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Use Pigs Natural Abilities When Digging a Garden

Gary L. Nelson explains how easy it is to use your homestead pigs natural tendency to dig to help plow your garden with little effort.

| September/October 1975

  • Homestead pigs
    Anyone who keeps a few pigs for meat can utilize the creatures' urge to dig by fencing them into a small area for a few days. . . where they're allowed to plow or till a garden, work up a grassy plot for future planting, or clear a weedy, brushy piece of land for use as pasture.

  • Homestead pigs

Four frisky pigs wander through my garden's bean rows and into the potato patch. With snouts to the ground, they eagerly push away the rich soil in search of tasty morsels. One finds a thistle root, eats it, and goes on digging for more. A little red porker's nose moves through the earth and bumps into a partly frozen potato. There are pigs digging a garden . . . and I put them there!

Digging A Garden: Let Your Pigs Plow Naturally

The various animals kept on a farm have natural tendencies that can often be put to good use. One fine example is the distinctive habit of the hog: He roots up the ground-lifting and turning the soil with his strong nose-in a constant search for food. Most homesteaders spend precious time and energy trying to thwart this natural characteristic . . . but not me! I make good use of my porkers' desire to perform useful work.

Anyone who keeps a few pigs for meat can utilize the creatures' urge to dig by fencing them into a small area for a few days . . . where they're allowed to plow or till by digging a garden, work up a grassy plot for future planting, or clear a weedy, brushy piece of land for use as pasture. Hogs can also smooth out a rough section of earth, and some old-time husbandmen used to spare their plow horses by letting the farm's most tireless earth-movers pre-treat the worst parts of a field.

Who knows . . . maybe the Chinese — who are noted as gardeners and have kept domestic swine for many centuries — were the first to take advantage of Porky's rooting habit. To tell the truth, however, I don't really care which ancient farmer originally had the good sense to "turn the hogs loose" busting sod. I'm just content to let the idea work for me. And that's exactly what my rooters do: work. For me.

The garden, right after harvest time, is an excellent place for pigs: They make good use of cull produce, fertilize the area with their rich manure, and work up the ground so that minerals in the subsoil are well mingled with the topsoil's organic matter. New gardens planted over former hog lots are often very productive . . . and if you can't move the growing area, you can get the same effect by bringing in the pigs themselves for a visit at the end of the growing season.

Before you take such a step, of course, you must be sure the garden fence is hog-tight . . . and if there is no fence, you'll have to build one. Electrically charged wires are easy to set up and-properly installed-will turn any pig. If you have a charger, it's a good way to go. Otherwise, woven wire at least 32 or 36 inches high is satisfactory.

11/27/2018 3:41:13 AM

Question: is it safe to grow vegetables in a garden patch that has been worked over by pigs very recently? If the pigs are allowed into the garden in November and left there until January, will their manure have aged enough by the time plants/seeds start going in the ground in April?

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