There are many combinations of plants for interplanting – which combination suits your needs the most?
One way of maximizing the return from garden space is to interplant crops. This is the practice of planting one kind of crop, and then planting a different crop in between the rows of the first. There are a number of ways this can be beneficial.
First, you may have an area devoted to larger, summer-maturing crops like cabbage, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. These crops won’t be approaching their full size until late June. But by that point in the season, some cool-loving, fast growing crops will be ready for harvest. Think of arugula, spinach, and some lettuces – these plants tend to bolt with the arrival of hot weather. Harvesting them will give lots of room for the big Brassicas to grow in through July.
Another way to interplant is with flowers, and our favourite is Alyssum. This plant grows in thickly, smothering weeds that might otherwise appear between rows of crop plants. But it is low-growing, and covered with flowers that attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps and pollinators. As you harvest, Alyssum tends to spread into any open area. It is an easy plant to control, and can simply be pulled up and composted.
In dense plantings, herbs, vegetables, and flowers can all be comingled to produce great results. Basil makes a superb understory for tomato plants, and both types of plants thrive in the heat of late summer. Grow a row of marigolds in around this combination for colour, and to repel soil nematodes.
Another great flower for interplanting is Phacelia, one of the most attractive plants for both wild and domestic bees. If you had trouble with pollination on squash plants, sow some Phacelia seeds between your rows or around your beds. Crimson clover also works well, and has the added benefit of fixing nitrogen in the soil!
On that note, why not interplant with other cover crops? Sow fast growing soil builders like buckwheat or nitrogen-fixers like clover. If you know approximately when you are going to harvest a row of vegetables that are nearing maturity, sow buckwheat between rows of that crop three to four weeks earlier. When your main crop comes out, cut the buckwheat down and till it into the soil – then you’ll have super soil for your fall harvest crops.