Using Hogs to Prepare the Garden
Hogs as Rototillers???
I have read many posts from people suggesting that hogs be used as rototillers to plow the soil and stir up the dirt to get it ready for planting. The people suggesting that this is a good idea are usually those who have never actually tried it. My advice is DON"T DO IT!!!! Hogs will indeed dig. But their goal is not to uniformly plow the soil. Instead they make giant holes in some places, pile dirt up in other places, and leave some spots completely untouched. As they play in the dirt, they will compact your soil, turn the mud to concrete in places, turn your smooth ground into a moon-like landscape of craters and dirt clods, and generally make your garden unsuitable for planting anything other than weeds.
Hogs as Mulchers and Fertilizer Spreaders???
I have not seen anyone suggesting that hogs be used to mulch your garden, but I decided to give it a try and have been delighted with the results. During the growing season, my hogs are on pasture eating grass, but when grass is not growing, I like to take them off the pasture so that they don't make mud, tear up the pasture, and otherwise destroy the sod. In the winter months I move them to the garden. I make 16x16 foot square pens out of cattle panels or hog panels that are held up with t-posts. For shelter, I use either A-frames or my floating roofs with temporary walls.
The key to success is to use deep bedding in the entire pen. For every 16x16 foot pen I put six bales of straw down before I put the first hogs into it. Then I add straw liberally as needed whenever the straw is getting too dirty. After the straw is packed down with plenty of animal waste mixed in, and is about a foot deep I move them to a new pen. If there are a lot of hogs in the pen, it might take only a few weeks for a pen to be done, or if there are only one or two small pigs, they might be able to stay in one pen for a couple of months. I cannot overemphasize the importance of using ample straw. With enough straw, the hogs will never come into contact with the soil. This is critical. The hogs need to be deep bedded off the soil so that it does not get compacted and muddy. After the hogs are moved out of a pen, it is best to let it sit and compost for at least several months; otherwise, it will be too "hot" for the plants to grow. After it has composted for several months, your soil will be fertilized and mulched, ready for planting.
I have used this method to establish a new garden in a place where there was dense sod previously. There is no need to remove the sod or till anything, ever. Just put the straw on top of the sod and the pigs on top of the straw and let them be pigs! Then let the microbes do their job of composting and decomposing and you will have a lovely garden prepared for you.