Interplanting, or intercropping, is a farming technique that involves planting fast-growing and slow-growing crops together as a way of maximizing your garden space. This prevents the crops from competing for the same nutrients at the same time. Instead, the different species offer mutual support for each other to ensure healthy growth. A classic example of interplanting is where squash, beans, and corns (also known as the “three sisters”) are grown together. Here, the corn protects the low-lying squash from wind while, at the same time, providing stalks for the beans to grow. The squash suppresses weeds by covering the soil, preventing them from competing with beans and corns for soil moisture and nutrients.
Interplanting also helps to repel pest insects, which are actually a big threat to crops. This can be achieved by planting, say, cabbage and tomatoes (where the latter protects the former from diamondback moth larvae). Another benefit of interplanting is improved soil nutrients, which can be achieved by growing legumes around fruit trees.
Successful interplanting will need proper planning and certain considerations. First of all, you will need to look at the growing requirements of the crops that you intend to interplant. Another important factor to consider is the growth rate of the plants. For instance, vegetables with shallow roots, such as potatoes, broccoli, and lettuce, can be interplanted with deep-rooted ones, such as parsnips, tomatoes, and carrots.
The shade is also an important consideration in interplanting. Tall crops can be interplanted with shorter ones to provide shade to the latter. It is also advisable to alternate autumn, summer, and spring crops to ensure you successfully harvest different crops throughout the year.