Interplanting for Maximum Harvest

by Ivory Soap

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picture by Julie

Interplanting sounds fancy, but it just means planting different things together. Like, instead of planting only corn, you planted spinach in between the corn stalks. And the corn shades heat-hating spinach from the hot summer sun.

That would be the planned version.

Mine and TL’s version of interplanting is better categorized as “Oh Look, A Hole!” Properly space tomato seedlings have a lot of acreage between them. I should toss in some…Lettuce! Sprinkle, sprinkle.

I’m going to go into the how and why of some pairings, but before I bore you with all of that, here’s the simple answer:

Radishes, leaf lettuce, spinach, scallions are your interplanting staples.

Fling them around and tuck them in any space you like. Almost any crop (cabbages, carrots, corn, tomatoes, onion, parsnips), can have these three planted in and among them.

Now for the technical stuff….

There are three different rationales for interplanting…speed, direction, and physical benefits

  • speed–pairing a fast producing crop with a long season crop means you harvest number one, before crop two really gets going and needs the space.
  • direction— One grows up, one grows down. Plenty of room for everybody.
  • physical benefits–beans gotta climb, sunflowers have sturdy stalks.

Other known pairings:

  • cabbage and onion
  • swiss chard and peppers
  • peas and carrots

You can work all that out in advance if you like, but for the “Oh Look, A Hole” type interplanting, just remember the radish, spinach, lettuce, and scallions!


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

ranch101 June 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Hee, hee, hee! “Oh, look, a hole” is the story of my yard. I’ve been noticing all the space between the tomato plants, and now maybe I’ll stuff something in there. (We’ve got baby tomatoes!!!) And I’ve pretty much decided the ancient seeds I scattered simply are not going to germinate, so that leaves quite a bit of hole.

Kenneth Moore June 4, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Ha! That’s my style of planting; Oh look, a hole!

That’s also my style of shopping; Oh look, a new variety of tomato! Oh look, a cute planter! Oh look, $50 worth of June-bearing strawberry plants and grape vines!

It’s fun, but the remorse soon comes. I think the “Oh look, a hole” interplanting technique has far less remorse attached to it than the “Oh look, $$” shopping habit.

Another good idea, I think, is planting some of those things with your regular houseplants. I have a planter with a cute little Gynura aurantiaca, Purple Velvet Plant, with chives and red basil. A lot of container-grown tree-type plants can be interplanted with things such as lettuce, spinach, or even onions, or heck, almost any type of herb.

I have to fight to stop my beans from growing up my tomatoes–it’s hard enough just keeping the one plant upright, it doesn’t need any added weight!

Michelle June 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I recently borrowed Carrots Love Tomatoes from the library…very informative for the whole companion planting thing. But I have to say…I like your technique best! That’s pretty much how I work! Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m always leraning. Love your blog!

ivorysoap76 June 4, 2009 at 8:11 pm

I’m just getting the hang of this companion thing too! I think it’s fun to keep rearranging. It lets me put in the obsessive energy in my gardening that I always wanted! HA!

ivorysoap76 June 4, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I love the houseplant idea. If I ever get one to live….

ivorysoap76 June 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Yes, TL has one hole from ancient cuke seeds. I have holes from ungerminat3ed herb seeds. What is up with that?

Hannah June 5, 2009 at 2:47 am

Ah, so helpful! And lovely to hear that others are a bit, shall we say, haphazard about their gardening as well!

ivorysoap76 June 5, 2009 at 12:42 pm

SO haphazard. I love planning it all out, but then I totally violate the plan once I get out there.

mom-and-rn October 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I alway’s heard “crop rotation” which to me means “don’t plant that vegie in the same spot you did last year! Easy. Helps to maybe expand that to don’t plant the same COLOR vegie you did last year.

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