Polyculture Update

This was supposed to be an Update with pictures, but there seems to be a problem with uploading the images. No idea why, but it’s not temporary. Back to the Polyculture stuff.

The corn is not performing as well as I’d hoped. I’m not sure why that is, but they may be getting too much shade from some adjacent sunflowers, or the crimson and persian clover ground cover may be too competitive. The performance is not uniform, so may be down to seed quality. I’ll try another variety next year. The Crimson clover, Persian clover, and Bladder senna, are all flowering. The Bladder senna has some plants with a pure yellow flower, and some with a really nice bronze/orange tint. The pictures are lovely, but only I can see them….

I have sown Wild White Clover as the under story for the Spelt. For a while I wasn’t sure whether to bother with it in this polyculture, as I believe that the sheer volume of straw placed on it, will suppress it’s growth, but decided that I wouldn’t know without trying it. I used Wild White because it’s a really low growing white clover. Many of the mixes that are sold include much taller varieties, with a higher leaf to flower ratio. I also added some chicory, in order to help penetrate the clay, and bring up minerals from deeper. Both were simply broadcast sown on the surface of unprepared soil, and then I scattered a sprinkling of old/used potting compost over the seeds, to cover them very lightly. Clover seems to germinate better in a firm seed bed, on, or near the surface. The chicory may have preferred a bit more soil disturbance, but is not as high a priority as the clover.

The Spelt is tillering nicely, with up to nine tillers on some plants. As they have quite a bit of growing time before the temperatures drop too low for growth, the plants should develop a really strong root system, which will stimulate strong growth in the Spring. My one concern, for this first year, is drainage. Most grains do not over Winter well in wet conditions, and these grains are planted in the only part of the growing area which is not raised. Again, all part of the learning experience. Some of the rye is tillering well, other plants have a single flowering stalk, and others have a flowering stalk, and some tillers. Luckily the new batch of rye is growing well, and will be ready to plant out early next month. The hardest decision is where to put it. I originally planned to replace the flowering rye, but am now considering using it to start a completely new bed. The only problem with a new bed is that I’ll lose some more growing space. My enlargement of this particular growing area will not start until October/November, which will be too late for these seedlings. Potatoes in the new section perhaps?

The next stage will be to harvest the corn, and to plant Broad (Fava) Beans. I’m going to use Super Aquadulce, as they are quite a tall bean, and Winter hardy. The tallness is simply more leftover biomass for the system, and a way of getting more light, at a time when the grain could reach 6 feet in height. Yes, that’s right, six feet. That’s what I’m hoping for. Imagine the carbon in an armful of grain, with 70 + tillers, and with stalks six foot tall. Who needs composting? With a root system of a comparable size, left in the ground too, it should be a very quick way to build soil. The biomass from the grain, corn, and the Broad beans, along with whatever is gained from the clover, and trimmings from the Bladder senna, should be huge, and will be surface laid. For the first year I may use the straw as duck bedding, and add the current year’s duck bedding in lieu. After that, the system should function without external imports.

There is still lots to think about. Whilst I’m concentrating on the mechanics of growing the polyculture, there is also the harvesting, threshing, and grinding of grain, along with storage, seed saving, etc. All the subjects of my current research.

Wishing you well



6 thoughts on “Polyculture Update

  1. Pingback: Polyculture Progression, and Permaculture Thinking « The Sustainable Smallholding

    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Anni
      I was reading your blog recently, and wondered why you hadn’t drifted up this way on your trip to North Norfolk:-) Another time perhaps. Where in the country are you, and what are you thinking of trying cereal wise?
      Are you looking to try some of the perennial cereals, or some sort of Fukuoka/BonFils configuration?
      If there is anything that I can do to help, let me know. Deano

  2. annisveggies

    Hi Deano

    The other week was the first time I have been in East Anglia and we plan to go back again. I live in Telford in Shropshire.

    I have not yet thought about exactly which cereals I may try. Space is VERY limited so it would only be a tiny patch. I was going to give it some thought over the winter. I am more interested in perennials generally and that would be my preference. I was reading a while ago about the differences between cereals regarding the processing of grains as I would ideally want to grow something that was relatively easy to deal with.

    Thanks for your offer of help.


    1. Deano Post author

      I was in the ‘Gorge’ last year, running a scything course for conservation workers. Not sure if I am qualified to recommend anything on a tiny scale. There is some perennial rye available, but am not sure how much use that would be.
      Good Luck

  3. Pingback: Polyculture Update « The Sustainable Smallholding

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