As more is
understood about the soil and the way plants grow, people are looking at
different methods of growing.
Crop rotation has been used for many years with great success for vegetable growing, but is not for everyone.
Polyculture is based on an indigenous system where you plant several different species in the same plot at the same time,
Companion planting is a similar approach where certain plants help others to flourish.
Forest gardening is based on layering trees, shrubs and perennial plants.
Biodynamic takes organic gardening a step further growing in harmony with the rhythms of the planets and moon
No dig means not breaking up the fungal networks in the soil and putting compost on the top.
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Companion planting is an
understanding of the way plants work together in mutually beneficial ways.
Combining specific plants can aid pollination, prevent disease and keep pest
numbers down. Strongly scented plants such as garlic can confuse pests and may
have antibacterial or anti-fungal properties. Others like marigolds attract
beneficial insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings, which prey on aphids.
Well known plant combinations include growing nasturtium to deter aphids from beans, and planting alliums around carrots to ward off carrot root fly.
The science is still to be understood, but it is thought that some plants release chemicals that inhibit the growth of others. Plants that don’t seem to grow well together include garlic/onions with beans or peas, brassicas with strawberries and any plants grown close to walnut trees.
Polyculture is when you plant several different species in the same plot at the same time, closely mimicking natural eco-systems, their root systems tapping into the diversity of life in the soil in ways that benefit both. Plants like growing together and in the right combination this can lead to greater crop yields.
A classic example from the indigenous people of North America is called the 3 sisters - maize, squash and climbing beans. The cornstalk acts as a trellis for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and their twining vines stabilize the maize in highwinds, and the wide leaves of the squash plant shade the ground, keeping the soil moist and smothering potential weeds.
Forest gardens are inspired by a natural
young woodland edge, using a combination of trees, shrubs and perennial plants
to provide useful crops - mainly food. They make efficient use of space by using
different layers, replicating how plants grow in the wild. Typically this would
be 7 layers each ‘stacked’
at its particular ‘level’ in the system. consisting of canopy trees (if there’s room),
small trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, ground cover (herbs and annuals), a
vertical layer of climbers/vines and finally the root zone.
A food forest is naturally resilient and regenerative and once established will provide abundant crops for little effort in maintenance and harvesting.
Biodynamic gardening is similar to organic gardening in that they both work in harmony with nature, but biodynamic growing goes one step further into a more esoteric realm. Soil fertility is enhanced with ritually applied specific herb, flower and mineral preparations, and fruit and veg are grown according to the rhythms of the planets and moon. Crop rotation, rich compost and companion planting are also used to produce food that is stronger, tastier and has a higher yield. Based on the work of philosopher and scientist Dr Rudolf Steiner. Read more about it here