If you would like to see the results from previous years click below:
Last year we started a scaled up version of this study looking at polyculture growing for a market garden. The results from year 2 will be coming soon. You can read more about that study here
Climate: Continental Temperate
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5mm
Garden area: 66.5m2
Cultivated beds area: 36m2
The Polyculture Planting Scheme
In 2016 the following plants were grown in the 6 beds (36m2)
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Black Krim'
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Tigerealla'
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Mixed Saved Seed'
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Rozova Magia'
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Anna Russian'
11 x Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Ukranian Purple'
66 x Basil - Ocimum basilcium 'Sweet Genovese'
27 x French Beans - Phaseolus vulgaris 'Cobra'
27 x French Beans - Phaseolus vulgaris 'Local'
2 x Courgette - Cucurbita pepo 'Black Beauty'
4 x Yellow Bush Scallops - Cucurbita pepo
6 x Butternut Squash - Cucurbita pepo 'Waltham Butternut'
4 x Swiss Chard - Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla ' Rainbow Chard '
4 x Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
12 x African Marigold - Tagetes erecta
12 x French Marigold - Tagetes patula
6 x Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis
2016 - CTB Management and Yields : Plant List
Polyculture Cultivation Practices
Once mulched the stakes for tomatoes and beans are put into position. Large reliable germinating seeds such as beans and squash are sown directly into the beds by pulling back the mulch, making a small nest adding 3 handfuls of potting mix (50% compost 50% river sand) and sowing the seeds directly into the mix. All other plants are reared in pots and planted into the beds when approx 15cm tall and when the weather is suitable. Any weed plants that grow around the edge of the beds are cut back before they set seed and used as additional mulch throughout the year. Weeds growing within the bed are treated the same way. Note that weeds are not uprooted only cut to ground level. The roots are allowed to decay in the ground or left to regrow until they are again ready to "chop and drop".
Around July the vegetable and herb plants are all well established with little room for weeds. The attention the beds require after July is mainly irrigating and harvesting until October.
When the last of the harvest is out of the beds, the stakes are removed and if warm enough the chickens are brought in for another 3 or 4 days to pick through the vegetation. None of the plant material is removed from the beds. What the chickens leave behind is cut into small pieces and applied to the surface as an overwinter mulch. In November, garlic is planted in some of the beds. November sown garlic will normally mature in June, however we use the small bulbs that are not worth planting as main crop garlic and harvest them in March like spring onions before the chickens go on, providing a deliciously fresh treat in early spring.
Year 3 Results in Summary
The time spent on this garden, including propagating all the plants from seed, preparing the beds, tending the plants, irrigating and harvesting amounted to 57 hrs and 20 mins from March - October. We used 480 L less compost this season than last season.
Results: Inputs and Outputs
Record Keeping Methods
The tasks were predominantly carried out by one person, either myself, my partner Sophie or one of our boys Dylan and Archie. A timer is started just before the task starts and stopped when the task is complete. On a few occasions two people were working on tasks at the same time, namely erecting the stakes and planting the garlic. These occasions are recorded in the management sheet of the record keeping spreadsheet 2015 (in the 'notes' row).
In 2015 we established base times for garden tasks that are carried out each year and we extrapolate from this results for future records. Some tasks differ in quantity each year such as irrigation, mowing and harvesting and we account for these separately.
Our irrigation system is unique to our garden in that we flood irrigate using a mountain stream, however I estimate the irrigation needs of the polyculture to be 20 L per m² i.e. 120 L per bed or 720 L for the entire garden applied once a week in the absence of rain (normally July - September). The time taken to apply 120 L per bed is estimated at 10 minutes so that's 60 mins per irrigation session. This year we experienced a very dry summer with a period of 13 weeks without significant rain. During this period, irrigation was practiced once per week.
The time for mowing is estimated to be 10 minutes. During dry seasons less mowing is required whereas during wet seasons more mowing is required. This year we mowed the pathways seven times.
Harvesting times are recorded along with other garden tasks such as tying tomatoes and weeding, so we don't have a base for this task. For this year's results we used last year's figures, but it would actually be less as the total produce harvested is 51kg less this year. A harvest base time is required for future records.
Notes and Observations
- Farm Ducks were free ranging in the garden from July - mid October and often foraging in the straw. This breed of duck (some type of mallard breed) caused little notable damage in the garden but probably made it less likely for toads and lizards to hunt in the straw.
- The decrease in production this year may be attributed to the below:
- We did not add the usual 480 L of compost this year as the soil results showed ample nutrients for vegetable production.
- A cold and wet April and May meant that many squash and beans did not germinate. This resulted in less producte than would be expected. Next year we will be growing these plants in starter trays and planting out when the weather conditions are favorable.
- The market value of the produce is estimated based on average market prices from the food coop Trustika. It is not what we actually sold the food for, as much of the food from this garden was consumed by us or preserved.
- Our low expenses are attributable to the fact we grow our own plants from seed, make composts and sowing mediums, grow summer and autumn mulch and save seeds from plants that do not readily crossbreed such as tomatoes, basil, marigolds and beans. We also provide our own support materials (tomato stakes and bean poles). Time taken to make composts and harvest support stakes are not included in the records.
For the full article, visit: http://balkanecologyproject.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/polyculture-trials-2016-home-garden.html