Lumbricus rubellus (manure worm). It is recommended to have two pounds of worms for every pound of garbage but remember that if you give them adequate food and a good home they can double their populations every 90 days. That’s a lot of worms in a short time!

The Container ~ there are special worm bins you can buy, but you can also make do with a “Rubbermaid” type tub or I used a rubber garbage pail and built my own. You just need to circle the bin with several ‘air’ holes, one about every 2 inches around the circumference near the top of the bin, preferably not at the level where you will be putting in the worms and the waste materials.

The Bedding ~ a third of a bin loosely filled with damp shredded news paper (75% moisture is good, dripping wet is not) and ground egg shells is what I started out with….shredded cardboard works well, too.

Location is important too, as you don’t want the worms getting over heated and maybe die off or too cold to want to eat. The ideal environment is where the temperatures are between 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 to 26 degrees Celsius. Anything else and they should be moved someplace where they will have some protection. In the summer they were under the eaves of our garden shed, in the shade and kept out of the sun at all times. During the cold winter months I kept ours in the basement but there are lots of possibilities.

Dig down to about the middle of the bedding and place the worms in there, making sure to cover them up …then leave them alone for a few days to get comfortable. Don’t forget to put the lid on or the bedding will dry out.

Feed them fruit scraps, vegetable peels, tea bags and coffee grounds. Definitely avoid meat or meat by-products as well as dairy products or oily foods. All those will do is attract pests like flies or rodents.
Feed small amounts about once or twice a week, depending on how fast they eat it up. We soon found ourselves wanting more worm bins due to the large amount of scraps our family was producing and adding more food then the worms can eat, left us with a stinky bin once in a while. So it was either throw away that good compost material, make more bins or add more worms. Another thing that helps is to cut up the scraps into smaller pieces making it easier for them to eat up faster.

The best part is when the contents of the bin has mostly turned to worm castings, brown, earth-looking stuff, in about 4 or 5 months time. If you live in a colder climate it’s great winter project. By then it’s time to take the castings out and give your worms new bedding.

To do this move everything to one side of the bin, then push any partially composed food to the middle and add a bit more fresh food scraps. The worms will head for the food and once they’ve relocated to the new food pile there won’t be many, if any, left in the castings, so you can remove the worm castings without diminishing your worm count. Once you’ve removed all the castings you can then add new replacement bedding and your ready to start all over again. Of course this is also an ideal time to split your worms up and make more new bins.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

 

re-blogged from Land Share Canada: http://landsharecanada.com/users/messy-shepherdess/blog/vermiculture-or-worm-composting/

Muscovy Ducks – The Premium Garden Companion

I just love Muscovy ducks. I have such great memories of my children raising the ducklings and carting them to 4-H events and to fall fairs. Over the years we raised lots of different kinds of poultry, from the fuzzy headed Polish chicken, to selectively breeding for the “Porcelain” strain of Old English Game Bantam hen and so on. But Muscovy always take first place as barn yard fowl in my opinion. They are such a great addition to the small farm or back yard. Very easy to care for and are often referred to as the “easy chicken” because Muscovy require much less labour in their management than chickens. Their benefits far out way the initial effort needed to set them up in a safe, healthy growing environment.Ducklings1

Muscovy are a unique breed of duck, unrelated to any of the other breeds, which are all part of the Mallard family. They are like distant cousins. Muscovy are also known as ‘Mute’ ducks because once mature their voice is muted and they only communicate with a soft hissing noise, which makes for a quiet yard. Originally known to come from the Aztecs in Peru. They like to perch in trees and really don’t require a pond to be happy, although they thoroughly enjoy romping around in the water. Provide them with a child type wading pool and they are quite happy, splashing about and generally having good fun.

Because they can fly and need protection from such as mink, eagles, hawks, raccoons, and wandering cats (cats will often kill the baby ducklings), among other predators, it’s important to provide them with a large open area that is netted overhead and includes a securely enclosed building of some sort. I modified an old chicken coop for use of our ducks, where they can go in at any time of day or night. In many cases our ducks are so accustomed to being inside the duck hut, that as the sun starts to go down they automatically go inside, in preparation for us to close the door.

The duck hut is basically a 10 ft x 8 ft shed with a tin roof and cement floor. The interior is divided into 2 sections, so that when the mother ducks get broody they can be in one half of the shed away from the rest of the flock and have a more peaceful space to brood and raise their ducklings. I let the moms do the work of hatching out their broods, as they never seem to need any help from me. I just keep them fed and make sure they have lots of clean water to drink. Once the ducklings get to the juvenile stage, then they can rejoin the rest of the flock.

Being less susceptible to common diseases and infestations, which are typical for chickens and other poultry, it is highly advisable to keep Muscovy away from the other poultry and you will not likely have anything to deal with as far as common yard bird problems go, like coccidiosis or parasites. The only time I ever had to treat my ducks for mites was because the 4-H children brought some in on their chickens.

Muscovy are also a delicacy to eat. Their meat is all a lean, rich, dark meat and is low in cholesterol, plus has a unique flavour unlike anything else to compare. In addition, they will lay 3, sometimes 4 clutches of eggs in a year, taking a break over the darker winter months. The eggs are large and usually contain more yolk than whites and are excellent eating in any way you chose, but most especially they are great for baking, as the thick whites beat up nicely for cakes or breads.

Ducklings

The best thing though, is Muscovy love to eat slugs and all kinds of garden bugs or pests! I have always wanted to install a perimeter fence around my garden so they can patrol the circumference and then I would never have an issue with pests getting at my seedlings again. Otherwise, if you let the Muscovy in the garden during the active growing season, they will eat some of the young plants and leaves off of the more mature plants, which is a sacrifice I never wanted to experience. Alternatively though, I have sectioned off areas of my garden during less active growing times, like late fall or winter, or just while I give an area a rest with a cover crop, at which point the Muscovy can have free reign to clean up any slugs or bugs they desire. I must say the garden does so much better the next time I plant after the ducks have been on it.

I thoroughly enjoy having the ducks around and they quickly learn to follow me about, especially if I have a garden tool in my hand and might turn up something yummy to eat.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess