Sometimes it’s funny how things turn out. I have not been a fan of the ‘garden polyculture’ strand within permaculture. I think that it’s ok on a small scale, or where there is a lot of free labour available for harvesting, but it has never struck me as a way to grow significant quantities of calories. Strangely I seem to be coming back to the idea. It all started with confirmation of the yield increase from a grain legume combination. Not really a true polyculture, more of an intercrop, but the basis of my small scale grain growing experiments. Things have moved on a bit since then. Please note that I’m not going to be giving details of all of the plants that I am using in my experiment, or references for the information that has got me to this point. I want to be sure that it works, before publishing the results. There will however be plenty of links to help you think about your own polycultures, or cover crop cocktails.
I’m using a wet day to take the time to commit to writing my thoughts on soil fertility and soil building.
I’ve not made a secret of my belief that the ‘digging is bad for the soil’ argument is too simplistic. I liken it to the way that you warn a child about fire by repeatedly saying ‘HOT’. Eventually your child will need to know how to make and use fire for themselves. In gardening terms the argument that digging is harmful is fine as a general warning, and for people who are happy not to delve deeper into soil and its’ workings, but once you have a decent knowledge of the subject it is possible to be more specific.
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.