Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or
monoculture. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping.
It is also one of the principles of permaculture.
Honeyberry and Company
This is one of our few originally-planted poylcultures that has really stood the test of time.
At the core is a honeyberry shrub. We have had a terrible time with
pollination. The nursery sent a companion that does not flower at
the same time (wrong pollination group), and our replacement is
still growing. But the honeyberry in this polyculture has grown
beautifully, flowered heavily every spring, and makes a few fruits
To either side we have planted sweet cicely, which are both huge now. We love having their black jellybean flavored seeds right next to the path.
We had also originally planted prostrate birdsfoot trefoil around the base, which did great for a few years. As the bush got bigger, the trefoil on the north side declined and we transplanted it out. We tried to replace it with a dwarf Hydrocotle (edible insectary
groundcover) this year, which was eaten by slugs.
We added in some dwarf coreopsis which we love to death. Beautiful flowers, long bloom, evergreen, specialist nectary, native, great groundcover. Seems to be prospering wonderfully. So far it and the trefoil seem to be sharing space nicely, see what happens in 2010 as they both expand.
New in 2009 was wild bean (Phaseolus polystachios), the wild edible native relative of cultivated beans. Totally cool plant. We put some on the south and north sides of the honeyberry. At first it looked like north would prosper better, but the southern one took
off midsummer and really was the best wild bean in the whole garden. This species is supposed to grow up to 12′ tall which would be too much for our 4′ honeyberry, but we’ll probably give it another year in 2010 just to see.
The honeyberry could presumably be replaced with any clumping shrub of equivalent size – perhaps currant, josta, bush cherry, or something else. Here is a photo in early summer 2009:
Source: Apios Institute