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Replacing a grape arbor and reusing it for goat and/or chicken food

 
Ben Plummer
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Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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I'm doing some work for a couple and they want to to replace their falling-down, rusty grape arbor. They have metal arches supported by wooden posts which are rotting. They have not pruned the grape vines in two(?) seasons so it is pretty overgrown and tangled.

The temperatures here are still on the cool side, 40s during the day and 20s at night mostly. Is it too late to do some serious pruning? Last frost is still ~39 days away, second week in May generally. I figure if it can safely be pruned I can build a new arbor near the current posts, do the pruning, drape the vines onto the new and remove the old arbor.

My second question is in regards to good goat and/or chicken treats that grow vertically. I'm going to try and convince them to reuse their old arbor in the back corner of their goat/chicken pasture to grow things they like. Any recommended climbing plants for them? And polyculture suggestions for the vertical plants?

Thanks!
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I've thought of the idea of growing climbers in proximity to poultry before. The challenge is to prevent the birds (much less goats!) from eating the new plants before they have grown up and out of reach. The idea of the arbor IN the poultry yard just made me think of that. What you need is an overhead trellice/arbor with the vines originating OUTSIDE the yard, so they go up and over and then drop fruit onto the birds. Goats will be more of a challenge since they'll stand on their hind legs to get to something yummy....might need to get creative, like a double fence overhead so any vine tips that hang through can be browsed off but they can't get to the bulk of the plant. Remember too they will strip bark if they're especially hungry or just nosy or the plant is especially tasty.....grapes might qualify!
 
Ben Plummer
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Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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Good points Alder. Yep, i was planning on having it outside the pasture but near their barn so they are still in the area regularly to look after whatever is growing. They have dwarf goats which aren't big enough to reach over the fence, which previously held nubians.

I like your idea of having it overhang though. Maybe put one side of the arbor on the outside and the other in, plant the outside and train them up and over?

Edit: Would that increase risk of predation? Just after posting I remembered how tasty chickens are.
 
Alder Burns
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yeah you don't want to give raccoons, possums, etc. an easy route to climb into the poultry yard. I've always had fencing or netting over the top of the night-pen anyway...
 
Ben Plummer
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Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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Yeah, raccoons were what I thought of after posting. The chicken coop is sturdy but they are clever. Their compost pile is behind the barn which borders the pasture, so they are there regularly. They can harvest and distribute the food from the other side of the fence.

Hmmm... or maybe fence off a section in the back corner of the pasture, arrange the arbors into a "+" or a "T" which would give lots of edge, let the plants mature then remove the fencing for forage. Probably the "T" to minimize north facing edge. Less work long term. Good idea? Bad idea?
 
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