Saturday 7 January 2023

Polyculture Profiles - Perennial Productive/Support - A Compact Polyculture - Hestia

Welcome to our third Polyculture Profile in our series. During this post, we'll look at a compact Polyculture for small spaces that can provide fruits, enhance biodiversity, and is relatively easy to take care of.

It will most likely be helpful to look over this Polyculture Profile Layout post before or after reading the profile,  where we provide a description of the profile layout and some general notes to consider, should you wish to try to grow the polyculture yourself. 

Polyculture Name - Hestia  -Perennial - Productive/Support

Compatible Climate(KCC) - C - D (B with irrigation)

USDA Hardiness - 5 - 9

Water Needs - Drought Tolerant - Irrigation required for optimal production 

Light Preferences - Full Sun/Dappled Shade 

Soil Preferences -  Will grow best in fertile soil with access to water during dry periods   

Suitable pH: acid, neutral and alkaline

Layout - Island 

Intro - Hestia is a compact fruit tree polyculture suitable for placement within a lawn of a small garden. The polyculture includes a fruit tree (preferably on dwarf rootstock) with an edible understory of shrubs and herbs, fertility-providing plants, and a range of support to bees and other nectar/pollen-feeding species.

In the photo below you can see the polyculture growing on the lawn of our home garden, with a 6-year-old Peach.  The shrub on the left of the tree Colutea arborescens grew very well in the polyculture for 3 years and then died one year (not sure why) so I have left that out of the species list and replaced it with Raspberries. 

Overview Image 

The various layers of Hestia, a Polyculture ideal for a small garden 

Image of mature Hestia with Peach canopy faded

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Functional Components 


Production Potential - If growing this polyculture in an area without other fruit trees it’s important to select a tree that is self-fertile. The wild peach we have used provides a reliable crop of peaches each season. The raspberries can produce fruit in June and October as long as you prune half of them to ground level in the winter and leave the other half untouched. You should get to nibble on a few strawberries but they are mainly for ground cover. 

Fertility Potential - The comfrey and bulb layer provide mineral repository and biomass for mulch, The Vicia provide nitrogen support and can be cut back for mulch a few times per year.

Habitat Potential -The plants attract a range of pest predators and pollinators with the dense canopy in the understory providing ideal conditions for beetles, spiders, and soil-dwelling organisms. The rock borders can provide basking territory for reptiles and nesting sites for mantids and spiders.  In the photo below you can see the Comfrey on the left in 2nd year after planting in full flower and about ready for a cut. The Onions have yet to establish here and Vicia lutea, a volunteer plant, is thriving at the base of the peach tree. You can also see Antirrhinum majus (dark green on the right), a great plant for attracting bumble bees that help pollinate the tomato plants that we have located 6 m away from this polyculture in a raised bed in an  annual vegetable polyculture 

Access - The access to this polyculture is around the perimeter of the bed when planted in a lawn and otherwise should be a minimum of 50 - 60 cm wide. Bare earth, grass, or other ground cover pathways are suitable. 

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Species List   

In small gardens, the central fruit tree should be on a dwarf rootstock and if growing this polyculture in an area without other fruit trees it’s important to select a tree that is self-fertile 

You can find full plant profiles of these species in the links below and we have these plants available from our nursery, with delivery to anywhere in  Europe   

We also have a range of fruit and nut cultivars  well suited to Regenerative landscapes, including Peaches (click the below banner to view)

Planting Layers/Distances

Here is the layout in a 0.25 x 0.25 m grid for guidance regarding planting. The Vicia cracca is indicated as green cover in this image as this species is sown into the soil when first establishing the polyculture and thinned to a few plants around the Raspberry canes. 

The bulbs and Strawberry ground cover can be planted on the inside edge of the rock border approx 0.32 m apart 

Planting pattern and distance for the bulb layer

Approximate positioning of Tree, Shrub, and Herbs 

Hestia - Flower/Fruit and Maintenance

The Raspberries will spread and will need to be lifted and replanted into other areas of the garden each season to avoid crowding. The bulb layer will also need to be divided every other year. 

Growing Update

After a few unsuccessful attempts at growing Allium babingtonii in this polyculture, we tried Allium cepa proliferum-Tree Onion and that appears to be much more comfortable.

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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)

Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 



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