Ideas for future GROW Experiments


Hi everyone

Great to hear your Polycultures v. Monocultures experiments are being set up!

We are aware many people wished to take part but were unable to due to their climate not being suitable for beans, radish and spinach or not having enough space available.

We would love to hear about your ideas for future experiments so more people can take part next time. In particular:

  1. What three crop types grow well in warmer/drier climates that could be used to test polycultures v. monocultures?
  2. For those that grow in spaces less than 6 metres squared, what are your growing challenges and what would you like to find out about using experiments?

Please share your ideas below.

Thank you!



Hi Victoria,

Thanks very much for considering future alternatives to the beans, radish and spinach polyculture vs. monoculture experiment.

If you’re in a small(er) space, polyculture vs. monoculture may not truly be possible. I’ve got plants stuffed whether I find a free patch, no matter how small. For example, there are onions dotted round the rhubarb, round the caraway, round the bay tree and I’ve got six sets left to find space for. In other words, my planting can seem quite random.

It might be worth doing an experiment to see how much produce can be produced in small spaces - e.g. with different types of soil, different amendments.

I have noticed an upward trend with the amount of produce my garden produces. However, I’ve been measuring output in terms of cost savings; and the reason I’ve made savings on my food bill boil down to harvesting more expensive produce that previously, to some extent at least. Also, it could simply be that I am becoming a more experienced gardener.

I'm in central Portugal, where summers are extremely hot and totally rainless, so (apart from a personal dislike of radishes ;-) the timing of the experiment was wrong for my growing space. I can think of several experiments for hot climates:

  • What makes the best "nutrient compensator" for tomato, pepper, aubergine crops which do well in our climate but are heavy feeders? >> spring planting with fava or summer companion?
  • Will planting long season brassicas (e.g. Br/sprouts) and possibly leeks under shade canopy of pole beans prevent going to seed prematurely? (They're not supposed to be good companions according to most charts, but I'm trying it this year anyway.)
  • A mediterranean variant of the 3 sisters could be tomatoes (or peppers) + beans for nitrogen + parsley and thyme for ground cover & pest repelling. (Corn doesn't seem to work without summer rainfall, though quinoa or amaranth might; pumpkin needs a lot of water to develop an extensive foliage.)

When you design a hot climate polyculture experiment, please give some flexibility of timing, so people can sow/plant earlier or later according to their climate and microclimate.

I am in central England with a larger type allotment and would like to second Stefanie's suggestion. As my plot is exposed planting spinach and radish to the south now is not a good idea for me. I need to plant them in the shade of the taller crop which for me is to the north and east.

I always need deas to feed tomatoes. I grow them greenhouse and outdoors and have been known to grow them on the garage roof, in planters and even hanging baskets so they seem to be the ideal subject for everyone. I am organic so I am supposed to give comfrey tea 3 xpw (once they have flowered). For the greenhouse I cheat I put the brew in the water but that runs the greenhouse trickle feed but constant moisture must encourage blight but the plants need lots to drink. Elsewhere I bury after filling bottomholed milkbottles with comfrey leaves and water through the top opening.

Companions for me would include basil but that does not seem to help toms imho. Ditto the thyme. Carrots compete for nutrients. Most crops have leaves and the salad types need harvesting both aspects that might injure the toms. Most people here could grow chives or walking onions though.

For me I would ideally need to know varieties by March 1 because I sow tomatoes around March 11. April - September I adopt the cadences of lunar planting because I find that helps me.

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I grow all the vegetables in the experiment but usually different varieties. This is a lot of radish to grow and consume or share. I would have chosen a different root vegetable that can be stored and consumed at a later date like the spinach and beans.

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Thanks everyone that's really helpful. If you think of anything else do let us know here.

Best wishes Victoria