Start Small: Plant a Polyculture Patch

If you are like me, you move often. As a renter, you may not have a yard of your own – but regardless, you can put down some roots by planting a polyculture patch.

Unlike a monoculture, you create a polyculture by planting more than one plant species or variety in an area. I planted just one patch, instead of an entire garden, to make the project more manageable in terms of time commitment and cost.

Thanks to having a great landlord, I planted the polyculture in my back yard. If your relationship with your landowner is tenuous, consider guerilla gardening.

The inspiration for our polyculture was a recently donated apple tree and I bought a few complimentary plants:

  • Yarrow to attract beneficial insects, act as ground cover, and use medicinally.
  • Sorrel, also to attract beneficial insects and act as ground cover, with the added benefits of being a biodynamic accumulator and just plain yummy.
  • Anise Hyssop, once again, to attract the good insects and make a delicious tea.

The quick version of my process: I laid out each plant, planted them appropriately, added sheet mulch (newspaper and cardboard), compost, and wood chips, and watered.

Within a half hour, with no tilling, I had my polyculture patch.

Planting this way not only reduces the time commitment; it also increases the likelihood that the tree will survive. Thanks to the ground cover, it will cut down on the erosion my backyard tends to suffer from, while someday providing us with apples, salad greens, and medicinals.

This year, as my friends divide their perennials, I will add more supportive plants to this polyculture patch and build a new patch: pawpaws…

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