An Edible Polyculture That Works

Paul Alfrey
Wednesday, 25th November 2015

Paul Alfrey from the Balkan Ecology Project shares an example of a successful polyculture: medlar, aronia, comfrey, tree onion and white clover.

This polyculture/guild will provide an early-mid winter harvest of delicious medlar fruit, highly nutritious aronia berries, a year round crop of excellent salad onions and the added benefits of mineral accumulation and nitrogen fixation.

This selection of high quality plants are well adapted to a large range of soils and well suited to grow together. Placed correctly and with some tender loving care in the early years of development, you can expect a beautiful community of plants providing nutritious food for decades to come. These plants are well suited to biological/organic cultivation with no synthesised chemicals or fertility inputs required.

What's included in the Polyculture?

1 x Medlar - Mespilus germanica 'Mesten' - Unfeathered maiden - 1 - 1.5m tall
2 x Aronia - Aronia melanocarpa - 3rd year Bush, bare root, approx. 40cm wide and 40cm high
6 x Comfrey - Symphytum x uplandicum 'Bocking 14'- Root cuttings
2 x Tree Onion - Allium cepa proliferum - plants approx. 20cm high
1 x White Clover - Trifolium repens - 50g seed packet - 33m2 ground cover

The Plants

Mespilus germanica - Fruit Bearing Tree
Aronia melanocarpa - Fruit Bearing Shrub
Symphytum x uplandicum - Mineral accumulator and mulch source.
Allium cepa proliferum - Perennial vegetable and pest repellent.
Trifolium repens - Nitrogen Fixing ground cover.

Medlar - Mespilus germanica

‘Mesten’ is an excellent tree for a stand alone polyculture. The tree is self fertile and does not require cross pollination from other plants. From May to June the flower buds open to display magnificent white flowers that provide a source of nectar to bees. These flowers transform into fruits that ripen from November.


Aronia - Aronia melanocarpa

It is an attractive fruit bearing shrub that grows well in partial shade. The fruits are produced in late summer and ready to eat in early winter. The fruits can be dried to make a herbal tea and used as a flavouring or colourant for beverages or yogurts. The berries have their own unique flavour and are known for their antioxidant properties


Tree Onion - Allium cepa proliferum

They are perennial onions that produce delicious leaves and bulbs. Alliums are generally good companions to plants in the Roseacea family (Medlar and Aronia) accumulating sulphur and producing a fungicidal effect. Furthermore, the strong aroma confuses pests, reducing aphids, leaf hoppers and moth attacks.


Comfrey - Symphytum x uplandicum

‘Bocking 14’ can provide copious amounts of biomass rich in potassium that makes excellent mulch for the garden. The healing properties of this herb are well renowned, making it an essential first aid plant. The beautiful flowers are much loved by bees.


White Clover - Trifolium repens

It is a nitrogen fixing low-growing perennial, tolerant of shade. White clover is suited for use in walkways. Once established, it provides long-term cover and is highly attractive to bees when in flower.


Plant Needs


Design Idea

Here's a suggested design for this plant community, but there are many ways in which these plants can be combined and many more plants that can be used within this polyculture. We encourage our customers and readers to experiment with designs and love to hear from the new homes of our plants and learn how they are establishing in different climes, so please consider posting photos of your polycultures on our facebook page as they develop, and share your design ideas.


For more information, the full article and to learn more about buying the plants for this polyculture, visit

Further resources

Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing successful polycultures in small spaces

Edible perennial polycultures

Watch: Tips on perennial polycultures


READ OUR Exclusive content and GET FREE digital access to over 20 years of back issues