I have just remembered that my first attempt at a polyculture a few summers ago was a resounding flop. As I encourage people to grow in polycultures I had better pass on some tips regarding my mistakes so you don’t end up repeating them and getting discouraged.
My first attempt was to sow seeds a mixture directly into a prepared seed bed, just as you might for annuals, whether veggies or flowers. However in our damp and slug ridden garden this was asking for trouble – and I got it. No sooner had a brave seedling popped it’s little head above the ground than an army of slugs ate it. It was a wet summer (we have had a lot of these in recent years) and the whole thing was a wash out.
My strategy now is to have plants already growing and providing cover. These range from “weeds” to green manures to plants selected to be part of the polyculture – herbs, flowers, mineral accumulators etc. At the same time I raise plants from seed or acquire them from growers and when they have reached a reasonable size they can go in.
The kale featured in the photo below was planted out last Friday. It was about 9″ tall and had developed quite a hard central stem which is less attractive to slugs to bite into. I cleared away some of the plants that had been keeping the place lived in (some are visible just laid on the ground to the right) and popped it in between its neighbours – lamb’s lettuce, thyme, forget me nots, clover, mint and broad beans. This plant and some others planted in similar fashion have been untouched by any thing even though we have had some quite wet days and nights since then.