Jeremy Stocks wrote:Have many of you heard of this? Strikes me as a fascinating thing to do, and I'm hoping to get into it this year on my new hugelkultur bed. I think more should try it then we can all compare notes.
Inspired by Toby's description of Ianto Evans's Polyculture in "Gaia's Garden
" I am trying it this year, albeit in our polytunnel. We are in the West in Ireland and this spring it has been unusually cold, except for a very warm spell in the week before Easter. It is still unseasonally cold with temps dropping below zero most nights, even in the polytunnel. During the day, when there is good sun, the temps can go up to 40C, so quite a challenge for the little plants. I water every second day.
On April 2 I sowed an area of about 40 square feet
*Lettuces Cimmaron, Marvel of the Four Seasons, Bath Island (Cos), Crisp Mint Lettuce (Cos/Romaine), Rouge d'Hiver (Romaine)
*some Salad leaves Stir Fry Mixed (Mizuna, Kanton Pak Choy, Red Mustard, Texel Greens, Cavolo Nero=Tuscan kale)
*Radish, Oriental Rosa 2 (Ostergruss) + Cherry Belle
* Spinach Bloomsdale Long Standing
* Parsnip Bedford Monarch
I also threw in a few seeds of Ragged Jack Kale
The soil is drained fen peat, so very rich in organic matter, great gardening
soil. I had a dozen or so young roosters in the polytunnel over the winter to clear it out, manure it, and eat slugs etc. so the soil is nice and fertile. I never dig the soil in there, just pull weeds and loosen it a bit.
Germination started after about a week and after a month (last week) I could begin harvesting bits and pieces. It's become a dense carpet of greens. There are plenty young lettuces, a good bit of Mizuna, leaf mustard, spinach and Pak Choy. We get a daily little bowl of mixed leaves, young lettuce plants and a few radishes. The dill is still very small and I have not yet discovered any parsnip seedlings. There is also a bit of self-seeded borage coming up and I've spotted a few Calendula plants.
One little "problem" I have, if you want to call it that, is volunteers:
1) Chickweed: A thick carpet of it coming up, crowding and shading the other young plants. It comes back year after year as the seeds are so tiny that the chickens
don't find them. I know its edible and nutritious but tastewise it wouldn't be my favourite green. I pull it for the chickens
but it takes a good bit of time to stay ahead of it amongst all the other plants. I guess the solution would be to water the polytunnel well once or twice while the chicken
crew is at work so that the seeds all sprout and get eaten that way, leaving a "clean" bed.
2) Some kind of wild radish or fodder radish: I haven't yet figured out what this is. I think it may have come in with the wheat I had fed the chickens
. It's difficult to tell from the radishes sown, and there is lot of it. Like the chickweed I pull it and feed it to the birds.
3) Chenopodium: I have had the beautiful Chenopodium giganteum 'Magentaspreen' self-seed in the polytunnel for years. Again, not really a problem except it takes a good bit of time staying ahead of the myriad of seedlings where I don't want them.
I'm impressed so far. I sowed a few rows of mixed cut and come again lettuce and mixed Asian greens on the other side of the tunnel on the same day (same light, soil, watering
regime) and the polyculture is a little ahead at this point.
It does take daily attending now but it is a joy to do so.
I'll let you know how it develops. Wished I could take the odd photo but my camera broke a couple weeks ago.
Moving on to "stage 2" now: Tomorrow I'll plant some cauliflowers and cabbages amongst the 'carpet'.