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Mixed Vegetable Gardening This booklet introduces the idea of mixed vegetable gardening, outlining its key benefits and requirements. The original method Abundant garden by Garden Buzz was developed in Nepal and has been adapted to UK conditions. We hope What is mixed Contents that future editions of this booklet vegetable gardening? will include much more information and useful ideas. If you have tried this Mixed vegetable gardening is an example Introduction & overview 2 approach in your own garden and of a polyculture. The word means Table of plants in layers 3 want to share your wisdom / top tips growing lots of different types of plants So how does a poly-culture work? 4 and photos please get in touch. together. The growing mix in a Choosing your plants 4 Contact details are on the inside back polyculture can include vegetables, herbs, Preparing the ground 5 cover. Find out more about this and flowers and even fruit. People have used other related projects on our website: this approach all over the world for Planting 5 hundreds of years, often with great Tending the crops 6 www.permaculture.org.uk success. Examples include the English Harvesting! 9 /mixedveg Cottage Garden, Caribbean kitchen After the harvest 10 gardens or the allotments of Bangladeshi Further information 11Photo above: Mixed vegetable salad by NonelvisRight: Allotments in East London by LoopZilla communities in London.
How does it differ from Other crops may be possible too – these are just a few examples. Feel free to experiment! Write successes on here - and please let us know. Nasturtium Buckwheat Sweetcorn Claytoniaother forms of gardening? (Miners lettuce) OthersIn a conventional vegetable garden,each type is planted in rows or Nightshadespatches. Usually similar species aregrouped together, such as brassicas, Tomato Potatobeans and peas and so on. Plants ofthe same or similar species compete Small squashesfor the same nutrients, and are an (late crop)attractive habitat for pests of that Cucumber Umbellifers Cucurbite Table 1: Some plants that can be grown in different layers of the polyculture (squash family)plant. Usually, the patches are Squashrotated every year to prevent thebuild-up of pests and diseases and soas not to deplete the soil ofnutrients. Coriander (carrot family) Parsnip A feast in the making! Lovage Fennel CarrotBy contrast, in mixed cropping a large Dillnumber of different vegetables are growntogether in the same space. A well-chosen What does it look like?combination can result in less competition • Different layers above and below ground – Sunflowers Composite Marigold family)for nutrients, and other beneficial lettuce lettuce (daisy Similar to a woodland or a forest garden but Lettuce Lambs Youngrelationships between the different plants on a much smaller scale, the mixedmean that plants are healthier. vegetable garden has a canopy, understorey, groundcover, roots and even climbers. This Amaranth Amaranth BeetrootSome benefits of mixed Spinach Spinach way, plants occupy different spaces or Chardvegetable cropping: niches above and below ground. Spring onion • Development over time – Early ground• Better use of space - a lot of food is cover plants give way to slower growing, family) Onions Chives (onion Allium Garlic Garlic Onion produced and many types of vegetables can Leek later crops. be grown in the same space over a longer • Plants from different families – Genetic time. Plants shown in italics are good to plant along the edge as well, to protect the patch from pests. diversity prevents build-up of pests and Chickpeas fenugreek Legumes• Fewer pests and diseases - the different family) beans beans beans beans Runner Runner nutrient depletion. (pea Broad Dwarf Peas colours, shapes, textures and scents of the • Diversity of leaf shape, colour, texture and leaves confuse pests, and diseases cant scent – this is the traditional ayurvedic spread as easily from one plant to the next. Cauliflower approach to mixing vegetables for plant Landcress Brassicas (cabbage Cabbage Understorey Pak Choi Mustard family) Kohlrabi Broccoli greens Oriental• Less weeding - there is no space and no light Rocket health. Pests use their sense of sight and Radish Turnip on the ground, so weeds cant germinate. Kale smell to find their food plants. If there are• Less need for watering - greater soil no obvious large patches of similar looking coverage means less evaporation. or smelling plants, they will find it harder to Root crop (planted find their favourite food. Climber Canopy Ground early) cover Layer2 Mixed Vegetable Gardening
So how does a Is this companion planting? Or you can design a polyculture around one or two crops that you want a lot of, choosingpolyculture work? Companion planting has been used by gardeners for other plants that support your main crop or a long while. Plants that are known to get on well at least dont set it back in its growth. together are combined in the same bed. There are The polyculture introduced in this bookletIt’s this simple: some tried and tested combinations, such as onions, produces mainly leaf and root crops. You can1. Choosing your plants carrots and lettuce, or spinach, onions and brassicas. also develop combinations around other crops such as tomatoes, squashes or potatoes.2. Preparing the ground Plants that are known not to get on are called antagonists and planted in different beds. Alliums3. Planting seeds and seedlings (onion and garlic) and legumes (beans and peas) are Materials needed: a well-known example.4. Tending the crops More examples of companions and antagonists Seeds5. Harvesting! can be found on Seedlings - grown indoors www.the-gardeners-calendar.co.uk/ in advance of planting outStarting a mixed Companion_Planting/ Compostvegetable garden companiontables.asp Fine mulch - well rotted leaf mould isIf you have your own good method In literature the “three sisters” are often cited as a ideal; keeps moisture and adds fertility Planting the seedlingsof growing vegetables, dont stop it classic combination used in the Americas, but there Wood ash, seaweed, rock dust - provideall at once to try mixed vegetable are differing reports about their success in the UK vital plant minerals 3) Plantinggardening. Try it out in a small and Europe, and even differing opinions on what plants actually constitute the three sisters. Maybe The best time to plant your polyculture in thearea first and see how well it does. Liquid manures - another way to provide this could be another experiment for the future! open is after the frost has passed, around mid-If it works well, you can increase nutrients throughout the season May for most of Britain. Greenhousethe area next year, or you can The kind of polyculture presented in this booklet is different in that some antagonists can be grown in Tools for digging, planting and polycultures can be started earlier, and somespend further time adjusting your hardy plants like onions or broad beans couldmethods and plant mixture. the same bed, as long as there are some other plants harvesting be pre-sown in the same patch. in between. Of course it makes sense to choose the spots of antagonists so they dont clash with each 2) Preparing the ground Starting off seedlings1) Choosing and other unnecessarily! Start off seedlings in the house, greenhouse or Prepare the soil as you would for a normalcombining your plants vegetable patch. The more fertile the soil is, a cold frame, from March onwards.There are different approaches you can take You can also design your own plant the less preparation is needed. Dig the area Some vegetables such as garlic and onion setswhen developing a polyculture. You can start combination by going through the following over, unless you are working with no-dig beds can be planted in late autumn or early spring.off with a tried and tested mix of plants like questions: of course! Add compost (ideally in late All other seedlings are best planted after thethe one in this booklet. Most likely you will autumn), then till the soil with a rake in frost has passed. In most of Britian this willstill find that you can improve on it as your • What do you like eating? spring. On a very acidic soil you can add some be in early to mid-May. Make sure you hardenunderstanding of the method deepens. • Are there any obvious incompatibilities? lime as well. Its beneficial to the soil to avoid them off for a few days before finally plantingAlternatively, you can start a mixed vegetable • Do you have a good mixture of layers and treading on it. If the width of the beds is less them out.patch simply by planting everything you families? (See table 1 on page 3) than 1.5m the centre can be reached without If you are planting in a greenhouse orlike, observe what does well together and treading on the soil. polytunnel, you can extend the growingwhat doesnt, then refine your mixes and • Do you have a good spread of early, mid- season further by starting earlier andmethods over time. season and late crops? (Table 2 on page 9) harvesting later.4 Mixed Vegetable Gardening www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 5
Planting seedlings 4) Tending the crops Looking after the mixedIn fertile and fine soil, plant strong, healthy Covering the soil vegetable gardenseedlings of cabbages, beans etc. at their One week after sowing, mustard, radish,normal spacing. Onion sets and garlic bulbs Once everything is planted, sprinkle ash, rock fenugreek and onion bulbs have started tocan be planted along the edge of the beds, at dust or sea weed powder on top as fertiliser. germinate. The pre-grown seedlings have also4-6 inch intervals, and some scattered Cover with enough topsoil or compost to established themselves.throughout the bed. cover all seeds and fertiliser. Then add a thin cover of mulch, taking care not to cover theSowing seeds seedlings. The mulch prevents both the drying out of the soil and compaction inAt the same time as planting out your heavy rainfall.seedlings, plant all thecrops you are planningto grow from seed. If you have achieved a very dense ground cover• Large seeds first: you can be quite drastic with your thinning, even using garden shears! peas and beans planted at their Six weeks after sowing, production is usual spacing. increasing and there is no bare soil. Broad Day 7: A first flush of growth is starting leaf mustard, coriander and lettuce can be• Medium-sized seeds: to cover the ground harvested, along with the first radishes. The beet, spinach, chard, After 3 weeks all vegetables have germinated. faster growing leaf crops can be picked to radish scattered or A dense cover will have spread over the make space for the slower, longer living ones. planted in clumps. ground and you can start picking leaves for You can do the same salad. with carrots and other root crops.• Small seeds: Sow lettuce, onion, A mulch of leaves is applied on top of the broadcast seeds, carrot, coriander and between the planted seedlings so on, each of them individually and thinly spread over the bed. Water well, and stand back to admire your• Ground cover: Sow mustard or rocket, work. Your mixed vegetable bed is complete – all you have to do from now on is harvest! buckwheat, fenugreek (at least two different families) thickly at the end What about slugs? Lettuces and other greens ready for thinningCompanion plants In Britain, this is the cry of every gardener. Day 21: All the ground is now covered. Unfortunately this method is not slug-proof, After a few months, a lot of the ground coverMarigolds, basil, comfrey, wormwood or All the ground cover plants (mustard, so we recommend you take the same measures will have been harvested and eaten. You willother aromatic plants and flowers can be fenugreek, buckwheat) are good salad crops. against the slimy blighters as in the rest of now have fewer but larger plants. You cansown or planted around the edge of the bed. They can all be picked over the space of 2-3 your garden. Crushed egg-shell defences or keep the cropping going all the way to late table-legs in pots of water for example. weeks, except for a few plants to save your October or November, and even have some own seed from. overwintering crops.6 Mixed Vegetable Gardening www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 7
5) Harvest! So all you have to really do is harvest. If you dont harvest, the plants will grow too densely, go “leggy” with tall, thin stalks and small leaves. This means that they will loose productivity and run to seed early. So you have to make sure that you always pick enough to give other plants a chance to come through. The space left by a harvested plant will be quickly taken up by its neighbours. This way, there is never any empty space or bare soil. Photo: Mark FormanThe mixed vegetable plot should be easy to Gaps in groundcover can be filled with mulch, in this case with straw Table 2: Harvesting calendarmaintain. The dense planting and the layer These timescales are approximate - times vary depending on local conditionsof mulch help conserve moisture and keepdown weeds, so the need for watering and Likely Season Time after sowing Plants that can be harvested (examples)weeding is minimised. Spring 2-3 weeks Mustard greens The maintenance of the mixed vegetable bedcan be compared to that of a woodland or a 1 month Mustard greens, Fenugreek, Buckwheat greens,forest garden. Always thin the ground cover Chinese mustardand early crops when the later crops need morespace, and always try to maintain a “canopy” of 2 months Radish, Broadleaf mustard, Lettuce, Chineseleaves to give no chance to the weeds. mustard Summer 3 months Radish, Broadleaf mustard, Lettuce, Chard, Coriander leaves, Kohlrabi, Turnip, Beetroot 4 months Broadleaf mustard, Lettuce, Chard, Coriander leaves, Kohlrabi, Turnip, Beetroot, Carrot, Coriander, Peas, Chinese Cabbage, Kale 5 months Chard, Carrots, Peas, Beans Broad beans, Kale, Autumn Cabbage, Coriander seed etc. 6 months Chard, Cauliflower, Carrots, Parsnips, Peas, Beans, Broad beans, kale, Cabbage, Onions, Garlic etc.4 months: The initial groundcover has gone and Understorey of ruby chard and onions 7 months + Cabbage, Sprouts, Garlic, Leek, Broccoli longer lasting crops have closed the canopy under a "canopy" of broad beans Mixed Vegetable Gardening www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 98
After harvesting Photographs Growers’ experience:After everything has been picked, you can Unless otherwise Roz Brown, Mid-Wales Permaculture Network: stated all the photosprepare the bed for the next season, usingyour usual dig or no-dig method. You can I am now in my third year of working this way, in this booklet are and I can recommend it as low input, high yield, by Chris Evans.follow up with a different crop or plant and often surprising. For the first time in fourmixture. Alternatively you can sow a crop of seasons, I was able to grow squash in abundance,green manure, or leave the area fallow with a plus my first decent crop of Cherokee beans. The Resourcesbig mulch. only thing I did differently was to grow them and inspiration together with maize. These ‘3 sisters’ were very The Farmer’sHow does your garden grow? happy together. Handbook,There is still much to learn about mixed My other favourite addition to a mixed bed is Permaculturevegetable gardens, and we would like to rocket as an alternative to white mustard – does Research Institute ofgather and share your experiences. We want the same job, but unlike mustard makes great Australiato learn from both success and failure. If you pesto! My other discovery this year was Chinese Gaias Garden, Tobyhave found a plant combination or technique celery in a polyculture – Celery Leaf as a herb is Hemmenwaythat really works for you, we would love to also good in this situation. For me the main The One-straw benefits of mixed plantings are their low Revolution, Masanubo Fukuokahear about it. We plan to update this booklet maintenance and a huge variety of produce from Thankswith new ideas and plant combinations, so a small area to make meals more interesting! ...to all the people who have helped put this bookletsend us your findings, top-tips and photos. More copies of this booklet together. This booklet is an adaptation of the “Polyveg” Download a free PDF in colour (or in chapter of the Farmers Handbook by Chris Evans. The text B&W for cheaper printing) from: was revised by Tomas Remiarz, and designed with Stig. Author’s note: When we were writing www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg Thanks for helpful suggestions from Roz Brown, Sally the chapter on polyveg for Cunningham, Ian Fitzpatrick, and Naomi van der Velden. Please share this booklet with friends. We started using the Farmers Handbook polycultures in Nepal in Jakob, the books designer, had taken a photo from around 1992, just after right inside a polyveg at Permaculture Permaculture Association Id seen Masanubo Fukuokas farm in Japan ground level, and it Mixed vegetable planting and other forms of This booklet is part of the ongoing work of the and Ianto Evans lovely looked just like a natural polyculture are good examples of permaculture, Research Working Group of the Permaculture polyculture beds in forest, or like a Forest which seeks to maximise multiple yields while Association. For more information on this Oregon, USA. Garden. That was minimising effort and environmental costs - research please visit: It made sense, and made another crucial point, to working with nature, www.permaculture.org.uk/ see the parallel with rather than fighting more sense when I tried it whats-going-on/ much larger systems but against it. For a great on another farm in association-work/research Jajarkot, and then at with the same pattern, a introduction to the Sunrise Farm in template. Within that principles and practice Permaculture Association UK Kathmandu. pattern, all we have to of permaculture see the work out are the details - ‘knowledge base’ of the BCM Permaculture Association No-till, mulch, green manures; diversity in leaf shape, texture, colour what plant associations work best according to our Permaculture London WC1N 3XX and plant scent; diversity in root depth and width, local climate/microclimate and site conditions. Association website, Tel: 0845 4581805 plant height - so much diversity! The villagers This will depend on the collection of many peoples available here: experience and some focussed research. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org loved it - so many vegetables to choose from, and www.permaculture.org.uk/ high output but low input. Chris Evans, Nepal & South Wales knowledge-base www.permaculture.org.uk10 Mixed Vegetable Gardening www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 11