Turning Fallowed Land back into production

We have a piece of land that has been a huge challenge to garden that is right in the middle of our main garden space..

Lets talk about its challenges..

  1.  For our flat level farm land, It has a wicked Slope.. I mean it drops by 18 to 20 inches from the front to the back, I have been working on that for ten years..  by no means is that is the same as a hill slope but it certainly does have a great effect on rain fall an so forth.

2)   When it comes to water, its feast or famine.. in the spring, dig down inches to a foot and you will drown out the seeds and rot them in place, my most successful gardens in there to date are in straw plantings.. but once the land drains, and summer hits, it can dry out and if we miss even a few weeks of summer rain, it shows in the plants.

3) Half of it is a half-shade garden for the day, with only the bottom half being a proper full sun garden, effecting what and how its planted..

4) Its a area that got overrun with that bad boy wild parsnip and an so two years ago when I broke my foot, it was a garden area that I said to hubby.. let it go.. we need to focus on what can really produce.. and this year.. well this year.. It was so full of parsnip that it needed a skull and cross bones on it.. I swear if I used chemicals, I would have just taken it to ground Zero..


We pulled the parsnip from the edges and we cover cropped it with tons of mustard seeds and let it fallow for 2015.. DSCN5726

However 2016 is coming.. and I want that land back in production this year.. o yes, I have plans for that area.. its good size piece of land., not including edges, walkways or the hedgerow, its a solid 20 feet wide by 60 feet long, so that is 1200 square feet of garden that is not being used at the moment..

But what to do.. how to get it back into production.. well, here is my plan, Fence it out, then I am going to put a small hut on one corner and run my spring pigs in this area..

2012-12-24 011 (500x375)

I will go in and feed in squares to get them digging and turning, and they will eat those parsnip roots and all the rest of the goodies, they will munch on those fresh baby mustard greens and I will run the chickens in there as well, (which I will keep a eye on, to make sure the small pigs do not dine on the chickens, if needed I will put a mobile chicken tractor in the fence and keep them apart, the pigs are to root, the chickens are the fine tiller.. the mustard from last year will have helped clean the ground, but this will mean that the area will get a later start to the year, it will be a fodder growing area, which means in most cases, it will be a one or two crop max garden.

2012-12-24 2012-12-24 131 006 (500x375)

It will be planted into fodder raddish (ground breaker), Yellow and red Mangels (fodder Beets) and fodder turnips (winter not summer) interplanted with white and red clover and alfalfa.  The plan is to plant it crazy thick and then thin all season long till by fall, I will have used dried the clover flowers, dried and chopped the Alfalfa as both a feed and made meal for the garden use. I will pull and cure and store the roots for critter feed and finish, then I will put the pigs back in for a long fall clean up, and ease of access for me to give them extras to compost turn for me.


Then we will get one wheel barrel of 1st year compost per ten square feet added and spread and turned..  Left over the winter and in the spring, the pigs will have one more go and then in 2017, it will need to be planted one more year in chicken and pig raw friendly plants..

So no rhubarb babies, no tomato’s, no potatoes, it needs to be something that is safe for them to fully eat from stem to leaf to root.. mostly like it will be done into a corn, squash and bean for year two.


Year three should see us back to being able to use it for whatever garden plantings I want to do, but I might like the above enough to just keep doing it over an over, we will see..

So have you ever needed to retake back a area that you let go fallow, did you have a real problem plant in it? If so, what did you battle, how did you deal with it?  Did you also find that you needed a multi-year plan.. anyone else use their pigs as plows and their chickens as tillers?

posted on green thumb Thursday homestead bloggers

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5 Responses to Turning Fallowed Land back into production

  1. Sheri says:

    Much of the Permaculture practices come from the study of the China rice terraces. Your main issue is having water holding & wicking abilities during the hot summer months.
    By excavating flat farming terraces and water holding berms this gives you a flat platform to work on. As you and your husband age your ankles and lower back will thank you.
    It will require excavation with a backhoe to cut the planting platforms and dig your water retaining berms.
    I’ve seen others do this and rotate the pigs and chickens onto these platforms to prepare them for crops. It’s very popular in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s where I grew up. There’s also hugels and compost piles that can be incorporated into each platform that is supposed to, over time, lessen your hauling work loads.

    • Very interesting but with the land where it is, A lot of that can be done to a point but no backhoe would be available, I can get a fellow down the road to do some work that way, if I really need to do so, but there, it would have to be a small little one and even then I am not sure it would work in that spot.. but I can see some of it working.. Will give it a hard think.

      • This was way to good a comment to not share here, but it came in on facebook..

        It’s a good plan. I’ve done & seen reclaim from scrub and from going-scrub and it’s always a long road (done right, anyway). — If you end up with spare clover, wood sorrel, henbit, and dandelion seed, nothing in your plans will get hurt for their inclusion and they’re fast-claiming, fast-off-the-mark in spring. Some rye can make some nice residual-seed competition for the parsley for your second dormant season, or an autumn-plant, spring-harvest barley or wheat (although rye’s roots are totally impressive) — You might find it most efficient to pen the pigs in a small half-plot space if you can, and flip them and the birds back and forth a time or two especially if it ends up wet-wet. — For your slope, once you’re done…skinny debris-filled swales (or composting bird-feed worm swales)? …mulch pits under mounds to hold and drain water by season? — Glad you’re getting your space back

  2. valbjerke says:

    We’ve always used pigs to break hard ground – we have heavy clay based soil here. We don’t use them two years in a row on the same plot though, they start making too many wallows. I’ve never put chickens in with the pigs…..they can pass on some kind of disease to pigs (sorry it’s early and I can’t think of it at the moment). If it comes to me I’ll get back to you 🙂

    • Interesting, I have always allowed my chickens to have access to the barn and the pig outdoor and indoor area, I will need to do some research on that.. my soil is a River loam, with a deep clay underbase, in some cases you need to dig two feet or more to hit the clay and in other areas, its there in about a foot or so.

      Glad to meet someone else that uses their pigs as plows, its a great way to go but yes, if left to long, they do like to dig their wallows, I have used them to make a series of wallows in the pastures that hold water.

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