I grow in polycultures – which is essentially just mixing things up a bit. I use plants that introduce additional functions into the veggie patch – to accumulate minerals, fix nitrogen, attract insect life, confuse pests and to cover the ground. Careful selection of plants for each of these roles means that the patch starts to function as a mini ecosystem. In turn this helps build soil fertility and the health of both soil and plants. It also happens to bring visual variety and pleasing aesthetic effects
Today I have been out planting some of the roots and tubers out. Happily Chinese artichokes, skirret and Lathyrus tuberosus (earthnut pea) have all survived the winter and are visibly growing away in the spring sunshine. In addition I have planted Jerusalem artichokes, additional Chinese artichokes and oca. I may be running a bit of a risk putting the oca out before the potential last frost, but there are some still in a sheltered spot growing in pots which I can move in the event of a cold night.
I didn’t do any particular preparation of the planting areas. I don’t dig the patch so all that needed doing was to take out some self seeded forget me nots to make space and pop the new plants in. Easy!
For additional information on growing polycultures the following websites are worth looking at:
The Apios Institute has an interactive wiki site with masses of information on polycultures at http://www.apiosinstitute.org/
The Permaculture Association is running trial on growing annual vegetables in polycultures rather than conventional rows. There is an informative downloadable booklet on Mixed Vegetable Gardening at http://www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg and a link to a related blog at http://polyveg.blogspot.com/