It’s been a little while since my last post, and for most of that time I have been contemplating the detail of my vegetable/grain polyculture, how the crops will be rotated, and how I will incorporate compost, green manures, and intercrops into the system. I waited, in the hope that I could post the finished article, but have to admit, that I still have a bit of thinking to do.
The problem has been trying to get the PERFECT system, whereas I may have to compromise on perfection, and settle for just pretty good. It hasn’t helped that I’ve learnt more during the process, which has added some complexity.
What I hope to do is explain what I’m aiming for, why I’m doing it, and outline where I am now. What follows is for my larger vegetable growing area.
These Polyculture Pictures have been waiting for a week to publish, but I haven’t had time.
The picture above shows the chicory seedlings that were sown recently. The warm soil has allowed them to germinate, fairly easily. They are in a mixed Polyculture of Beans and Echinacea, with the beans as the primary crop.
My interest in growing grains has just increased, with the arrival of more seeds, this time from America. The packet contained a corn variety, a variety of millet, and most exciting of all, a perennial rye. Luckily I have all winter to consider how to link this in to my Polyculture Experiment, and where.
Well the original polyculture is progressing nicely, although the initial seeding of chicory was a bit dense, and will need thinning out. In my mid September Update, I tried to explain how the beans were interplanted with the grains, but here are a few pictures, which I hope will clarify my system for you.
The picture is taken looking across a five foot bed, and shows five rows of plants, and groundcover. Row one is rye/bean/rye/bean. Row two is bean/bean/bean/bean/bean. The rows then alternate.
The picture below is a variation, which instead of a row of five beans across the bed, has two clusters of four beans, one each side of the centre of the row.
The benefit of this polyculture layout is that the beans could remain, or be cut back, when the second year’s grain and corn are planted. With the first layout, all of the beans are replaced by the new plants.
Again, actual progress with my experimental polyculture has been slow, whilst my thinking has continued to evolve. In the vegetable beds, Broad beans have now been planted. These are a great example of the Permaculture principle ‘every element should perform more than one function’. They are a food crop, provide bee forage, fix nitrogen, yield a lot of biomass, and keep plants in the beds over Winter (green manure). As a food crop, you can eat the young shoots, the whole pods, the seeds young, or dry the seeds for storage. Not bad from a single crop.