April 5, 2023

Intercropping - noun

Definition: A planting method in which two or more crops are grown in proximity on the same plot of land with the intention of increasing yields while taking advantage of the mutual benefits of companion cropping. 

Intercropping in the Forest Garden:

Intercropping helps farmers maximize yields on small plots of land. By identifying plants that complement each other's needs and growing them alongside each other, farmers can harness a wide variety of ecological benefits. Intercropping can promote benefits such as natural support, pest prevention, soil fertilization, weed suppression, shade and wind regulation, or pollinator attraction.

The main design considerations when intercropping revolve around crop selection and the growing patterns of those crops. Most intercropping occurs in four main patterns: 

  1. Strip: two or more crops are grown in parallel strips spaced wide enough for individual cultivation while still leveraging ecological benefits 
  2. Row: two or more crops are grown together with a minimum of one crop planted in a distinct row (eg. The “three sisters” combination of climbing beans, corn and squash)
  3. Mixed: there is no specific order to the crops,  but they provide each other with mutual benefits
  4. Relay: this patter is dependent on the lifecycle stage of the intercropped plants. Typically, the second crop in the intercropping schedule is planted after the first crop reaches the reproductive stage and before it reaches peak maturity. 

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