What is Inter-Planting?
This method of gardening is the opposite of Mono-Culture. Remember seeing row after row of the same crop, off into the horizon? Well, that's not all that mono-culture is. Even back here in my garden, when I have a row or a bed which only holds one type of plant it is also considered to be mono-culture - though there is nothing "agri-biz" in my garden.
Why would one want to confuse the gardener by mixing up the plants? My gardening friend says that it also "confuses the bugs." Now, that's worthwhile!
Also, if you have read or heard about Companion Planting, then you know that there are advantages in bringing plants of different types into the same bed. (No obviously not to mate - see the post on Saving Seeds which has not as yet been written for information on "crossing cultivars." Interplanting is way beyond (and inclusive of) mixing cultivars.
Potato Plants in Captivity (February 29, 2009) in the Greenhouse (before aphids & ants)
How did my interest in this come about? In the last Organic Club Meeting, I was asking how to inhibit the Blister Beetles that devoured my potato leaves last year. Besides being told that yes, there is a bird which eats them (the mightily noisy Guinea Hen), there are other ways to dissuade the bugs from an all out smorgasbord across the garden. That is, of course, Interplanting. I wrote about some of this in my previous blog about Interplanting Planning.
Today's garden adventure found the selected plants at the site of the potato patch for planting. Eggplant, Cabbage, Horseradish, Marigold & Nasturtium. Also invited to the party, but unable to attend today (as they are still in seed form and I'm not certain that its warm enough yet) were bush beans, corn and watermelon. All these plants grow well with potatoes or are of some value to the potato plant.
There seem to be no photos of my eggplant seedlings. Yet over 20 were counted today. (What a terrible mother of plants I am, not to have a single photo, and here they are, being planted already!) Oh well.
Nasturtium in the greenhouse, buds ready to flower, awaiting planting in the garden.
There is a very important difference between those two ways of being "companionable." Take the example of the Eggplant. I thought how wonderful that there is a good place for this vegetable. I was mistaken. On deeper reading I found the reason that it is recommended next to the potato is that the Colorado Potato Bug likes eating Eggplant even better than potato leaves! I realized that every Eggplant placed in that patch is being sacrificed! Actually, I have started way too many Eggplants, so the extras might as well be useful. I will try to save them from being devoured, but I understand their purpose here.
Horseradish is said to protect against blister beetles on the potatoes, by planting one at each corner of the patch. This morning I dug up last year's horseradish. My husband made a very strong grated, vinegar'd horseradish for medicinal and culinary uses. I planted a few thin roots into a greenhouse bed to see what would happen, and the biggest roots went out to the garden. I'm glad I'll have a few extras to use as I expand the potato beds around the yard.
Horseradish in the Upper Garden this morning before being dug up.
Technically this is supposed to be done before the leaves come up, or in the Autumn after the leaves have been removed. But I read about that after doing it "my" way, because NOW is when it needed to be moved to do service in the potato patch.
The directions I received for interplanting seemed to be to put a different plant on each side of all the plants. That extensive a "checker boarding" would use up a lot of my supply of plants and most importantly, space. We started this patch using the 12 sheets of newspaper (minimum) with straw on top method, with the intension of planting the potatoes in the straw. I thought it was an ultimately way over the top amount of space - but no, its not going to be near enough.
My first variety of potatoes (with interplants) took up 4 rows of perhaps 12 (its too dark outside to count now). I didn't even finish using all the seed of that variety. There's a lot more seed potatoes in the basement waiting for planting. It seems like I'm going to have to use a lot of upper garden space that I thought we were covering in that same paper/straw method just to get it ready for next year and have a neater garden. No, I think its going to all be potato fields forever (no, that's strawberries).
Cabbages, red and green, much younger than today.
Why so many potatoes? I took care of placing the group order for the Club, and wound up with extras, more than I had ordered. My husband likes potatoes. He makes a wonderful potato soup, and mashed garlic potatoes, and really good herbed roasted potatoes, and more. They are a very nutritious and complete food. They even are an emotional comfort food. And even if we don't need that many potatoes, I guess someone will.
I'd like to have enough left over to save for next year's seed too. Here's hoping ...
If I can't plant them all, I hope someone from the Garden Club will buy the seed from me. We sent away for top quality Organic Certified Seed Potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. There are some unique and interesting varieties, including King Henry which is supposed to protect itself and its neighboring potato plants from bugs. So yes, that variety is interplanted with the others.
With four interplanted rows under my belt, I may be able to handle the details and take photos of the process tomorrow. Exciting details will include a dusting of fresh grass clippings, an original method of marking plant spacing and the joys of crawling about in a fully straw filled garden bed.
May all the beds you crawl in and out of, yield loving, happy harvest.
Interplanting Instead of Mono-Culture on a Small Scale
My new perspective on planting the potatoes takes planning. Interplanting is an idea new to me, shared at the last Organic Garden Club meeting. To confuse the bugs and make the most of the soil minerals, I'm told to break up the plot from the mono-culture concept (one type of plant in each plot) and plant many different plants which "get along" in the same area. Keeping it mixed up year to year.
This info broke a mental stalemate I was in, uncertain where to plant what, and how to keep to a crop rotation when we do not plant equal amounts of plants in the varying categories to do it "the correct." I'm so fastidiously trying to do something "right". Usually I work hap-hazardly, which sometimes works, and other times, not so well.
My gardening friend said that she was reading a book called Solar Gardening, which gives the ideas of which plants will take the sun now, get harvested before their neighbors need the sun. Also she said that the concepts from Square Feet Gardening which advocates placing many different types of plants in small spaces.
If my description of these books seems rather weak, you are reading clearly. I have not read the books, I heard the idea from my friend, and combining those ideas with the help of companion planting book Carrots Love Tomatoes (which I do have and read and consult quite frequently), this year's garden plan is looking very different.
Of course, its late to be planning, and time to be doing!
Here's some of my beloveds waiting until its warm enough to dig in to the soil. These are tomatoes which I will attempt to plant with carrots (though its late to seed them). And the carrots like to be near parsley which is also ready for planting.
All the plants go out to the sunshine for hardening off
And then get put back in the greenhouse for a safe night's rest
Next day same thing, over and over
They are beginning to tell me that they wish to spread their roots deeper into the soil,
let's go already gardener!
"Achoo" I tell them, and find the energy to take another nap.
I hope you are not too bored, looking at these trays. I'm not showing all the plants which are impatiently waiting to be planted!
Yes there was some planting done since my last post.
To place the onions and leeks at the correct distance, I made up a Plant Measure Stick from the stalk of last year's sunflowers, straight and light weight (so if it rolled onto the plants it wouldn't hurt them). I marked 4, 5 and 6 inch intervals with a marker and used my wonderful Hori Hori knife to make the planting hole.
A soon after planting not-interplanted bed of onions. Some of them are now (one week later) more vertical, some not.
And the new strawberries also were planted.
Finally I did take the strawberry companions out to join their buddies in the soil. Chinese Greens and spinach do well with strawberries (so says the companion planting book). Also the borage herb was moved to their place beside the strawberries.
As evidence of how tired I felt, I did not even think to take a photo, though the camera was in my fanny pack. I'm almost done with these cold symptoms and the next few days will be good for planting. I have my list of what to mix in with the potatoes. The plot is ready, with string marked rows and deep straw. Just have to figure out the spacing between the plants and how many companions I have to mix in. Its a very exciting time for me.
Dear Readers, another reason for the long space of time between posts is that I've been trying to figure out WordPress as this blog software, RapidWeaver, does not integrate very well with Blotanical, a gardeners' blog central which I enjoy. But instead of studying tonight, I prefer to share, even if all the bells and whistles do not yet function.
May all energy, focus and timing flow through you in synch with Nature's rhythms.