Managing Small Acres by Interplanting

Many urban and small farmers produce a huge amount of food on a small amount of land. I’d like to share a few suggestions for others who are interested in making maximum use of minimum acres.

First, plant fat rows with multiple crops. As long as you are doing the majority of the work by hand, there is no need to leave drive rows of wasted space between crops. “Small rows means saved space!” must become your motto.

fat-rows

Second, don’t wait until a season ends to plant the next season’s crops. When harvesting cool season vegetables, harvest so that you create spaces to plant summer crops. For example, there are tomatoes in my lettuce row, my kale has squash planted under it, my carrots have peppers interplanted, and the onions and the radish are amongst the blueberry bushes. As you can see, my fat rows are a melting pot.

squash-and-kale    blueberries-and-onions

The downside to this planting method is everything must be managed by hand. Even the soil, which can suffer nutrient depletion if not managed REALLY well.

On the upside, aside from saving space, interplanting creates a diverse planting that prevents insects and pathogens from causing too much damage. For instance, I planted some eggplant transplants in an area surrounded by carrots and kale. The little transplants, which are tucked in happily, have thus far not been bothered by flea beetles, the most common pest of young eggplant.

As for my planting process, as soon as the cool season crop is completely harvested, we pile compost in the rows around the new summer plants. We also keep a thick layer of straw on the ground to suppress weeds and build the soil as it breaks down.

My interest in this area is not limited to my own experience. I have also read books about companion planting in which the authors suggest there could be synergies when certain crops are planted together. If this is true, I haven’t mastered it. Can the same be said for my readers? I would love to hear your opinions.

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