Saturday, March 29, 2008

New peas and polyculture

I am doing a form of polyculture in this bed. Polyculture is about growing multiple crops in one area rather than the usual monoculture. We started the bed by just laying down the frames from 5 old garden beds that were 4 by 8ft in dimension. It wasn't necessary to use frames but I had them and wasn't using them for anything else and it made it easy to shape the bed evenly. We had save quite a few garbage bags of paper to recycle and newspapers. We wet them and lay them all inside the bed to smother all the existing grass and weeds. That was topped with a thick layer of leaves. And that was topped with a thick layer of straw. I limed the bed and added some bone meal. I made pockets in the straw that I filled with composted manure and planted with the large brassicas we bought. This bed won't do as good this year as it will in the future while the straw and leaves are broken down but this should eventually be great soil full of humus!

We then topped the bed with a few inches of composted manure. Throughout the bed I have seeded a variety of plants. They all mature at different rates so they will be harvested at different times. The quick filling in of the plants should help keep the soil moist and keep down weeds. We are in a level 4 drought right now so all water saving measures are helpful.

Yes, that is a tree laying on the ground! The right side of the bed is a double row of peas along the length of it. They are sugar snap and regular vining peas. The bed is 4 by 40 ft. The plants you see in it are about 45 brassicas: collards, green cabbage, red cabbage and broccoli that we bought from Home Depot. And yesterday the boys helped me plant about 140 other plants we started from seed. They were swiss chard, turnip greens and beets. Here is a close up of the bed:
Between all those plants I planted mustard greens, two varieties of baby carrots, more turnips and a variety grown just for the turnip greens, two varieties of radish, beets and an assortment of lettuce and mesclun. When it gets a little warmer I am going to add some calendula. I also plan on starting some leeks under our grow lights to plant out in here. When it warms and we harvest more of the radish, beets, lettuce etc we will start to fill in with dill, basil and a variety of beans and bush limas as well. This bed should stay full of vegetables for many months with something always in season to pick.

Volunteer Johnny Jump Up. One of my favorite flowers.

Here are some peas we have coming up in the bed on the side of the house. I love the delicate tendrils on peas.
We put some more pea seed in a bowl of water to soak this afternoon to help them sprout sooner. Tomorrow we plan on preparing a spot in our large garden bed to plant them in. The kids absolutely love picking fresh peas and eating them right in the garden. We've learned that we can't plant too many for us. This is one thing everyone here will eat. And there aren't many of those options!


SouthWoods Forest Gardens said...

Thanks for the blog.

I like your garden plans.
Since your are planting a polyculture it would be nice to know the associations of the plants. Which ones are the nitrogen fixers and companion plant guilds.

Polycultures are made of companion plant in guilds in a mutualistic relationship. More than just a bunch of densely planted cultivars.

It would be nice to see photos when the gaps fill in and all the plants are at full tilt.

We are interplanting annuals with perennials; wild false indigo, clover and strawberries. Otherwise all our polycultures are perennials, since the annual never have a chance to facilitate each other in the soil. Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke are excellent books on the subject and have broadened our choices for edibles.

Good luck this season.

Dan Zone 3

Saponaria said...

Thanks, Dan! Yes, I didn't really delve too deeply into polyculture, explain it well or why I chose the plants I did. I have been reading Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden and decided to model this bed in part on Jajarkot's Advanced Polyculture example given in the book. We had already started the bed and had the seed.

I am really looking forward though to learning more about plant guilds and permaculture and implementing it on our property. We just bought it this winter and I am overwhelmed with ideas. Thanks for the book suggestion!