Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plant guilds and food forest (Day 16)

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Students were assigned the task of creating plant guilds (in their design teams) of at least three mutually beneficial species, for three separate applications: tree-cropping / food-forest, broad-acre wheat / animal fodder production, and small-scale-intensive cropping system.  The teams presented their guilds to each other, and explained why individual species were selected to be planted together.

Each group came up with far more than they were asked to - here's what they came up with:

Photo: Small-scale intensive intercropping garden design including multiple potato stacks using old car tyres.

1. Small-scale-intensive -

          I)  Potatoes + Peas/Beans + Dill:  Peas/beans fix nitrogen, which feed potatoes (heavy feeders), while dill is grown as predatory insect attractor / strong-scented mask from potatoes' pest insects, and as an additional crop.  This design is experimenting with various potato stack configurations, to see if peas & dill can be grown successfully  in a potato stack, and to figure out which mulching material is most effective for potatoes to grow in within the stack.

          II)  Onions + daisy flowers + dill + potatoes + cabbages + turnips + cabbages:  Planted together in design shown (cabbages, shown in orange colour, surrounding central keyhole) as integrated pest management intercropping system for use in family hasha.  Time and further experimentation will tell which plants work best next to each other, and if any companion plantings are antagonistic.

Photo:Preliminary design concept for broadacre wheat cropping guild.

2. Wheat cropping guild for broadacre production -

          I)  "Fast White" Laurel-leafed poplar (Populus laurifolia, known locally as 'Fast White') + Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) + local apple Variety + wheat + oats + alfalpha: students came up with this guild in an attempt to protect the wheatcrop from the constant cold winds. 

This preliminary design was extended to improve the windbreak design by adding Siberian peashrub, a vigorously growing, very hardy, nitrogen-fixing legume, and the small nitrogen-fixing shrub we observed on the hillsides (species yet to be identified by our team) on the outside of the windbreak to form a layered edge that is more wind-resistant.  Furthermore, the wheat plot itself could be intercropped with rows of alfalpha or oats (or both), which provide human and animal fodder, in addition to making a beautiful green manure to support the wheat crop.


Photo: Detail from extensive food-forest guild system created by Dr Beket's design team.

3. Tree-cropping guild for Bastama School Gardens -

          I)  This was a multi-layered design, which we are still unwravelling!  Dr Beket has an extensive knowledge and body of research informing his design team, and the tree-cropping guild they came up with was loaded with the following species (which we continue to research). 

Species included:

  •           Ulmus pumila (Siberian Elm) 
  •           Caragana aboroscens (Siberian peashrub)
  •           Caragana spinosa (English name not yet known)
  •           Rosa acicularis (Arctic rose)
  •           Salix caspica (Willow)
  •           Populus laurifolia (Laurel-leaf poplar)
  •           Populus pilosa (English name not yet known)
  •           Larix siberica (Siberian larch)
  •           Picea obovata (Siberian spruce)
  •           Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine)
  •           Haloxylon ammodredion (Sauxal)
  •           Ribes nigrum (Blackcurrant)
  •           Ribes altissimum (Mountain blackcurrant)
  •           Amygdalus pedunculata (English name not yet known)
  •           Malus asiatica (Central asian apple). 


You could build quite a food forest with that list of species!

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