QUESTION: What is a polyculture garden? I was visiting an arboretum recently and the tour guide mentioned it in passing and I was not able to ask him at the tour because it was a big group. What did she mean? – Rita S
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: This is a specific label for the typical garden you’d find in most hobby farmers’ backyards. This means that you grow a variety of crops together in one area.
Whereas, in commercial farming, only one crop is grown in a single area. A polyculture garden can look a few different ways.
The first way to utilize this style of garden is by growing a cover crop. When you grow one crop to help another crop in the coming season, you’re practicing polyculture gardening.
Another way this type of garden may look is when you practice companion planting. You’re growing different vegetables or flowers in the same growing location with the intention of benefiting one or both crops.
Forest gardening is another method of polyculture gardening. This is where you grow perennial crops in varying heights which mimic a forest. Yet, it produces food.
Crop rotation and planting in rows also falls under polyculture gardening. Some people over sow their gardening area to cut down on the weeds when planting in rows.
They also practice crop rotation and succession planting in this same style of garden to deter pests and prolong the harvest.
However, it all incorporates a variety of plants into one growing space. Polyculture gardening allows you to utilize your growing space to its fullest potential.
Plus, it’s also great at adding to your soil instead of relying on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides which can strip your soil in the long run.
Though this style of gardening may work well for those growing food on a small scale, it’s a little more difficult to practice on a larger scale as it requires more knowledge on growing a variety of plants instead of only one plant.
Plus, it’s harder to utilize larger pieces of machinery to plant and harvest crops when they’re grown closely and (in some cases) intertwined with one another.
Polyculture garden may be a new term for you, but if you’ve been raising multiple crops in a single garden in your backyard, you’ve been practicing this method all along.
It has its benefits for the small-time gardener and could be a great way for you to grow more of your own food right at your back door.
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