Interplanting and Intercropping: A Definition and Tips

Garden Smarter with Intercropping or Interplanting

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Interplanting is the practice of planting a fast-growing crop between a slower-growing one in order to make the most of your garden space. It is also known as intercropping, which has the same definition of interplanting.

When you Interplant flowers and vegetables, it lets you grow different kinds or crops and minimizes the space where weeds can grow. Intercropping lets you boost the health of all plants because it can enhance soil fertility and cooperation among different plants.

The act of intercropping is an old-fashioned method that modern gardeners have begun to embrace. 

An example of this would be sowing lettuce seeds between broccoli plants; the lettuce will grow happily in the space and shade provided by the broccoli plants, and you will be able to harvest it before the broccoli is large enough to totally shade it out.

One method of interplanting I like to use is to sow mesclun seeds around my tomato seedlings, so that I can harvest salad greens while waiting for my tomato plants to start producing.

Types of Intercropping

There are a few types of intercropping, by definition.

Row planting is when you have at least two types of vegetable with at least one in rows. Mixed intercropping is when you plant two crops together and do not use rows, such as when you have two different sized plants. Relay planting is when you sow a second crop in time to mature after a first crop has produced.

  Mixed intercropping, or basic interplanting, simply involves mixing crops in any available space. 

Intercropping can lower the amount of pests in your garden in a few ways. Some are chemical repellents that confuse and dissuade pests from entering the area. Others create a physical barrier so the pest can't get to the other plant.

Trap cropping (technically another kind of interplanting) actually encourages pests to gather. Parasitic wasp host plants give food and shelter to parasitic wasps searching for pests, while predator increase gives beneficial insects food and lets them then seek out pests.

Considerations for Successful Interplanting

Intercropping does take some planning in order to execute it successfully. 

Take a peek at the growing requirements of the plants you are putting in, first of all. 

When planning your intercropping, look at the growth rate. Vegetables that root deeply like carrots, tomatoes and parsnips can go well with more shallow veggies such as lettuce, broccoli and potatoes.

Shade is another factor to take into consideration when planning to intercrop. Tall and broad-leaf crops can have lettuce, spinach or celery underneath. Alternate spring, summer and autumn crops so you can successively harvest different veggies.

Certain plants can also help your garden repel pests. Think of cabbage, pumpkins and marigolds, or basil, asparagus and tomatoes.