Intercropping Techniques


The owner of a small garden can often get as much produce from his plot as the man with twice the area of ground. This is done by a carefully thought out method of intercropping.

Intercropping is based on the fact that different crops vary in the time they take to reach maturity (see maturity chart). Main crop peas for example take a long time to mature, but the ground between can be used in the meantime for another crop which matures before the taller crop requires the light.

IntercroppingA few suggestions of what is meant by intercropping will illustrate this method of cultivation.

In February early peas are sown 3 ft. apart. These are sown in shallow trenches with a little soil left on each . side of the row to be drawn to the plants when they are a few inches high. Early in April a row of early potatoes is planted between the peas. The peas would be cleared before the potatoes and the land where they are grown is forked over to make way for brussels sprouts. When these are planted and are growing away nicely, the potatoes would be lifted and again the land would be forked over to make way for a row of winter spinach and onions. In this way there are actually three crops obtained from the same piece of land in a single season.

Take another scheme. Shallots are planted x ft. apart each way in January. In March two broad beans are sown between each shallot in every third row. The rows of broad beans would therefore stand 3 ft. apart. The shallots would be pulled at the end of June and .the beans a month later. Then fork over the ground and plant with broccoli 2 ft. 6 in. apart and sow early shorthorn carrots between the rows of broccoli. The carrots will follow on for use in late autumn when earlier maturing carrots will have become tough and the broccoli would then follow on for winter use. Broccoli have spreading leaves and will need the full space after the carrots have been pulled.

A point to bear in mind is that nearly all vegetable crops have early maturing varieties. These are the varieties to select for intercropping. They enable the land to be cleared sooner so that the maximum use can be made of the space available during the warmer months of the year.

Another suggestion would be to open up the celery trenches early in the spring and to plant on the ridges French beans and cos lettuce. On wet heavy soils in a normal season this is the most effective method. In June the celery is planted out and by the time the french beans and lettuce are cleared, the soil of the ridges can be used for earthing up the celery.

Summer spinach is a valuable catch crop for growing between tall rows of peas. To get a rich crop of tender leaves sprinkle a little decayed manure along the line where the seeds are to be sown, and lightly turn this in so that it is buried z in. or 3 in. below the soil. On this sow the spinach. Lettuce can be grown in the same way.

Another factor which should be remembered when intercropping intensively is the need for plenty of manure in the soil. It is folly to suppose that three or more crops can be obtained from the same area of land within a year without a liberal dressing of organic manure and the use of artificials during growth. But the succession of one crop with another does, in part, contribute to the nourishment of each crop, and it is this which, taken together with the manure and fertilizer, enables intercropping to be carried out successfully. Success also depends on using all the space all the time.

Easily .soluble fertilizers are -quickly washed down by rain below the depth of plant roots, by keeping the ground filled with successive. Crops full value is obtained from all manures.

It has been discovered that some crops help each other. For example, peas grown near potatoes pass on some of their nitrogen to the potato crop through the soil moisture. The beginner in gardening will find many interesting opportunities for intercropping, so that truly “ Two blades of grass are made to grow where one grew before.”

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