Success in crops co-cultivation depends on several important conditions. However, the right choice of plant species is decisive. Several factors should be taken into account that affect the interaction of plants both under and above the ground:
- belonging to a botanical family, so that the accompanying plant, pre-, after or mid-crop does not spoil the crop rotation system
- nutritional requirements (preferably similar or similar in a given field)
- requirements for light, water
- habit, height, width of plants
- root system structure, width and depth of roots
- susceptibility to diseases and pest infestation.
In coordinate crops the main main yield and the mid-crop are usually distinguished. These are grown in relation to the main crop in several ways:
- in between rows (every second between rows)
- in the rows next to the main plant, then we have the so-called strip-crop system
- in the rows of the main plant (after the plants have come down from the field, before entering the field or even during the cultivation, e.g. a radish planted in carrots marks the rows, but can also be a yield).
This division can still be useful in any organic garden and make crop planning easier.
Practical Traditional Examples of Plant Selection for Crops Co-Cultivation
There are three main types of cultivation in coordinate crops that take into account the different requirements of the plants in terms of growth conditions and vegetation length.
Crops Co-Cultivation with Different Length of Vegetation
The main yielding plant has a short vegetation period. It is usually grown from sowing. The mid-crop is a plant with a medium or long vegetation period. It can be cultivated from sowing or from seedlings. Cucumbers are extremely useful for this kind of cultivation, because the shoots withering in the soil allow the free development of plants grown simultaneously.
Main crop – cucumbers; mid-crop – celery, corn, kohlrabi or Brussels sprouts.We sow cucumbers in the first decade of May in rows of about 1 m.The mid-crop – celery, kohlrabi or Brussels sprouts are planted in between rows. Before the cucumbers grow quite slowly, you can care for the others. For such co-cultivation, early tomatoes are also suitable as the main crop in combination with celery – as an intermediate crop.
The main yield has long and the mid-crop has a short or medium vegetation time. Both plants can be grown either from sowing or from seedlings.
Crops Co-Cultivation from Sowing
Main crop – carrot, parsley or beetroot; mid-crop – lettuce, radish or spinach. The fast-growing mid-crop plant is also treated as a row marker. This makes it possible to control weeds in the inter-rows early before the main plant starts to grow. The development of the main plant is initially slow (beets emerge after 7-10 days, carrots after 14-21 days, parsley after 21 days). Slowly growing seedlings have initially mature roots and do not interfere with the mid-plants. They grow fast and reach big dimensions after 30-45 days (lettuce and radish) or after 60 days (spinach).
Crops Co-Cultivation from seedlings
Main crop – late head cabbage; middle crop – early cauliflowers. The late cabbage is planted at a large spacing of about 60 x 60 cm. The plant grows quite slowly at first. It was planted in the beginning of June and covers between rows at the end of July. In the rows it is additionally thickened by planting early cauliflowers between cabbages. We will harvest the cauliflowers after 2 months and leave space for the growing cabbage. Such cultivation does not make it difficult to plant or care for both plants, because they have a different habit. This way the plants do not disturb each other either.
Note: The field for such a set must be exceptionally fertile and rich in water, because cauliflower requires a large portion of moisture during the period of setting the roses.
For crops from seedling or kohlrabi. Main crop – tomatoes; mid-crop – early cauliflower, early brassica or kohlrabi.Cauliflowers and tomatoes are planted in mid May. Cauliflowers are harvested in the middle of July, when the tomatoes are already grown. The density appearing in July doesn’t disturb both plants and even protects cauliflower roses from the sun. At the end of July, when we start to pick tomatoes, the cauliflowers are already harvested and we can easily reach the tomatoes. The tomatoes are planted at a distance of 80 x 50 cm and in every second row the cauliflower is planted at 50 cm intervals.
Plants with Similar Vegetation Length and Heat Requirements, but of Different Conformation. Cultivation mostly from Sowing
An excellent, even classic example is the cultivation of root plants from the celery family (especially carrots) with bulbs (onions, see). One- or multi-strip sowing of root plants is used. In between rows next to the plants, rows of onions are sown. Pores or spring onions can also be planted.
Plants with a short Vegetation Period, Gradually Grown in Succession from Sprint to Autumn
Very intensive crops co-cultivation was used before the Second World War by some vegetable growers near Warsaw on easy to cultivate and strongly fertilized soils.
Intensive Vegetable Co-Cultivation with a System of Gardeners near Warsaw
In the second decade of March, on the stretched out ridges, spring onions were planted on chives at intervals of about 30 cm, 3 onions each side by side. Lettuce from seedlings was planted between the onions, the same 3 plants each, and the sides of the ridges were planted with two rows of kohlrabi.
In the end of March early cauliflowers were planted in every second furrow about every 50 cm, and in the end of April tomato was planted in the same furrow as two cauliflowers. The groove not planted with cauliflowers facilitated access to the plants during the next harvest. The harvest started in the middle of April. Till the beginning of May the onion bundle harvest was finished, lettuce was ready to be harvested in the middle of May, during May also kohlrabi were harvested from the field. Cauliflowers yielded in June and at the end of this month there were only tomatoes left in the field.
Before planting the tomatoes, a single hoeing was used. After collecting onions, lettuce and kohlrabi, weeds were weeded and hoeing was carried out with the simultaneous light sprinkling of cauliflower and tomatoes with soil from ridges. After harvesting the cauliflowers, weeds were thoroughly weeded out, removing the remains of the previous crops, and at the same time the tomatoes were covered and piled and the ridges were completely covered. The cauliflowers were fed at the beginning of May and after harvesting the cauliflowers the tomatoes were fertilized. It is worth adding that periodic over-density, when 5 plants were at the same time next to each other, was not beneficial for the cauliflowers. Cauliflowers planted early gave sometimes a higher percentage of rush and did not stand the lack of moisture. At the same time this density protected the tomatoes from frost. Their yield was satisfactory. Onions, lettuce and kohlrabi were not adversely affected by this density. As you can see, such a quite complicated coordinate cultivation allowed to obtain from one field the yield of as many as five plant species and even more of them.