Using diverse crops to ensure a yield

This is turning out to be a very wet summer so far.  Of course this is not unusual for the UK, British weather is notoriously variable.  It is therefore equally certain that the performance of different crops will vary from year to year.

Weather related failure makes it tempting to feel disheartened and frustrated.  But I remind myself that what is happening is normal, both the weather and my reaction.  Of course I want everything to grow well; I covet a garden that does what I want; but that is not normal, there are always variations.  That’s just how it is.

One of the principles of permaculture is to use and value diversity.  By using different plants to cover a range of functions you are providing an insurance against one or more of them failing and this year I can see this in action.

Last year was the first year of picking a limited amount of asparagus and I hoped that restraint then would mean more this year.  But not a bit of it, the asparagus has hardly shown itself above ground level.  A number of the perennial veggies are faring worse than in previous years and some plants have not reappeared after their winter rest – some of the skirrets / yams / apios.

I also grow a few annual veggies; last year I grew French beans near an apple tree and found that they happily grew up into the tree.  This was unplanned, but as it worked well this year I planted runner beans and French beans plants all round the perimeter of the garden to grow up through trees and shrubs and up fences and ivy.  Already the signs are that under current weather conditions they will not do very well.  I am not generally getting many slug problems in the garden but with the wet conditions there must be more about and they have been decimating the beans.  Some plants have survived, and although I did expect casualties it has been far worse the anticipated.  So sadly my hoped for massive bean bonanza later on in the summer / autumn is likely to be rather a washout.

However despite these failures there are other plants that cover the same functions as those that are ailing or failing:

  • There was virtually no asparagus to pick this year, but the various kales have been prolific and I have been harvesting their leaves and sprouting shoots until a few weeks ago.
  • The runner / French beans will be far fewer in number than I hoped for, but there are plenty of field beans, which (despite developing broad bean rust, presumably from the wet conditions) have a multitude of swelling and ripening pods.
  • Amongst the root veggies although the skirret and some other are disappointing, the Jerusalem artichokes, yacon and oca are growing well.
  • The same theme is evident in salad greens, rocket which was good last year bolted straight away this year, lettuce (good last year) has hardly come up at all, but wild rocket was good both years.
  • Last year was good for apples and greengages and bad for blackcurrants.  However this year the blackcurrant bushes are heavy and the apples and greengage are poor.  Raspberries were good last year and look as though they will be again this summer.

So although I am disappointed that some things are not doing very well, by having a range of different plants for each type of food I am at least getting something.  And overall the garden certainly looks healthy; there is lots of verdant growth and plenty of flowers attracting lots of insects and bees.  The picture below is of phacelia sown this year as a green manure on garden reclaimed from beneath decking and lawn.  In the centre at the back you can see Jerusalem artichokes, kale, scorzonera (yellow flowers) and near the wigwam waiting for the beans to get growing is a yacon.

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.

3 Responses to Using diverse crops to ensure a yield

  1. Pingback: Success and Failures Due to the Weather «

  2. So disappointing when veggies fail–but you have a good attitude & a good plan.


  3. Tom says:

    The weather has been disastrous for my french beans and squashes. The slugs are out of control and I blame permaculture!. No, only joking, I’m lucky to be able to survive crop failure being in the global north so its not an issue that I decided to mulch this year instead of composting thus making the sluggy equivalent of a jungle for my slimey viet-cong.


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