Is Multiple Cropping Right for My Garden?
If you plant an organic garden in a raised bed and you pride yourself on your richly prepared soil and compost, you should try multiple cropping, otherwise known as intercropping.
Assuming your garden gets the perfect amount of sunlight and water, multiple cropping is a system of planting crops so they grow in each other’s shade. With this style of planting, your crops will support each other while using the soil and light to their advantage.
Why do people use this method and what are the benefits?
Many gardeners use this planting method for the three sisters – beans, squash, and corn.
To be honest, this method is nothing new. The Native Americans, for example, didn’t stress over dedicating a patch of their gardens to each plant. Instead, they placed them all together so the plants would rely on each other and grow to the best of their ability.
As corn grows, it supports the beans. The beans, in turn, climb up the corn stalks. See what we mean?
Your squash will grow between the corn and beans, often shading the soil with their tremendous leaves. This will lead to less moisture loss and weed development. And because the three crops harvest at the same time, you won’t have to worry about watering, weeding, or fertilizing them.
What about weeds?
With this style of gardening, you can choose to accept and leave the weeds if they do develop since they also protect the soil from heavy rain. Weeds will also shade your soil, much like your squash, which encourages the plants’ roots to dig deep for the moisture below.
How do you get the most out of multiple cropping?
To get the most out of intercropping, plant pole beans with willow sticks so they can climb. You can then plant a crop of lettuce to grow in their shade.
If you’re looking to stretch your harvesting season while using the intercropping method, mix short-lived crops like baby carrots, radishes, and greens, with longer season crops. You’ll be able to harvest your short-lived plants long before the main crops get too large and crowded.
Which garden style is most appropriate for this planting method?
You’ll get the best harvest if you use the square foot gardening method. A square foot garden is divided into beds that can be accessed from all sides and is based on the principle that wide rows are a waste of time and valuable planting space. You should also be familiar with companion planting as it will help you determine which plants can be grown together.
Growing crops and vegetables with the multiple cropping method allows your plants to develop the right amount of strength. As they grow, they will help support, shelter, and shade each other, which leads to a more bountiful harvest for you. Once you get the hang of it and find the planting and harvesting schedule that works for you, you won’t want to turn back!