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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

“In a polyculture garden unrelated plants grow next to each other. Think of it as the opposite of a field of corn, the classic example of monoculture. As in an abundant English garden, a polyculture approach means there will be flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, and vegetables throughout your fruit garden. One polyculture that has stood the test of time is “The Three Sisters”- corn, beans, and squash. These three vegetables were extensively interplanted by native peoples of North America.

In nature all plants live in communities, and all these communities are polycultures. In a polyculture garden you construct an artificial plant community that emulates a natural one. As in nature, plants fulfill many functions while they interact with each other, wildlife, and you. As you plan and tend the fruit garden, be mindful of the interactive and multi-tasking nature of your creation.

companion planting

“Start by paying attention to what these trees and shrubs do in addition to providing us with fruit. The canopy, with its leaves, flowers, and fruit, makes oxygen, filters and cleans the air, captures sunlight and converts it to food, diffuses raindrops, and provides habitat for micro organisms, insects, bees, and birds. Stems and trunks, in addition to transporting water and nutrients from the roots, and sugar from the leaves, provide support for the plant as well as the other plants around it. Roots take up water and nutrients from the soil, contribute to the healthy soil ecosystem, provide habitat for thousands of soil organisms, and control erosion. These are just a few of the jobs our trees and shrubs take on.

creating plant guild

“The practice of polyculture may be the oldest garden and farming technique in the world. It has many names: interplanting, companion planting, creating plant guilds, and agroforestry. These techniques all amount to the same thing, and they all mimic natural plant communities, a distinct advantage in creating a healthy garden ecosystem in your yard. Practitioners of companion planting theorize that specific plants interact favorably with one another. A plant guild is a similar construct, in which the grower groups plants that have positive synergistic effect on one another.


“Exactly which plants grow well together is an ongoing field of study. This is why you will discover wildly differing opinions in books, on the Internet, and in conversations. While these studies continue, we have three pieces of advice: to simplify your life, group plants with the same temperature, soil, light, and water needs together; maximize species diversity by choosing unrelated plants to grow near each other; choose plants that occupy different strata of the root zone. For example, a cherry tree’s roots extend 4 to 5 feet below the surface, while the roots of most perennials occupy a much shallower zone of the soil.”


This insight into polyculture, sometimes called companion planting, is an excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden, written by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. You can purchase the book in our online bookstore HERE. 

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

Build Your Own Earth Oven

An Introduction To Cob

Mixed with sand, water, and straw, a clayey-subsoil will dry into a very hard and durable material; indeed, it was the first, natural “concrete”. In the Americas, we call it “adobe”, which is originally from the Arabic “al-toba”, meaning “the brick.” Invading Moors brought the word to Spain from North Africa, where an ancient mud building tradition continues today.


Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing

Setting Up A Walking Plow

Here is a peek into the pages of Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing, written by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

Making Buttermilk

The Small-Scale Dairy

What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns.

Art of Working Horses Hunter Review

Art of Working Horses – A Review

from issue:

Over 40 years Lynn Miller has written a whole library of valuable and indispensable books about the craft of working horses. He has helped beginners acquire the basics of harnessing and working around horses, and has led those further along to focus on the specific demands of plowing, mowing, haying and related subjects. But, in a fitting culmination, his latest book, The Art of Working Horses, raises its sights and openly ponders secrets at the heart of the work that may over time elevate it to an art.

How To Prune

From Dusty Shelves: Pruning Guide from 1917

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 2

How do you learn the true status of that farm with the “for sale” sign? Here are some important pieces of information for you to learn about a given selling farm. The answers will most probably tell you how serious the seller is.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

The Horsedrawn Mower Book

Removing the Wheels from a McCormick Deering No. 9 Mower

How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Apples of North America

Freedom has been called the ugly duckling of disease-resistant apple varieties. But that shouldn’t detract from its many merits. These include the freedom from apple-scab infection for which it was named, a high rate of productivity, and an ability to serve as a good pollinator for its more attractive sibling, Liberty.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT