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Possible ideas for polycultures (mostly with grains and pulses)

 
Paulo Bessa
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Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hi

I am planning 7 patches for experimental polycultures for next summer. It is heavily focused in cereals and pulses, because it is aimed towards plant self-sufficiency.

Each patch has around 50m2 (about 500 square feet, 23 feet per 23 feet), to provide what I calculated to be the enough of my yearly needs. Even if it is not enough, this is just a first trial.

This is also aimed at a great diversity of annuals. But so far I have decide to place any perennials, only around the 7 patches, but not within them.

So these are 7 patches for staple annuals, during summer season:

  • Patch 1: the 3 sisters: corn, runner beans, pumpkin (perhaps amaranth and sunflowers)
  • Parch 2: modified 3 sisters (requires less water): sorghum, cowpeas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, chia
  • Patch 3: similar to last but different species: millet, peanuts, chick peas, lentils and mung beans, sesame
  • Patch 4: the rice patch (plenty of irrigation): rice, corn and a water tolerant legume (sweet peas?)
  • Patch 5: the potato patch: potatoes, bush beans, possibly quinoa
  • Patch 6: wheat patch: wheat, bush beans (could be also sunflowers and quinoa)
  • Patch 7: vegetable patch, composed of salads, celery, brassicas, onions, garlic and turnips


  • Some crops were hard to fit, like the tomatoes, that like humidity, but supposedly do not go well along the corn, otherwise that would be my first choice for it.

    These patches, in a Mediterranean climate, could be also cultivated during winter. I don't think that is pushing the line too hard!


    These patches would then be replaced with polycultures of either wheat, oats and rye, with winter legumes like broad beans and peas; and other winter vegetables like kales, carrots, onions and buckwheat. When that grain is harvested (around mid spring), the same summer crops (mentioned above) would be cultivated again, but by rotating the patches!

    And most ideally, all these crops would be sown with seed balls, but probably this wouldn't work for all of them.

    Ideally, around the patches, we are going to plant perennial shrubs (like asparagus, pigeon peas, ramps, rhubarb...), fruit trees (apples, figs, pomegranates...), nuts, berries and plenty of compost crops (to give organic material, like honey locusts and mesquites) and nursing crops (like comfrey, clover, tagetes, cornflowers, tansy...). But I am already drifting away of the focus of this thread.

    Anyone wishes to comment or improve the abovementioned patches?
     
    John Polk
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    In regards to the ramps, I don't think they will do well 'around' your patches. Ramps are typically grown in deciduous woods. They seem to like some sunlight in early spring to get themselves started, but do not like the sun after that. Wild patches are found in deep shaded woods.

    For the cereals, I would look for some heritage breeds that are known for their tillering. Good tillering breeds can be planted about 1 metre apart. Their multiple stalks will provide about as much grain as will modern strains closely spaced. They are generally regarded as more nutritious, and have less gluten than modern strains. Commercial Ag dislikes them mainly because the machines don't handle them well.

    I would also plant plenty of garlic in late summer/early autumn. It establishes its root system, then goes dormant. Next spring, it will begin developing bulbs to be picked in summer. (Spring planted garlic produces smaller bulbs.)

    Good luck.

     
    chrissy bauman
    Posts: 131
    Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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    your plan looks great, now, can you come and plant it at my place?
     
    Paulo Bessa
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    Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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    John Polk wrote:In regards to the ramps, I don't think they will do well 'around' your patches. Ramps are typically grown in deciduous woods. They seem to like some sunlight in early spring to get themselves started, but do not like the sun after that. Wild patches are found in deep shaded woods.


    Hi John! Yes, I agree with the ramps needing their forest ground cover habitat. Actually around the site where I want to place the annual patches, there is a lot of decidious forest, so that´s why I though about the ramps. But the key idea is to have perennials around those patches to provide PLENTY organic matter, more stuff like comfrey or honey locust, or n-fixing edible shrubs like elaeagnus or mesquite, and insect attracting perennials like lovage, borage or tansy.

    John Polk wrote:For the cereals, I would look for some heritage breeds that are known for their tillering. Good tillering breeds can be planted about 1 metre apart. Their multiple stalks will provide about as much grain as will modern strains closely spaced. They are generally regarded as more nutritious, and have less gluten than modern strains. Commercial Ag dislikes them mainly because the machines don't handle them well. Good luck.


    John, your suggestion triggered a sort of "revolution" yesterday in my head. Well, if we can use tillering cereals, then its even better if they can be perennial. Some breeders like Tim Peters have been doing work with perennial wheat and rye, these can to my mind, but then the challenge is I can´t really rotate the patches.

    As a solution, one could leave space between those tillering perennial cereals, and plant the annuals there, OR, plant only small sized perennials amongst them. Since my focus in on staples (to provide more food self-sufficiency), I think of things like kale, perennial broccoli, groundnut, taros, sweet potatoes, peanuts (all perennial if we let some tubers on the ground), and perennial pulses like siberian pea and lima beans.

    Its the perennial sources of protein I find more challenging - I can think of siberian pea, mesquite, groundnut, but not much more, unless we resort also to nuts - but then their shade does not allow to grow perennial grains. Or perhaps small nut trees like hazelnuts. I think all these species work well combined with perennial grains. The goal here would be, not to make a forest garden, but a forest prairie!


     
    chrissy bauman
    Posts: 131
    Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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    if youre really determined to grow protein...
    you could always prune the nut trees every year.
    or grow some extra grains and sprout them. most sprouts have good protein.
    or just get some rabbits. they can eat all kinds of yard trash.
     
    Paulo Bessa
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    Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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    Hi Chrissy, we are very fond of the idea of growing 100% of our food. Its not only for the fun, need and sustainability of it but actually to see if we can fulffill that challenge. Its a bit of the Fukuoka and Thoreau ideas.

    I am currently in Iceland, and I do explore this idea here (very challenging) but I hope to start a similar project in south Europe within the next couple of years, and there it will be much easier. Though I confess I am a bit afraid of launching myself into a off-the-grid project, and figuring out of the buy land, house, etc process, when I currently have a confortable job.

    But my enthusiasm and motivation are high. There seems to be so few people trying to be 100% self-reliant in food, that I really want to explore that idea. Just for the fun of it.



    chrissy bauman wrote:if youre really determined to grow protein...
    you could always prune the nut trees every year.
    or grow some extra grains and sprout them. most sprouts have good protein.
    or just get some rabbits. they can eat all kinds of yard trash.
     
    benjamim fontes
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    Paulo Bessa:
    What are you doing now?
    Sleeping as the nature?
    We here in Portugal, me and Philo are seedling our polycultures: potatoes and letuce; carrots and garlic (garlic against moles in the huegelbetten), wartercress alone near our mini ponds (to fix many nutrients). Tomatoes? We have problems with mildium because of the humidity (10 km far from atalantic ocean).
    Kind regards.
    North Portugal
    Benjamim Fontes
     
    Alder Burns
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    Do some research on varieties of the Three Sisters....there is a lot of diversity there. I would particularly consider varieties from the American Southwest as these will be more adapted to a hot dry summer. I've had good luck here (also a Mediterranean climate) with Hopi blue corn, Hopi squash, and Tepary beans. The Tepary beans are a low bush type bean and I grew them separately from the other two. They are supposed to produce well on just two or three irrigations, so next year I will try growing them more broadscale.
     
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