• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Intercropping  RSS feed

 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
79
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We need a thread to talk about intercropping -- how we can incorporate it into some of our other permaculture principles. If nothing else, it is a step away from mono-cropping, and if we are knowledgeable about that first step, we can be more successful in luring people away from conventional monocrop agriculture into permaculture. Some people just aren't ready to build hugelbeds and throw all the seeds in the catalog on it to see what comes up!

I'm planning an experiment this spring with an intercrop of finger millet and pigeon peas. I got the idea from this study. I'm going to till in some biochar in my test plot and once the soil temp gets up to 70, I'll plant it and take notes.

So tell us about your intercropping plans. Even if it is just the classic Three Sisters plot, fill us in on the details. There are so many different types of corn, beans, and squash, that there are probably billions of permutations. Which one have you selected and why?
 
Zach Hurley
Posts: 27
Location: South Georgia Zone 8b
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have recently found out about Permaculture and have enjoyed the idea of an apple guild (Anna and Ein Shemer apples). I don't know if that is considered intercropping or not. I have planted some bocking 4 and 14 comfrey. I have planted some dill seeds and a couple flowering perennials via seeds but I haven't seen any of them sprout yet. I plan on adding a vine like kiwi or honeysuckle up the tree as it gets large enough. Also, I've been interested lately about sweet potatoes but I don't know if that'll compete with the tree for nutrients.

All in all, I am excited to the point that what I'm doing may not actually work out but I'm having fun with it and hope to learn what works best.
 
Cr Baker
Posts: 13
Location: Sacramento, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My first experiment with intercropping started last fall when I decided that I wanted to do a fall garden, since we have such a long growing season here (zone 9b). After identifying some cold-weather crops that I thought I wanted to try, and agonizing over how to fit everything together in the limited amount of space that I had, I finally just threw my hands up and sprinkled all my seed packets evenly over my 4X4 raised bed and started watering. The result was that I ended up with a few plants that I could never quite identify or figure out how to harvest or eat (is this a root or a leaf crop? Or maybe just a funny weed?). My lettuce did quite well, and although a few of them have bolted, there's still quite a bit left since I mostly selected indeterminate varieties. The carrots have been phenominally slow. I never saw anything come of the radishes, onions, or scallions ... where'd they go? I did manage to throw in some market onions that were left too long in the kitchen and began sprouting, and they are growing quite well.

So far, I'd say that this was pretty hit-and-miss. I'd like to try some more interplanting, but I'm not sure where to go from here, since I don't know why some things worked and some did not. I'd love some help.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'll be filling in this thread with considerably more information as the season goes on. In going for multi-level crops I have sweet corn, burgundy amaranth, quinoa, and a variety of sunflowers as my stalk. Snap peas are my legume, because they are great and last year we didn't have near enough. For my vines I have pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelon. I have some squash seeds, but I ran out of room where I planned them and need to find another spot.

I also have borage, chard, spinach, romaine, and rhubarb in an alternating pattern lining a pathway with strawberries, asparagus, dill, fennel, basil, nasturtium, viola, and of course snap peas all near a pear tree. I intend on using the excess leafy greens as a green mulch in these areas. I am going to watch these pretty heavily to try to see what grows best where, but I didn't set most of this up very scientific-like so there will be a lot of results with no control. I don't have time this season to sweat the small stuff.

This is my first season doing some really excessive levels of intercropping, without doing a lot of research. I'm sure I will have some colossal successes and colossal failures.

I hope to provide pics with a solid description of what I'm doing for water, nutrients and the like.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am trying it out this year with a large patch of sweet corn. I am in the process of mixing Dutch Clover with sweet corn: after the corn has been harvested I will mow down the stalks and let the clover take over. I do not intend to till the clover under after the corn has been harvested: instead I am hoping that it will suppress the weeds and grass so that I only need to plant, water, and harvest.

If I get a good stand of clover I *MIGHT* end up with a garden bed that needs little weeding. It would also mean that small vegetables could not be planted there, but if it works I can limit that area to bell peppers, broccolli, eggplant, sweet corn (of course), and other tall plants.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John, for clarity's sake, how are you defining intercropping here?
I think guilds qualify, but that you don't intend to go that far just now.

I have in mind to plant lettuce right along with my tomatoes this year, expecting the lettuce to start faster than the tomatoes and be cropping before the tomatoes shade it out and hoping that rather than shading our, they keep the lettuce cool. So two types of plant, one planting time, one form of intercropping. I have garlic in the ground now and not sure on what I will put in with it, but staggered start times with different plants, another form of intercropping.
At this point, my wife and I are not good enough on plant Id to just mix and throw a la sepp holzer, but we want to get the benefits of plant synergies and the soil improvements that come with intense planting.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1787
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
195
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This year I am planting snow peas or snap peas around the outer edges of all my raised containers and taller beds. I plan to let them trail over the edges and down. i will snip the tips mercilessly for salads, and chop them for mulch around the tomatoes and peppers when the summer heat comes.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
79
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Ellis wrote:John, for clarity's sake, how are you defining intercropping here?
I think guilds qualify, but that you don't intend to go that far just now.


Following the K.I.S.S. principle, let's just keep it to two different species planted together. Or maybe three. Guilds are nice and something to aspire to, but the number of plant-plant interactions go up exponentially (actually, factorially) when you keep adding to the intercrop and that makes it hard to figure out cause and effect. My original example of finger millet and pigeon pea is a simple two component intercrop, one a grass and the other a legume.

I've also been looking for what to intercrop with my sunflowers, and I've settled on some Charentais melons. Oh sure, I will scatter some sunflowers in with the three sisters and other places in the garden, but I particularly want to study how the melons and the sunflowers act as a pair.

Big Ag is all about monocropping, so we can't expect any help from them. To develop a knowledge base for advancing Permaculture, we need to know all the pairwise interactions. I remember seeing a post where someone showed a picture of amaranth planted next to eggplant. The eggplant right next to the amaranth wasn't doing too well. In fact, you needed to get 3 rows over before you saw healthy, full size eggplants. That's a good factoid to know. But how to catalog that information for the next time we want to plant something from Amaranthacaea and something from Solanacaea?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3357
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Elliott wrote: Big Ag is all about monocropping, so we can't expect any help from them.


Not entirely true anymore. Google Gabe Brown--he uses 20+ varieties in a polyculture cover crops and pastures.

There is also a LOT of work in intercropping corn and clover on an ag scale. But that is only harvesting one crop while the other is a support. Getting to harvest both is where we need to be, and that is a lot easier in a zone 1 permaculture type space and scale.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
79
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Scott wrote:
Not entirely true anymore. Google Gabe Brown--he uses 20+ varieties in a polyculture cover crops and pastures.


And Big Ag pays people like that no attention, because they don't need as many of the industrial inputs that Monsanto and others are selling.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3357
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Elliott wrote:
R Scott wrote:
Not entirely true anymore. Google Gabe Brown--he uses 20+ varieties in a polyculture cover crops and pastures.


And Big Ag pays people like that no attention, because they don't need as many of the industrial inputs that Monsanto and others are selling.


"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi

I think we are past ignoring.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Scott wrote:
John Elliott wrote:
R Scott wrote:
Not entirely true anymore. Google Gabe Brown--he uses 20+ varieties in a polyculture cover crops and pastures.


And Big Ag pays people like that no attention, because they don't need as many of the industrial inputs that Monsanto and others are selling.


"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi

I think we are past ignoring.


They have been fighting for decades. Look at the structure of regulation and subsidy.
 
Beware the other head of science - it bites! Nibble on this message:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!