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Making Polyculture beds  RSS feed

 
                                      
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I am currently terraforming my urban landscape with a hybrid of raised beds, hugelkultur, and swales.  I am planning on having both a more conventional raised bed config for my gardens, but I would like to start experimenting with a food forest/polyculture bed/swale.  I would love to see or hear about some polyculture examples.  I have seen Sepp scattering seed by the handful where he lives on YouTube.  Has anyone else tried this?  Any examples of seed combinations that your doing this with?  I would like to try some of this out this year and would love to see and hear some examples of this and recommendations for beginning this transition to a food forest over time.  I am reading Gaia's Garden now looking at tree guilds and trying to get my head around how I can fit that into my small urban landscape.  So I am working to figure out the big space consumers like trees and trying to tie those trees into the beds/swales that we are carving into the side of the hill my home sits on. 

So I would love to see some examples or get some recommendations on how your starting out your polyculture beds and gardens.  Thanks.

Longsnowsm
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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All my beds are polycultures.  I don't mix the seed, I distribute each seed according to its size, starting with the largest such as bean or squah seeds, which I'll either push into the soil or cover with an inch of soil, then I move to the next largest size seed such as spinach or beets, and cover those with 1/2 inch of soil, then to those that like 1/4 inch and then those which should only be slightly covered.  This way I get more even distribution of the various plants.

Here's a picture of one of my beds from last fall, with fava beans, daikon radishes, turnips, lettuce, chives, cilantro:



The polyculture bed I planted yesterday contains the following:  Summer squash, green bean, New Zealand spinach, cilantro, beets, radish,  borage, turnip,salad burnet, California poppy, lettuce, helianthemum.

My beds are between small apple trees which are surrounded by various alliums such as Elephant garlic, walking onion, etc.
 
                                      
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Thanks Ludi!  That is perfect.  How did you decide placement in your beds?  How did you decide the plant combinations?  I just started thumbing through the book Carrots Love Tomotoes today and I am blown away by all the info and combinations that are listed in this book.  So my head is swimming right now!  Awesome picture! 

Longsnowsm
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I'll just push in here...
Dunno about others, but I haven't done controlled growing experiments.
The  only things I might bother trying to  keep away from each other are alliums and legumes. Maybe. Broad beans don't seem to care about their neighbours at all...
In my garden, it's all about nutrient requirements, height and girth.
I'm a big fan of letting things self-seed: I do a sort of rotation on solanums and brassicas, but really,it's first in, first served!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Placement in the bed is random, I just try to space the seeds somewhat evenly.  I decide what to put in the bed by deciding what I need and want to plant at the time, trying to include a variety of plant types and growing habits. And I also try to include some herbs and flowers. 

 
Kevin Sturgill
Posts: 12
Location: KY Zone 6
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I tried the following polyculture this year and it worked well for me.  Sweet potatoes and bush bean made up the main crops in the polyculture.  The sweet potatoes acted as a living mulch while the bush beans acted as a nitrogen fixer.  Self-seeding volunteers like cleome, garden balsam, and ross moss attracted beneficial pollinators and predators.  I had good yields from both the sweet potatoes and bush beans.  I actually had much higher yields from the sweet potatoes in the polyculture than I had gotten when I had planted them in a bed by themselves in a monoculture.



Here is a link to the original blog post from my site:

http://pathtosustainableliving.com/2011/sweet-potato-harvest-from-polyculture/
 
Calvin Mars
Posts: 32
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If you hand scatter seeds, ants will most likely take most of them. Mr. Holtzer, I would imagine, has a great wealth in seeds, he can afford that sort of inefficient method. His time if more valuable than his seed. After cycling a few of my plants through multiple generations throwing them around makes sense for me because I have grocery bags full of them. If you spend $2 on a packet, you'll probably want to be a little more careful with them.

If you watered seeds that you scattered right away they might get a head start against the ants. You could use seed balls. I'm experimenting with scattering seeds with a mint mulch. Ants hate mint and I have a lot of it.

I'm a big fan of scattering. Whatever you end up with is going to be suited for your environment and you're selecting things that will self seed on their own most likely.

Have fun!
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Calvin Mars wrote:If you hand scatter seeds, ants will most likely take most of them.


My problem was pill bugs (aka sowbugs or woodlice). They ate ALL seedlings as they came up. I didn't even have time to respond to them. I had to scatter Sluggo plus around the seeds I planted this year and had better success. Perhaps the same precautions can be taken for places with lots of ants.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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you did mention urban but I didn't see a location.

I agree with Tyler, I wouldn't just throw out seeds in such a small area..you are likely to get better results if you plant what you want where you want it...unless you have tons of land.

I also try to keep some seeds with me to put in everywhere I pull a nasty ..(real weed).. so that the ground has something producing rather than just more weeds popping up.

the most important information is to plant what you will use....I have found myself in the past years planting things cause they were recommended, but they went to waste when I didn't care for them and didn't use them..or my family hated them (like rutabagas)..if you have domestic animals to feed them to that might not be a problem but IF I'm growing something I want it to be something i can use or that is useful to the critters around me (including beneficials)...or will build soil..or have some use...I have to room for mistakes but would rather grow things we can use
 
Robert Overturf
Posts: 37
Location: Des Moines, Iowa (Zone 5)
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The way I see it, nothing is really ever wasted if it can go back into the system, even if it's just in compost, but that's just me.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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nothing is really ever wasted if it can go back into the system, even if it's just in compost,


I tend to agree with that. The more diverse one's plantings, the healthier the soil food web becomes.

However, many urbanites/suburbanites have limited space to grow in. If you have 1,000 square feet to grow in, and you have 100 of those feet taken up by something that does well in your region, BUT your family won't eat it, then the ultimate result will be that you'll need to buy something your family WILL eat.

Experimentation is GREAT if you have a lot of space, but not so great on small plot systems.

 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1730
Location: Maine (zone 5)
178
chicken dog food preservation forest garden hugelkultur rabbit trees
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Because this was my first year doing any poly-culture, I decided that I would plant a standard row garden as I had done in the past AND make a section for poly-cultures to experiment with. As it turned out, both areas did pretty well. We had some dry weather and it's not possible for me to water that much space as well as I'd like to, so under ideal conditions I think it would have been pretty close to incredible. That's where the poly culture area surpassed the standard bed. When a plant succumbed to the stress or bolted, it was cut down and in most cases there was another seedling of some sort waiting in the shadow ready to grow. Of the seventy or so different types of seeds I threw out there, it seems that most everything performed in one way or another. There were no real weeds to speak of and I was able to drop a lot more organic matter in those areas. It saved me a lot of time in planting and growing seedlings too. It also made for a more adventuresome harvest. Looking for squash and cucumbers amongst everything else was like a daily easter egg hunt. My kids had a blast "foraging" for their favorites.

Next year I'm going to modify it slightly so that the seeds are set out in order of size. Big stuff and slow starters first, then a week later some smaller seeds and medium growers then small seeds and fast growers. I'm also going to break it up a little bit so different areas have different mixes and timings. I figure this way I can quickly narrow down which things work best and go from there.
 
garrett lacey
Posts: 72
Location: Edmonton Alberta
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Some photos of our garden this summer, I think it was too much self-determination for the size of the plot. Definitely would have had better production if we managed it a bit more.
 
Willy Walker
Posts: 100
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
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chicken fungi hugelkultur
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You have just asked a few questions that I was getting together to put out there. Great!

I have always been a big fan of mixing my vegatables and flowers. I never plant cabbage together as it seems to limit the worms, same with tomatoes. I generally plant fast growing crops in between the slow ones. Like radish between peppers, etc. I have started to become more careful with how close I plant things. I have been known to plant to close and actually over crowd things, there is a fine line.

A good solution to the watering issue is an automatic water system. I was able to buy mine for very cheap and will reuse it next year. You can twist this all around the plant base and get the water right where it is needed. My plants actually took off about a week after being watered on schedule. I have the drip emitters and soaker hose and the same system. Hopefully this upcoming season I will introduce water zones with more timers, etc.

For my new beds I will be adding rotting wood to the bottom 8" or so...

Looking forward to seeing others pictures and hear the method to the madness.
 
Paula Edwards
Posts: 411
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There are more classical polycultures like the three sisters or to plant garlic/onions with carrots.
These plantings are often staggered by some weeks. I often plant more than one thing in a bed but often something gets choked out like my lettuces under peas or tomatoes.
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 406
Location: Georgia
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garrett lacey wrote:Some photos of our garden this summer, I think it was too much self-determination for the size of the plot. Definitely would have had better production if we managed it a bit more.


I would imagine you had production you could not even find! You are a person who needs more room for paths
and keep going at it in the same way. I love the diversity that you had. Just plant enough of what you want to be
more productive and I believe you can eat like a king.
 
garrett lacey
Posts: 72
Location: Edmonton Alberta
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Alex Ames wrote:
garrett lacey wrote:Some photos of our garden this summer, I think it was too much self-determination for the size of the plot. Definitely would have had better production if we managed it a bit more.


I would imagine you had production you could not even find! You are a person who needs more room for paths
and keep going at it in the same way. I love the diversity that you had. Just plant enough of what you want to be
more productive and I believe you can eat like a king.


Was able to find things alright, but you are right about planting more about what I want to be productive. Unfortunately with that plot, we will be taking a much more subdued approach to accommodate other interests next summer (plot doesn't belong to us) but at least they still want to grow food out there.
 
Calvin Mars
Posts: 32
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Chris Dean wrote:
Calvin Mars wrote:If you hand scatter seeds, ants will most likely take most of them.


My problem was pill bugs (aka sowbugs or woodlice). They ate ALL seedlings as they came up. I didn't even have time to respond to them. I had to scatter Sluggo plus around the seeds I planted this year and had better success. Perhaps the same precautions can be taken for places with lots of ants.


Wow, that's fascinating. Did you witness this yourself? I'm not sure if it's true, but I heard that pill bugs might eat the eggs of stink bugs of the harlequin variety. I keep trying to catch them in the act.
 
julian kirby
Posts: 58
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Hi everyone! I hope this link is a lilttle bit helpful! http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html
 
Jason Vivier
Posts: 2
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Thanks for the link ^^^
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1286
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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I just bought some bulk seed-at whole foods.
Fava beans and cow peas and buckwheat.
Cheap enough to sow freely.
 
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