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Spacing in polyculture.

 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Hi,

so here I am about to populate my hugelkultur and garden in general with all kinds of plants.
The weather here is pretty two-faced. Rainy season and dry season.
I realize that most people in North America do most of their gardening in Spring/Summer, while most of the rain and snow occurs in the winter, but the climate there is not so clear cut as here. It may rain at any time during the growing season, or it could be quite sunny and lovely in the winter. Plus, I'm sure many of you are trying to have a year-round garden.
The rainy season is behind the corner here and I am starting to wonder how wise it is of me to plant all kinds of radish, ginger, beets and pintoi peanuts as cover crop among my ayote (squash), if just last year I did some reading about my fungus problem and I found out that it's important to weed and allow air circulation among the squash leaves.
So how universal is it to keep the soil covered at all times with either companion plants or cover crop?
The second part of this convoluted question is what's the distance limit before some plants can no longer be considered a guild?
I understand that if many plants are planted in a medium that's common to all of them and with constant moisture, then the microbes will colonize the whole medium and do their work. So, would it be considered permaculture if I had a lot of plants spaced among one another but all surrounded by 6" of mulch?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally I tend to err on the side of putting too many plants too close together.  Not good at weeding and thinning.    I think putting plants 6 inches apart surrounded by mulch would be a good idea if you're worried about fungus.  If the fungus situation improves you might try closer spacing next time. 
 
tel jetson
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part of the idea is to encourage proliferation of diverse fungi so that the troublesome few don't become dominate and cause problems.  doesn't mean good airflow around leaves shouldn't be considered, but other tools are added to address that issue.

you mention the possibility of rain all year.  that makes keeping dirt covered up important all year to prevent rain drops from striking the dirt directly.  whether you do that with mulch or living plants will depend on the specifics of your situation, but keeping it covered is the important part.  squash plants do a decent job of spreading out and covering a lot of dirt, so adding more ground cover around squash won't be critical (though something prostrate could help without slowing air circulation).  mixing in some taller plants might be in order, though.  something like some sunflowers would add some diversity and a bit of shade to prevent photosaturation without hurting your air flow.

planting combinations of plants is great, but that doesn't mean that all plants do well together.  if it turns out your squash absolutely needs good air to avoid fungal problems, don't plant things with it that will cause stagnant air.

as far as what would be considered permaculture: don't worry about that.  do what works and forget about the labels.
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Thanks, all things considered, maybe I won't plant carrots, radish and beets, but I will stick to tall growers like ginger, sunflowers, maybe okra.

I don't quite get the idea of preventing the rain from touching the soil. It almost sounds like the rain would bring pathogens (?).
 
Tyler Ludens
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SergioSantoro wrote:

I don't quite get the idea of preventing the rain from touching the soil. It almost sounds like the rain would bring pathogens (?).


The raindrops splash dirt which might carry fungus spores up onto the leaves. 
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Interesting... I even kind of knew it about tomatoes, still sometimes you knows all the bits of a puzzle, but only when you put them together you get further knowledge.

Weird, though. If the bad fungus is in the soil wouldn't it attack the plant through the lymph of the plant anyway? Like, a plant is growing in a soil with bad fungi, but only if the fungi land on the leaves they get affected. Hmmm....

PS By the way, is there a way to have more and more expressive emoticons in this forum?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Polyculture of lettuce, beets, cilantro, chickweed, sunflowers, California poppy, etc:



Polyculture of summer squash, green beans, too much volunteer amaranth (aka pigweed), and others:

 
                        
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Thank you for this thread!  I am in the early stages of planting a 1st year garden.  It is huge by single-family standards (70'x200'- and this is only for two people!).  I am planting for my father's future homesite and he thinks in straight-line, row crop horticulture.  I've made a few "keyhole" style plots, companion planting as best I know so far.  Still though, I've kept each crop to three or four short rows, with three or four rows of another crop beside it, with three or four rows of yet again a different crop beside that, etc.  I would love to get a more diverse polyculture rather than my alternating areas.

Later on I will develop a "Three Sisters" section of the garden.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, a 1'high with a 3' diameter or so circle is created.  In the center two or three stalks of corn are planted (2-3 seeds per hole and 2-3 holes).  Two weeks later six inches-1ft out from that beans are dropped in 5-6 holes around the corn.  Two weeks later (4 weeks after the corn was planted), squash is planted in 2-3 sites on the perimeter of the entire circle.  This system ideally allows for the corn to grow, the beans to follow and climb up the stalks (plant pole or climbing beans!), and squash to bring up the rear and provide ground cover (mulch for weed suppression + moisture retention).

If anyone has any ideas I would love to try something alternatives to plots of rows.  I've yet to plant sugar snap peas, melons, peppers, tomatoes, potatos, sunflowers, dill, eggplants.  I'll be continuing to plant lettuce, spinach, radish, turnip, beet, carrot, mustard greens, kale, okra, etc.  I can't remember all of the items planted/to be planted, but they are fairly standard.

 
tel jetson
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SergioSantoro wrote:
I don't quite get the idea of preventing the rain from touching the soil. It almost sounds like the rain would bring pathogens (?).


Ludi mentioned the splashing.  it also destroys soil structure and speeds erosion and leaching of nutrients.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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for your ground cover plants they should just touch at adult size..for your under story plants they should be placed where they won't cast TOO much shade on the ground cover plants, and your canopy should have a slight bit of opening between them as the roots tend to be larger than the canopy ..and they should be north of your other plants slightly so they don't take all the water and cast too much shade.

shade lovers can be planted north of them if there is enough light for them.




 
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