Potted Polycultures (2)

This is a follow up to my post Potted Polycultures (1) on 2 July ( https://annisveggies.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/potted-polycultures/). 

I have planted polycultures in pots partly to see what happens and party because I ran out of room in the garden.  All pots were filled with a mix of 1/3 to 2/3 home made compost (plus worms) at the bottom and proprietary organic, non peat, multipurpose compost.    The plantings are a mixture of perennial and annual veggies.  They have been regularly fed with either home made liquid feed derived from comfrey or nettles or anything else that was going; and when this ran out with proprietary seaweed feed.  This morning I did a bit of an inspection of my potted polycultures to see if there were any conclusions to be drawn.  This is some of what I found out:

Roots’n’Beans Pot 2 measures 35 cm wide x 30 cm tall and was planted on 15 May:

  • A yam that had spent a very chilly winter forgotten about in the garage and had dried out.  When I discovered it in February I planted it into a giant yogurt pot and kept it outside in a makeshift cold frame – ie a large clear plastic storage box with a lid.
  • Two Cherokee Trail of Tears beans
  • Three lettuce seedlings
  • Approximately sixteen parsnip seeds

The lettuces produced leaves throughout May and June and were then removed.  Since then the parsnips have begun to show with about six plants growing now.  They are probably quite small for the time of year, but I will see how they get on.  The beans and yam have twined themselves together and seem to be happy together.  The beans have produced a modest yield and it remains to be seen if the yam reaches any size.  But given its’ rough start I’m pleased it’s grown at all. 

I think this is moderately successful and I will definitely repeat beans and yams, possibly with parsnips or similar roots as well, but I think that the lettuce as well was a bit ambitious.

Various Beans’n’Greens mixtures in pots 25 x 25 cm or less and were planted with a varying mix of :

  • one brassica (eg nine star perennial, Asturian kale)
  • two french beans
  • a clump of spring onions or chives or similar

Sadly these have turned out to be in the main enthusiastic mistakes, with too much crammed in together in pots that were too small.  I now realise that the brassicas would have struggled without company / competition and the only yields have been a few small beans and a few handfuls of onion greens.  I will probably try beans and onions again, but  not brassicas in pots apart from any I am raising that haven’t got a home in the main garden available yet.  No pictures – nothing much to see!

Roots’n’Beans in a Bags 1 and 2, these polycultures were planted in one large and one medium sized supermarket shopping bag lined with black bin liners, because I ran out of pots.  I am not sure of the dimensions but they have a considerably larger volume than the pots, they contain:

  • oca
  • Cherokee trail of tears beans
  • bag 1 has a yam

Judging by the top growth and the beans harvested to date these bags have outperformed the pots by miles.  I am surmising it is down to the extra depth the plants have to spread out below ground.  In the final analysis it will depend on how well the oca and yam do when they are dug up compared to those in the garden, but I am hopeful, if not downright expectant!  The larger bag has so much growth tumbling out of it that it was hard to get into one picture!

About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in Forest Gardening, perennial greens, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, roots and tubers, Telford Garden and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Potted Polycultures (2)

  1. annisveggies says:

    Hi Gaynor
    Sorry I overlooked replying to this query before now. Yes, you can grow hardy yams here. There are two I have tried – dioscorea batatas (Chinese Yam / Cinnamon vine) which is currently available from Real Seed Co and from Chiltern Seeds and dioscorea japonica (Japanese yam) which can be purchased from B and T World Seeds.


  2. Hi Annie
    Do yams grow in England and if so how do I go about it.
    Many thanks,


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