The Method

Our Method is more of a guide than a protocol. The idea is that you take our provisions and adapt it to your own climate, resources, location, intentions and understanding of plant production. It really is a simple concept promoted here. Our method includes a range of steps and suggestions to inspire thought, but the whole thing is as simple as this:

To grow a Polyculture Paddock…

  1. decide on a location that is easily accessible and take some dimensions, anywhere from ¼ – 1 acre would be a good start
  2. Order a diverse range of seeds and combine them into a series of different mixes (or just one big mix).
  3. Sow a strip of each of your mixes, ideally cultivating the ground first – direct drilling can work but will restrict what species will grow well.
  4. Be observant and enjoy the process, and once your bounty is ready…
  5. Harvest, Prep, Eat, Smile, Repeat.
 
Follow our guide below and good luck!

Design & Plan

  • What’s my intention for this garden 
  • Regenerative, Organic, Conventional? 
  • What are my goals?
  • What is the best case scenario from this venture?
  • What is the worst case scenario?
  • Is this a 1 year project, 5 year, longer?
  • What does the garden look like at each of these stages?
  • Or will it cycle different locations annually?
  • Proximity to house, yards, or easy access
  • Soil 
  • Water 
  • Shelter
  • Orientation
  • Simple sketch to start with
  • Google Maps + screenshot
  • Make a digital version if you have the skills/inclination
  • Finalize PP location
  • Take measurements on site
  • What’s your drill width 
  • Consider leaving walking space between strips (30-50cm)
  • Determine number of beds/plots
  • Decide on level of detail e.g different trials of inputs, seed mixes, treatments
  • Do you want many small plots and mixes?
  • Or preferable to sow your whole plot with one mega mix?

Seed selection

  • What do you want to eat
  • How important is appearance 
  • Attracting insects or birds 
  • Harvest preferences 
  • Tolerance for Risk 
  • Compatibility between plants
  • Annual or perennial 
  • Will the patch be grassed out after or continue as garden

To calculate how much seed you will need, multiply your area (ha) by your sowing rate (kg/ha).

If in doubt you can roll dice, flip coins, throw darts at a seed catelogue,  or just pick varieties off your gut instinct and go with it as your selection process.

This method has its limitations and will not work for growing all your favourites. Caulis, broccolis, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers and many others require much more individual care – seeded in trays and transplanted etc. There’s no such list and what will work and what won’t so trial and error, the PP group and basic discernment are your tools. Many species will grow when direct sown though and the rules are different with diversity. So if uncertain… throw some in and see how they do. And if big melons or basil are essential to your garden’s success, start them separately and transplant out when ready – with some mulch around each plant.

Implementation

Record your actions 

Stick to your plan 

Keep a walkway between strips – 30 to 50 cm 

  • Hard to determine when seeds vary from beans to carrot 
  • 10kg/ha as a rule of thumb
  • Perhaps trialling different sowing rates could factor into your design
  • Hard to determine when seeds vary from beans to carrot 
  • 10cm as a rule of thumb
  • Perhaps trialling different sowing rates could factor into your design. 
  • Better to be shallow than too deep
  • Use what, tractor, drill, equipment you have available. 
  • If you’re cultivating… you know what to do
  • If you’re direct drilling, minimize the time between spraying and sowing
  • If you have no machinery, make a deal with a neighbour or find your nearest contractor
  • Scatter by hand if you must.
  • If your soils are 10•c or above (and expect them to stay that way) the best time to plant was yesterday, next best is whenever you make time for it.

  • Either drill the whole garden at the start of the season, or if easily done, stagger planting throughout the season

Observation

What’s growing and when?

Is it something you planted?

Are you tolerant of weeds or should you pull them out?

Is anything going to seed undesirably? What issues might this cause down the track?

Worms, birds, water infiltration, root penetration?

  • Use the Polyculture Paddock record sheet, or any similar one that you produce of your own. Standardizing this step will make it easier to do, and easier to analyse. 
  • At the very least… TAKE PHOTOS. Make a PP album on your phone or wherever you store photos and save them there each time you take some update snaps.

Harvest

For most of human history, we have foraged and gathered food from nature. Learning to decipher edible from undesirable plants was fundamental in the development of our brains, eyes and basic motor functional abilities. This action is engrained in our DNA but omitted entirely from our modern lifestyle. It could then be stated that harvesting in a polyculture paddock may satisfy a deep rooted, primal desire. So be sure to enjoy this practice and be grateful for the abundance around you.

Use a garden fork or spade for root crops – a knife or scissors for leaves

Have a nibble or a feast while you’re out there

Processing / washing

Keep a record of what you’re bringing in.

Use

It’s all just an experiment up until this point

  • If you haven’t grown a lot of your own food before you’re going to have to unlearn/relearn some of your kitchen routines. 
  • Be experimental, don’t be afraid of failure.
  • Get creative. Consider fermenting / dehydrating / freezing / preserving.

There’s a resurgence in the local produce game and more marketing options cropping up if you want to take it that direction. 

  • Farmers markets
  • local delivery’s
  • U-pic
  • CSA boxes
  • Give some to your neighbours, mates or those in need.
  • Get your Community involved.
  • Use the space for regenerative education. 
  • Invite others to come and harvest.

Remind yourself that the food you’re eating is nutrient-dense and couldn’t be more local. Those aren’t trivial facts.

BH Garden - Riversdale Project

Keep notes and get involved!