Thursday, May 24, 2012

Friendly Neighbours: Notes on Succession Planting and Intercropping: Part III

Intercropping is not exactly the same thing as succession planting, but it does fall into the category of being creative about how you plant your vegetables to maximize results. Intercropping means planting two vegetables in the same area, but choosing plants that can get along amicably.

Examples include:

a) Planting carrots in with radishes. Radishes grow and mature quickly and they loosen up the soil, which is good for the carrots.  Radishes are then picked earlier in the season, leaving lots of room for the slower-maturing carrots.

b) Growing lettuce in the shade of tomato plants.  Reading this made me dubious because I wondered how I would ever be able to get to anything in the nooks and crannies of my Tomato Jungle. However, another tomato/lettuce symbiosis that seemed a lot more practical involved planting tomato plants two feet apart (an optimal spacing for the larger, mature plants but a lot more space then teensy transplants need) and planting lettuce between then while the plants are small.  Lettuce grows and matures quickly and would be long gone by the time the tomato plants start to get gangly and big and take over the space.

c) One of the more famous examples of Intercropping is the Three Sisters.  This is the practise of planting corn, beans and squash together, as they co-exist in a three-way mutualistic symbiosis (beneficial to all).

I couldn't explain it any better than the author of this website, so I quote:

"Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure" (

Some final words on Succession Planting and Intercropping:

1. Label everything well. Otherwise, you may lose track of which seeds are planted where, and you might not know where to begin planting your next batch of seeds.

2. Preplan your garden. Take the time to figure out which crops could share spaces either simultaneously (like tomatoes and lettuce) or one after another (like peas and egg plants).

3. Re-energize the soil frequently with compost between plantings.

~Miss Greenish Thumb~

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