Pros and Cons of Gardening with Ducks

Animals are part of any natural ecosystem. Adding small livestock to your garden can provide a host of benefits. One great option is ducks. However, there are pros and cons to adding ducks to your garden.

Pros

They’re great at slug patrol.

Having a couple ducks roam through your garden is one of the easiest ways to deal with your slug problem. They love slugs! They’ll happily wander around keeping your plants or mushrooms slug-free. They’ll also eat a host of other pests. 

They don’t scratch like chickens.

Unlike chickens, ducks don’t scratch to forage for food. While chickens are helpful to turn over a plot after or before the growing season they can be destructive to plants in the garden. Their vigorous efforts tear up roots and shorter plants. Ducks on the other hand simply plod flat-footed through the garden. They’re generally not destructive. However, they may eat or trample seedlings and some greens. 

They provide fertility.

Ducks obviously produce manure which is an excellent source of fertility for the garden. If they’re allowed to roam the garden during the day they’ll add fertilizer as they go. Ducks should be kept in a coop at night and you can compost the manure/bedding from their coop. 

Cons

They need a water source.

Ducks need a water source big enough for them to bath in. It helps keep their feathers in good condition. Muscovy ducks, native to South America, need less water than other breeds but still benefit from being able to bath.

They’re noisy.

I’ve heard some people claim that ducks are a quiet alternative to chickens but in my experience it isn’t true. Ducks quacking can rival a rooster’s crow. They may not be a great choice if you have close neighbors who wouldn’t appreciate barnyard noise.

They need a coop, space, and other care.

Ducks aren’t free. You’ll need to build or buy a sturdy coop, predator proof coop as well as feed. You’ll also need to care for them at least twice a day all year round which can make it tougher to leave for family vacations. The more space you can offer them to roam the happier they’ll be/

They can be destructive. 

They’ll dabble in wet areas adding to any mud problems you may have. As mentioned above they can also destroy small plants and won’t hesitate to sample your lettuce!

If you decide to add ducks to your garden system consider the pros and cons. They can be very helpful and rewarding but they still require money, time, and patience. 

 

Grow Your Own Baby Greens Mix

Growing baby greens is a great way to kick off your spring garden. They’re cold tolerant, quick-growing, and nutritious. They’re also a great choice for first time gardeners. We have a a selection of pre-mixed seeds but if you like to customize your mix here are a few great varieties to include in baby greens mixes. 

Note that greens grown during the late fall and winter will grow more slowly due to the decreased daylight.

Arugula (Roquette)

Arugula adds texture and a mild peppery flavor to salads. It can be harvested as baby greens in as little as 21 days. Arugula can still be eaten after it has flowered but the taste will be stronger. Try our standard arugula or Even’ Star Winter Arugula.

Pak Choi (Bok Choy)

Looseleaf pak choi is perfect for baby greens and can be aded to both salads and stir fries. Pak choi is cold-tolerant and quick growing. The variety we offer, Tokyo Bekana is mild with almost lettuce-like flavor. It’s ready to harvest for baby greens in as little as 21 days or 45 for full leaves. 

Looseleaf Lettuce

There are so many lettuces to choose from that are great for baby greens mixes. Looseleaf varieties perform well in cut and come again mixes. Add some color to your mix with varieties like Bronze Arrow or Red Sails, interesting shapes with Sword Leaf or Thai Oakleaf, or stick with hardy favorites like Red and Green Salad Bowl or Black-Seeded Simpson. Most looseleaf lettuces take about 35 days to mature for baby greens. 

Chicory

Chicory is another nice addition to a greens mix. It’s ready to harvest as baby greens in 28-35 days or 55 days for large leaves. It’s heat-sensitive and grown like lettuce.

Kale

You may be accustomed to growing kale for full sized cooking greens but baby kale makes an excellent addition to salad mixes. Some kale varieties can be ready to cut for baby greens in as little as 21 days. Lark’s Tongue  and Lacinato Rainbow Mix Kale are a couple great choices.

Mustard Greens

Mustard greens can add a lot of beauty and a touch of spiciness to your greens mixture. They can be cut as baby greens in as little as 21 days or about 45 for full size. Some great varieties include Mizuna , Red Giant Mustard, and Ruby Streaks Mustard.

Spinach 

Another cold hardy option, spinach is ready to cut for baby greens in about 30 days. Abundant Bloomsdale and Longstanding Bloomsdale are great choices.

Planting

Your soil should be cool and moist in order for your mix to germinate properly. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Sow more of your mix every two weeks for a continuous supply of greens.

Care & Harvesting

Keep the soil fairly moist to get the best harvest. Plants can be shaded with row cover or relay blanket if temperatures are hotter than ideal. 

When you’re harvesting a mix of baby greens it’s easiest to use a pair of scissors to avoid tearing the roots out. Cut the leaves off close to the soil a small handful at a time. For the best sweetness and quality harvest your greens in the morning, especially during the summer.

 

How to Grow and Use Echinacea

Also called coneflower, echinacea is both useful and beautiful. It’s a commonly used medicinal herb and great for attracting a variety of butterflies. It’s also native to North America, perennial in zones 3-9, and drought-resistant, perfect for a low maintenance flowerbed.

Growing Tips

Echinacea is a little trickier to grow from seed than many common vegetable plants. Most echinacea species require cold stratification and germination is typically only about 50%. Seeds can be stratified by sowing them in flats or pots in a cold frame over winter or a refrigerator. You can also direct seed them in the fall. When planting cover seeds with about 1/4 inch of soil. 

Echinacea Angustifolia (Narrow-Leaved Coneflower)

Echinacea angustifolia

This variety is native to the dry prairies of the central U.S. They are the smallest of the echinaceas and require stratification for 90-120 days. 

Echinacea pallida 

Native to open woods and rocky prairies from NE Texas to central Illinois. This variety requires 60 days of stratification. 

Echinacea Paradoxa (Yellow Coneflower)

Echinacea paradoxa

This lovely yellow variety is native to the open woods, balds, and the rocky prairies; especially common to Arkansas Ozarks and Missouri. It requires 60 days of stratification.

Echinacea purpurea

Unlike other species, Echinacea purpurea seeds don’t require cold treatment. However, to increase germination stratify them at around 40°F for 7 days. 

In order for echinacea to thrive it’s important to keep young plants well weeded. Plants perform best in full sun to partial sun with at least 4 hours per day. They thrive in well-drained soil and will tolerate poor, rocky soil. They don’t do well in heavy, wet soils.

Medicinal Properties

All species of echinacea have medinincal properties. It has a long history of use in herbal remedies, Echinacea angustifolia in particular was used by the Native American tribes of the Great Plains.  

Several pharmacological studies have demonstrated immunostimulant, bacteriostatic, and anti-viral activity. It may be used as an anti-microbial anywhere in the body. It activates macrophages, increases white blood cell levels, and inhibits microbial hyaluronidase (an enzyme that causes host cells to break down.) Echinacea is often used as a short term immune stimulant (2 weeks maximum), but it is contraindicated in autoimmune system disorders and progressive diseases.

Another cool thing about echinacea is that much of the plant can be used. You can harvest the flowers, leaves, and roots for your herbal creations. 

Tea

Herbal tea is one of the easiest ways to reap the benefits of echinacea. Chop or slice your echinacea roots, leaves, and flowers into small pieces. Use echinacea fresh from the garden or dehydrate some for later use. To dehydrate, lay on a dehydrator rack in a single layer and dry on a low setting (about 130°F) until the material is completely dry and brittle. Store in airtight containers for up to a year.

Echinacea can also be mixed with other herbs to create customized tea blends. Anise Hyssop with its sweet licorice flavor and minty horehound are great to add for coughs, lavender and lemon balm for their calming qualities, or mint to soothe an upset stomach. 

Tincture

If you don’t love the taste of echinacea in tea, making a tincture may be the right choice for you. A tincture begins the same way as tea. Chop up your echinacea roots, leaves, and flowers and place them in a glass jar. Cover the echinacea with high proof alcohol like vodka (about 1 part echinacea to 2 parts alcohol). Close with an airtight lid. Store your tincture somewhere dark like inside a cupboard and shake it every few days for 2-3 months. 

After a couple months, you can begin using it for its wonderful immune boosting properties. Take about 1-2 teaspoons per day as needed for up to two weeks.

 

Saving the Past for the Future