Has anyone out there in the blogosphere tried intercropping? I’ve tried three different intercropping experiments this year, which are all at varying levels of progress.
But What is Intercropping?
It’s simply the idea of growing two crops together in a space where you would normally grow one. I’ve only dabbled with intercropping before, having been fairly blessed with space on the allotment. Now I’m in the garden, often found frowning and head-scratching at where the next crop will go, so I tried intercropping a few vegetables.
How Should You Use Intercropping to Grow Your Vegetables?
Lettuce and Purple Sprouting Broccoli
A good intercropping strategy is to plant a tall crop with one that doesn’t mind some shade. On that basis, I planted out lettuce seedlings in between purple sprouting broccoli.
If you look carefully you’ll see five quite mature lettuces nestled happily in amongst the broccoli. The lettuces started off less than three inches high, and have grown well despite being shaded by the big PSB leaves.
Radishes and Brussels
Radishes are also content in shade, so I’ve tucked some in amongst my sprouts. They germinated fast, as radishes do this time of year, and at the moment seem unconcerned by their cropping partner.
I planted a couple of blocks, one with rows and one sprinkled, just to see which way would be more productive.
Beetroot and Kale
At the weekend I tried beetroot with kale. I’ve got the tall-growing kale variety in the plot instead of the dwarf, so they’re ripe for planting with a shorter crop. I chose beets here as they don’t grow too high so won’t be competing against the kale.
It’s also important not to put two crops together that require lots of water. Both beetroot and kale don’t go mad over water, so make good companions.
Shallow-Rooting Crops with Deep-Rooting Crops
Shallow-rooting crops can be planted with deep-rooting crops, and radishes are perfect for this. They grow quickly, so could be a good choice in with parsnips or carrots. I’ve seen one gardener sow radishes and carrots in the same row at the same time, and then thin out for a double crop.
Increasing yields from a space is an exciting thing to do, but what makes intercropping really fun is experimenting with all sorts of planting combinations. A short one with a tall one, speedy grower and slow grower, deep and shallow; the plot is your oyster.
Has anyone else out there tried intercropping on their plots or in the garden? Have you had successes? Any intercrops you’d like to recommend?