We experimented with a few different polyculture combinations this season. Some seemed to produce and work well, others not so much (more on polycultures and our experience with them in a later post). One polyculture that did seem to be promising was the sweet potato/bush bean/beneficial weeds polyculture. This year’s sweet potato harvest resulted in yields that seemed to be comparable to a single bed or rows of sweet potatoes.
Sweet potato and bush bean polyculture with some volunteer flowering plants popping up here and there
What is a Polyculture?
A polyculture can be thought of as the opposite of a monoculture crop. A monoculture is a planting of one single species like in a large field of corn or garden beds of single species. Polyculture combines different plant species together in the same space, similar to what one would find in a natural ecosystem. The idea is that a more bio-diverse system will decrease the chance of widespread loss to disease, provides more habitat for beneficial insects, and provide mutual benefits between each plant species. Inter-cropping and companion planting are a less complex form of polyculture, but the ideal polyculture will have many different layers of complexity with a high species diversity. I recommendGaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway for a detail understanding of polyculture and its benefits.