Sunday, April 14, 2013

Planting "Bunny Salad"

Saturday was sunny and warm, and I spent a large part of the day at the Georgia House Rabbit Society explaining and supervising the planting of raised beds for growing bunny salad.

The mainstay of the diet of domestic rabbits is hay (mostly timothy hay); bunnies also typically are given some pellets that are made of compressed hay with some nutritional supplements added, and bunnies also need some fresh food each day (the rabbit house has a list of good bunny foods on its website).

That fresh part of the diet can get expensive, which makes these new raised bed gardens a potentially great addition to the grounds of the rabbit shelter.

The completed gardens will serve not only as a source of food for the shelter's bunnies, but will also serve as an educational tool, to show new bunny-owners some of the foods that bunnies can eat and that these can be grown at home. 

First, of course, the volunteers who showed up to help put in the gardens had to assemble the beds.
One of the big home improvement stores had been having a sale on cedar, raised bed garden kits, and the shelter had bought six of the 4x4 kits for their new gardens.

The kits were designed to allow them to be joined together to create larger beds, and after some discussion and much pounding, we ended up with four 4x8 beds.

I had brought my grub hoe (a favorite tool!), and it was put to good use breaking up the soil in the beds. After the Very Compacted soil was loosened, the volunteers worked on getting the worst of the weeds out of the beds.
Then there was the job of moving all the good garden soil which the shelter had acquired. The soil - which was in two large piles in the yard - was wet and heavy from recent rains, but the volunteers were undeterred. It took some doing, but the beds finally were all filled with the soil.

Then we got to my favorite part - the actual planting. Most of the volunteers hadn't actually planted a garden before, so I showed them how to get the plants out of their pots with as little damage as possible, how to lay them out in the appropriate spacing, and how to set the plants into the ground.

We had transplants for anise hyssop, bronze fennel, parsley, cilantro, lettuces, radicchio, chicory, three different mints, and arugula. We left space for the basil, which needs slightly warmer weather.

I also taught some volunteers how to use the garden rake to make furrows for planting seeds, because we had seeds to plant, too.
We had seeds for more cilantro and lettuce, for radishes, and for peas (bunnies like the stems and leaves of the pea shoots). We also had some seeds for flowers that the bunnies won't be eating - they are just to help make the grounds look more attractive.

Some radishes had been planted in a "gutter planter" around the back deck, too, but I forgot to take a picture of that. One of the regular shelter volunteers had hung guttering around the outside of the railing for the back deck. He had drilled holes for drainage, so it could be used for a planter.

Since bunnies really like radish leaves, we had a small group of volunteers working in the back, filling the gutter-trough-planter with potting mix and then planting radish seeds. There should be plenty of radish leaves for the bunnies in just a few weeks!

A few of the day's volunteers were regulars with the rabbit shelter, but most were with an animal protection group called GARP. This was one of the activities they had chosen to help support other groups that protect animals.

The volunteers also worked on some additional projects at the shelter: they dug out the path to the garden and spread the gravel under-layment that will be the foundation for the bricks that will form the path, and they worked to pull out a very unattractive older planting of low-growing junipers (mixed with honeysuckle vines and assorted other weeds) that lined the front of the property. Then they replanted that area with daylilies and daisies. All of this involved hard, physical labor.

Over the course of the day, the group of twenty-or-so people got a lot done. It was great to see the huge change in the landscape in such a short time!

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