Knowing the following concepts will save you a great deal of trouble later on when we’re focusing on each one and then again when we combine them. I know it’s all about “reading definitions” but it really helps if you understand these intensive vegetable gardening concepts before you try to do them. 🙂
The first term is “multiple cropping”. This means that two or more vegetable crops are grown in the same space in one gardening season. You might put in a section of early spring peas and follow that (in the same space) with a crop of fall broccoli. The second would be “underplant” where we tuck a second plant underneath or in the shadow of the first (and taller) plant.
“Intercropping” is another useful term to understand. This means we’re growing two or more different vegetables in the same garden section at the same time. We could grow corn as a tall crop with an underplanting of pumpkins for example. Farmers will use “intercropping” where corn will be underplanted with clover or alfalfa.
Home gardeners seldom garden on this scale so we use “bed intercropping” where we divide our garden into smaller areas or individual “beds”. Our beds are each treated as a farmer’s field in that we’ll plant several plants in each bed at the same time when we’re intercropping. An practical example of this on the home scale is where you’d plant corn as the main crop and underplant with winter squash. This combination is often used as examples of cropping done by native North Americans. (add pole beans to climb the corn stalks and you have the “3-sisters” planting)
On the home scale, where we become very productive is when we combine both multiple cropping with intercropping. Every square foot of garden space is constantly filled with a growing plant. When one plant is harvested, another is ready to take its place. Tall plants that take a full season to mature are underplanted with multiple crops of different vegetables.
The Important Point
While we’re going to be getting into this in the very near future, it is important to realize that if you’re going to fill up every space as you harvest something out of it – you have to have a constant supply of fresh young transplants to put there. This means constantly seeding to produce new fresh seedlings to tuck here and there through your garden. But more in the next few lessons on how to go about doing this.