Polyculture/Guild Trials - Home Garden Records

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by permaship, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. permaship

    permaship Junior Member

    Nov 5, 2009
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    We've completed the second year of our Market Garden Polyculture Study with some interesting results. This year we added a new polyculture to the trials and included a comparison between growing vegetables in a polyculture and growing them in more traditional blocks.

    Below you will find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures we are growing, a description of what we record and the results from this year's study.

    To view the full post with tables and images from our blog click on the link below

    Results in Summary

    The garden produced just under 330 kg of produce from a cultivated area of 165.6 m2 - 3.78 kg of produce per m2.

    The time spent on the garden was 149 hrs. this time being distributed from sowing the first seeds indoors in February to packing up in late October.

    The fertility inputs of the garden were 63 Straw bales, 1205L of compost. 20 kg of wood ash, 224 L of sowing medium, 1620 L of lawn clippings and 88L of Comfert ( Comfrey Tea)

    The garden expenses were 115.56 BGN and the estimated value of the produce was 1911.46 BGN providing a profit of 1795.9 BGN. This translates to 12.05 BGN per hr or 10.84 BGN per m2.

    Polyculture Market Garden Study Crew 2016

    Garden Overview

    Climate: Continental Temperate
    Latitude: 42°
    Elevation: 565 m
    Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
    Co-ordinates: 42.71259, 25.32575

    The six longer beds in the left hand corner (the Aceaes) of the photo are the trial beds and the focus of the study.
    Photos by www.georgipavlov.net

    Click here for the Polyculture Market Garden location (labelled as Paulownia Garden on our Project map)

    Garden area: 256.8 m2
    Cultivated beds area: 165.6 m2
    Paths: 50 cm wide - 91.2 m2
    Six beds: Dimensions - 23 m x 1.2 m Area - 27.6 m2 per bed

    Study Area Path and Bed Layout

    The beds are named after common vegetable families in order to familiarize participants with the use of Latin and introduce them to some major plants families. They do not correspond to what was planted in the beds.

    The Polycultures

    We are experimenting with many polycultures and have developed a categorization system for ease of reference. They are categorized by life cycle i.e annual, perennial or combi (annuals and perennials) and further categorized by function. i.e support, infrastructure or production. Often a polyculture will provide multiple functions, but the primary function is what sets them to each category. I give all the polycultures nicknames. For example, all polycultures in the annual and production category are named after Stoic Philosophers.

    The study is based on polycultures Zeno and Epictetus - both are annual and production polycultures. As we are looking to see how polycultures compare to conventional growing, this year we included a control for the Zeno polyculture i.e, the same crops from Zeno but planted in a more conventional block pattern. In the below illustration you can see the planting plan of the trial beds.

    Polyculture Zeno

    We've been growing Zeno in the garden for around 9 years now. It's been very successful in our home gardens and in 2015 we scaled it up for the market garden. You can see last year's market garden results here and three years of records from the home garden here.

    Photos from Zeno Polyculture
    For more info on plant spacing, management and maintenance of this polyculture see our previous post here.

    Zeno Plant List - The following plants and cultivars were used in this polyculture;

    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Black Krim'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Ukranian Purple'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Tigerealla'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Green Zebra'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Mirabel Yellow Cherry'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Anna Russian'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Citrina'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Marglobe'
    Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum 'Rozava Magia'
    Basil - Ocimum basilcium 'Sweet Genovese'
    French Beans - Phaseolus vulgaris 'Cobra'
    French Beans - Phaseolus vulgaris - Local
    Courgette - Cucurbita pepo 'Black Beauty'
    Bush Scallop - Cucurbita pepo
    Butternut Squash - Cucurbita pepo 'Waltham Butternut'
    African Marigold - Tagetes erecta
    French Marigold - Tagetes patula
    Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis

    Zeno Planting Scheme

    Zeno - Vegetable and herb polyculture/guild 6.5 m section of planting scheme

    Zeno Control

    We also included a control this year. The control included all of the above plants but planted in blocks along the bed (see below). We wanted to see how the two planting schemes compared i.e. whether the polyculture would produce more and the difference in the amount of time needed to cultivate them. The fertility inputs for both beds were the same.

    Polyculture Epictetus

    This is the first year we have tried this polyculture. It's basically a strip pattern of various vegetables from different plant families arranged to reduce pests and diseases, optimize space and nutrient share whilst respecting the individual plant needs for space and light.

    Epictetus Polyculture

    Epictetus Plant List - The following plants and cultivars were used in this polyculture;

    Beetroot - Beta vulgaris ' Bolthardy'
    Beetroot - Beta vulgaris ' Detroit'
    Dwarf Bean - Phaseolus vulgaris 'Lingua Fuoco Nano'
    Dwarf Bean - Phaseolus vulgaris 'Rocquencourt'
    Kale - Brassica napus 'Siberian'
    Kale - Brassica napus 'Scarlett'
    Swiss Chard - Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla ' Rainbow'
    Parsnip - Pastinaca sativa ' White Gem'
    Carrot - Daucus carota 'Autumn King'
    French Marigold - Tagetes patula
    Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis

    Epictetus Planting Scheme

    Epictetus - Vegetable polyculture/guild - 6 m section of planting scheme

    The table below shows the floral species composition of each of the beds including the different cultivars and the dates that the plants were sown or planted.

    We have not included a list of native wild plants that are encouraged to grow around the perimeter of each bed that we mow and apply as mulch to the beds during the growing season.

    What we Record - Inputs

    Time Input - We record how long it takes to develop, maintain and manage the garden. The time is recorded for each task starting from sowing the seeds, preparing the beds, planting and caring for the plants, harvesting, preparing for market and packing away. The time taken for each task is rounded up or down to nearest minute. Nearly all of the records are based on 2 people carrying out each task unless otherwise stated in the record sheet.

    Fertility Inputs - All fertility additives are recorded including; seed sowing mediums, composts, mulch, liquid fertilizers (comfert) and ash.

    Alex and Kata loading up compost for the beds

    Financial Inputs - Costs - The costs associated with the garden are recorded. We do not cost the time spent on the garden but do provide the precise time the activities take. Set up and tool costs were included in the first year records. This year we only recorded operating costs.

    N.B. We eliminate many costs by growing our own plants from seed, making composts and sowing mediums, growing summer and autumn mulch and saving seeds. We also provide our own support materials for the crops.

    Basil seeds in the nursery room

    What we Record - Outputs

    Crop Yields - All produce is weighed directly after harvest. The produce is recorded into two categories, fit for market and fit for processing/fodder.

    Polycultures Yields

    Financial output - Profit - The market value of the produce is estimated based on the average prices we were receiving from local buyers, veggie boxes and Trustika buyers club in Sofia.

    N.B. We do not sell all of the produce from the garden. Some of the produce is consumed by the team or preserved.

    What we Record - Surveys

    Soil Analysis - Each spring and autumn we obtain a soil sample and send it to NAAS of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. To take a sample we take approx a hand trial full of the top 20 cm of soil from 8 random areas from the beds, mix it together and send 400g "bagged and tagged" to the lab the same day.

    Physical Analysis - Each spring the team carry out a series of 9 tests that are designed to provide an indication of soil health based on observable physical properties of the soil. It's a soil management tool developed by farmers for farmers to track the developing health of soils. You can download the form with instructions how to carry out the tests here. We have slightly modified the test for our purposes.

    Support Species Tagetes spp. and Calendula officinalis are planted within the vegetables and attract a large diversity of invertebrates some of which are beneficial to the crops.

    To view the full post with tables and images from our blog click on the link below
    Bryant RedHawk likes this.
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Jul 10, 2006
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    E Washington, USA
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    Again (for the second year), stellar work Permaship! Have you considered submitting your report as an article to be published on the PRI news site? I think it would be a great way to get many more eyes on your experiments, documentation, and results.

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