Because I wasn’t commuting, I was able to take a couple of minutes to admire the garden on a rainy Tuesday morning & pick some lettuces from the hugelkultur and strawberries from the raised beds. I stopped to marvel at the horrible destruction that the cabbageworms are wreaking on the cabbages. They also decimated the cut-and-come-again lettuce bed…it had to be ripped up & reseeded, because the plants were chewed to tatters.
I’m still unsure of how one balances out the benefits of a monoculture (for me, this means a bed of cabbages, a half-bed of lettuce, etc.) vs. a polyculture.
The advantages of the monoculture: being able to pick all at once, same watering needs, same soil needs, etc. Also, eating the thinned plants, or feeding them to the chickens.
The disadvantages: the pests hit hard, arriving in waves & any disease rockets through all the plants at once.
Advantages of a polyculture: different opportunities for plants to get sun, warmth, water. Mutualisms are a definite advantage…
The biggest advantage is against pests: I’ve noticed is that the few cabbageworms that found my lettuces were weak, physically cut off from new plants to go to, and easily controlled by one day of plucking them off. In contrast, I took 12-15 cabbageworms off the cabbages today – I’d need to take that many off every day to try and stop the cabbage carnage.
The disadvantages: mostly the unknowns. I’m sure I’ll have more to report. I lost several lettuces to slugs, as well as a few sunflowers and runner beans that got wiped out. It’s also harder to keep track of what’s there (or what’s missing). Also, there’s no thinning, not really. Plants are planted farther apart, and interplanted with other species, so there’s no spare plant to fall back on if they get eaten or wilt, etc.
I wish I had thought to grow cabbages out on the hugelkultur mound, to compare the pest issue with the raised beds. Oh well…there’s always next year!
Photos: first one is today’s lettuce harvest. Then: the first lettuce harvested the other week, and the last picture is a firefly larva that I found while moving some rotten wood (I covered it back up after taking the picture). :-)