Mixed Vegetable Gardening Abundant garden by Garden BuzzWhat is mixed Contentsvegetable gardening?Mixed vegetable gardening is an example Introduction & overview 2of a polyculture. The word means Table of plants in layers 3growing lots of different types of plants So how does a poly-culture work? 4together. The growing mix in a Choosing your plants 4polyculture can include vegetables, herbs, Preparing the ground 5flowers and even fruit. People have usedthis approach all over the world for Planting 5hundreds of years, often with great Tending the crops 6success. Examples include the English Harvesting! 9Cottage Garden, Caribbean kitchen After the harvest 10gardens or the allotments of Bangladeshi Further information 11communities in London.
How does it differ fromother forms of gardening?In a conventional vegetable garden,each type is planted in rows orpatches. Usually similar species aregrouped together, such as brassicas,beans and peas and so on. Plants ofthe same or similar species competefor the same nutrients, and are anattractive habitat for pests of thatplant. Usually, the patches arerotated every year to prevent thebuild-up of pests and diseases and soas not to deplete the soil ofnutrients. A feast in the making!By contrast, in mixed cropping a largenumber 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 –for nutrients, and other beneficial Similar to a woodland or a forest garden butrelationships 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. ThisSome benefits of mixed way, plants occupy different spaces orvegetable cropping: niches above and below ground. • Development over time – Early ground• Better use of space - a lot of food is cover plants give way to slower growing, produced and many types of vegetables can later crops. be grown in the same space over a longer • Plants from different families – Genetic time. diversity prevents build-up of pests and• Fewer pests and diseases - the different nutrient depletion. 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. approach to mixing vegetables for plant• Less weeding - there is no space and no light health. Pests use their sense of sight and on the ground, so weeds cant germinate. 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 find their favourite food.2 Mixed Vegetable Gardening
Table 1: Some plants that can be grown in different layers of the polycultureLayer Brassicas Legumes Allium Spinach Composite Umbellifers Cucurbite Nightshades Others (cabbage (pea (onion (daisy (carrot (squash family) family) family) family) family) family)Canopy Cabbage Broad Leek Amaranth Sunflowers Lovage Tomato Sweetcorn Cauliflower beans Broccoli Runner Kale beans PeasClimber Runner Cucumber Nasturtium beans Small squashesUnderstorey Pak Choi Dwarf Chives Spinach Lettuce Coriander Claytonia Kohlrabi beans Onions Chard Marigold Fennel (Miners Chickpeas Garlic Dill lettuce)Ground Rocket fenugreek Amaranth Young Squash Buckwheat cover Mustard lettuce (late crop)(planted Landcress Lambs early) Oriental lettuce greensRoot crop Radish Onion Beetroot Carrot Potato Turnip Garlic Parsnip Spring onionPlants shown in italics are good to plant along Other crops may be possible too – these are just a few examples.the edge as well, to protect the patch from pests. Feel free to experiment! Write successes on here - and please let us know.
So how does a Is this companion planting?polyculture work? Companion planting has been used by gardeners for a long while. Plants that are known to get on well together are combined in the same bed. There areIt’s this simple: some tried and tested combinations, such as onions,1. Choosing your plants carrots and lettuce, or spinach, onions and brassicas.2. Preparing the ground Plants that are known not to get on are called antagonists and planted in different beds. Alliums3. Planting seeds (onion and garlic) and legumes (beans and peas) are and seedlings a well-known example.4. Tending the crops More examples of companions and antagonists5. Harvesting! can be found on www.the-gardeners-calendar.co.uk/Starting a mixed Companion_Planting/vegetable garden companiontables.aspIf you have your own good method In literature the “three sisters” are often cited as aof growing vegetables, dont stop it classic combination used in the Americas, but thereall at once to try mixed vegetable are differing reports about their success in the UKgardening. Try it out in a small and Europe, and even differing opinions on whatarea first and see how well it does. plants actually constitute the three sisters. MaybeIf it works well, you can increase this could be another experiment for the future!the area next year, or you can The kind of polyculture presented in this booklet isspend further time adjusting your different in that some antagonists can be grown inmethods and plant mixture. the same bed, as long as there are some other plants in between. Of course it makes sense to choose the spots of antagonists so they dont clash with each1) Choosing and other unnecessarily!combining your plantsThere are different approaches you can take You can also design your own plantwhen developing a polyculture. You can start combination by going through the followingoff with a tried and tested mix of plants like questions:the one in this booklet. Most likely you willstill find that you can improve on it as your • What do you like eating?understanding of the method deepens. • Are there any obvious incompatibilities?Alternatively, you can start a mixed vegetable • Do you have a good mixture of layers andpatch simply by planting everything you families? (See table 1 on page 3)like, observe what does well together andwhat doesnt, then refine your mixes and • Do you have a good spread of early, mid-methods over time. season and late crops? (Table 2 on page 9)4 Mixed Vegetable Gardening
Or you can design a polyculture around oneor two crops that you want a lot of, choosingother plants that support your main crop orat least dont set it back in its growth. The polyculture introduced in this bookletproduces mainly leaf and root crops. You canalso develop combinations around other cropssuch as tomatoes, squashes or potatoes.Materials needed:SeedsSeedlings - grown indoors in advance of planting outCompostFine mulch - well rotted leaf mould is ideal; keeps moisture and adds fertility Planting the seedlingsWood ash, seaweed, rock dust - provide vital plant minerals 3) Planting The best time to plant your polyculture in theLiquid manures - another way to provide open is after the frost has passed, around mid- nutrients throughout the season May for most of Britain. GreenhouseTools for digging, planting and polycultures can be started earlier, and some harvesting hardy plants like onions or broad beans could be pre-sown in the same patch.2) Preparing the ground Starting off seedlings Start off seedlings in the house, greenhouse orPrepare the soil as you would for a normal a cold frame, from March onwards.vegetable patch. The more fertile the soil is,the less preparation is needed. Dig the area Some vegetables such as garlic and onion setsover, unless you are working with no-dig beds can be planted in late autumn or early spring.of course! Add compost (ideally in late All other seedlings are best planted after theautumn), then till the soil with a rake in frost has passed. In most of Britian this willspring. On a very acidic soil you can add some be in early to mid-May. Make sure you hardenlime as well. Its beneficial to the soil to avoid them off for a few days before finally plantingtreading on it. If the width of the beds is less them out.than 1.5m the centre can be reached without If you are planting in a greenhouse ortreading on the soil. polytunnel, you can extend the growing season further by starting earlier and harvesting later.www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 5
Planting seedlings 4) Tending the cropsIn fertile and fine soil, plant strong, healthy Covering the soilseedlings of cabbages, beans etc. at theirnormal spacing. Onion sets and garlic bulbs Once everything is planted, sprinkle ash, rockcan be planted along the edge of the beds, at dust or sea weed powder on top as fertiliser.4-6 inch intervals, and some scattered Cover with enough topsoil or compost tothroughout 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.• Large seeds first: peas and beans planted at their usual spacing.• Medium-sized seeds: beet, spinach, chard, radish scattered or planted in clumps. You can do the same 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?Companion plants In Britain, this is the cry of every gardener.Marigolds, basil, comfrey, wormwood or Unfortunately this method is not slug-proof,other aromatic plants and flowers can be so we recommend you take the same measuressown or planted around the edge of the bed. against the slimy blighters as in the rest of your garden. Crushed egg-shell defences or table-legs in pots of water for example.6 Mixed Vegetable Gardening
Looking after the mixedvegetable gardenOne week after sowing, mustard, radish,fenugreek and onion bulbs have started togerminate. The pre-grown seedlings have alsoestablished themselves. If you have achieved a very dense ground cover you can be quite drastic with your thinning, even using garden shears! Six weeks after sowing, production is increasing and there is no bare soil. Broad Day 7: A first flush of growth is starting leaf mustard, coriander and lettuce can be to cover the ground harvested, along with the first radishes. TheAfter 3 weeks all vegetables have germinated. faster growing leaf crops can be picked toA dense cover will have spread over the make space for the slower, longer living ones.ground and you can start picking leaves forsalad. Lettuces and other greens ready for thinning Day 21: All the ground is now covered. After a few months, a lot of the ground coverAll the ground cover plants (mustard, will have been harvested and eaten. You willfenugreek, buckwheat) are good salad crops. now have fewer but larger plants. You canThey can all be picked over the space of 2-3 keep the cropping going all the way to lateweeks, except for a few plants to save your October or November, and even have someown seed from. overwintering crops.www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 7
Gaps in groundcover can be filled with mulch,The mixed vegetable plot should be easy to in this case with strawmaintain. The dense planting and the layerof mulch help conserve moisture and keepdown weeds, so the need for watering andweeding is minimised. The maintenance of the mixed vegetable bedcan be compared to that of a woodland or aforest garden. Always thin the ground coverand early crops when the later crops need morespace, and always try to maintain a “canopy” ofleaves to give no chance to the weeds.4 months: The initial groundcover has gone and Understorey of ruby chard and onions longer lasting crops have closed the canopy under a "canopy" of broad beans Mixed Vegetable Gardening8
5) Harvest!So all you have to really do isharvest. If you dont harvest, theplants will grow too densely, go“leggy” with tall, thin stalks andsmall leaves. This means that theywill loose productivity and run toseed early. So you have to makesure that you always pick enoughto give other plants a chance tocome through. The space left by aharvested plant will be quicklytaken up by its neighbours. Thisway, there is never any empty spaceor bare soil. Photo: Mark Forman Table 2: Harvesting calendar These timescales are approximate - times vary depending on local conditions Likely Season Time after sowing Plants that can be harvested (examples) Spring 2-3 weeks Mustard greens 1 month Mustard greens, Fenugreek, Buckwheat greens, Chinese mustard 2 months Radish, Broadleaf mustard, Lettuce, Chinese 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. 7 months + Cabbage, Sprouts, Garlic, Leek, Broccoliwww.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 9
After harvesting Growers’ experience:After everything has been picked, you can Roz Brown, Mid-Wales Permaculture Network:prepare 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, and I can recommend it as low input, high yield,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. Thebig mulch. only thing I did differently was to grow them together with maize. These ‘3 sisters’ were veryHow does your garden grow? happy together.There is still much to learn about mixed My other favourite addition to a mixed bed isvegetable gardens, and we would like to rocket as an alternative to white mustard – doesgather and share your experiences. We want the same job, but unlike mustard makes greatto learn from both success and failure. If you pesto! My other discovery this year was Chinesehave found a plant combination or technique celery in a polyculture – Celery Leaf as a herb isthat really works for you, we would love to also good in this situation. For me the main benefits of mixed plantings are their lowhear about it. We plan to update this booklet maintenance and a huge variety of produce fromwith new ideas and plant combinations, so a small area to make meals more interesting!send us your findings, top-tips and photos. Author’s note: When we were writing the chapter on polyveg for We started using the Farmers Handbook polycultures in Nepal in Jakob, the books designer, around 1992, just after had taken a photo from Id seen Masanubo right inside a polyveg at Fukuokas farm in Japan ground level, and it and Ianto Evans lovely looked just like a natural polyculture beds in forest, or like a Forest Oregon, USA. Garden. That was It made sense, and made another crucial point, to more sense when I tried it see the parallel with on another farm in much larger systems but Jajarkot, and then at with the same pattern, a Sunrise Farm in template. Within that Kathmandu. pattern, all we have to No-till, mulch, green work out are the details - manures; diversity in leaf shape, texture, colour what plant associations work best according to our and plant scent; diversity in root depth and width, local climate/microclimate and site conditions. plant height - so much diversity! The villagers This will depend on the collection of many peoples loved it - so many vegetables to choose from, and experience and some focussed research. high output but low input. Chris Evans, Nepal & South Wales10 Mixed Vegetable Gardening
PhotographsUnless otherwisestated all the photosin this booklet areby Chris Evans.Resourcesand inspirationThe Farmer’sHandbook,PermacultureResearch Institute ofAustraliaGaias Garden, TobyHemmenwayThe One-strawRevolution, Masanubo Fukuoka Thanks ...to all the people who have helped put this bookletMore 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 textB&W for cheaper printing) from: was revised by Tomas Remiarz, and designed with Stig.www.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg Thanks for helpful suggestions from Roz Brown, SallyPlease share this booklet with friends. Cunningham, Ian Fitzpatrick, and Naomi van der Velden. Permaculture Permaculture Association Mixed vegetable planting and other forms of This booklet is part of the ongoing work of the polyculture are good examples of permaculture, Research Working Group of the Permaculture which seeks to maximise multiple yields while Association. For more information on this minimising effort and environmental costs - research please visit: working with nature, www.permaculture.org.uk/ rather than fighting whats-going-on/ against it. For a great association-work/research introduction to the principles and practice Permaculture Association UK of permaculture see the ‘knowledge base’ of the BCM Permaculture Association Permaculture London WC1N 3XX Association website, Tel: 0845 4581805 available here: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.permaculture.org.uk/ knowledge-base www.permaculture.org.ukwww.permaculture.org.uk/mixedveg 11
This booklet introduces the idea of mixed vegetable gardening, outlining its key benefits and requirements. The original method was developed in Nepal and has been adapted to UK conditions. We hope that future editions of this booklet will include much more information and useful ideas. If you have tried this approach in your own garden and want to share your wisdom / top tips and photos please get in touch. Contact details are on the inside back cover. Find out more about this and other related projects on our website: www.permaculture.org.uk /mixedvegPhoto above: Mixed vegetable salad by NonelvisRight: Allotments in East London by LoopZilla