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Underplanting - help me understand it

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  • Underplanting - help me understand it

    I've seen some people refer to underplanting their veg. As a newbie to growing veg and wanting to make best use of my available space could someone explain what this means? And suggest some combinations please.

    Would the underplant need to be one that doesn't need so much light if it is partially shaded by a larger plant?

    Thanks for any help.
    _________________________
    "..I went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.." Tom Lehrer

  • #2
    Hi Rossa,

    There's a common companion planting method called the 3 sisters that you may like to try - you grow sweet corn in a grid pattern. You then grow climbing beans using the corn as support stalks. Around the base you grow courgettes. This means the corn supports the beans and the courgette smothers the weeds. This probably means that courgettes aren't so fussy about sun either so could be grown under anything?

    I haven't tried this approach myself, but i've heard that it is great if you can get the timing right so that your beans don't grow up faster than your corn and end up falling sideways.

    Margaret

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    • #3
      You can grow fast growing crops between slower ones, e.g. radishes, baby turnips or kohl rabi between, say, winter broccoli, kale, parsnips or leeks; or you can grow crops that like a bit of shade underneath taller crops, e.g. lettuce under a wigwam of beans. Squash is often grown under sweetcorn because the squash plant needs a lot of space for its long trailing vines and huge leaves whereas sweetcorn is tall and narrow and doesn't create too much shade, so the squash fruits still get enough sun to ripen (assuming we get any sun, that is!).

      I usually grow garlic around my outdoor tomatoes, since the garlic doesn't take up much space and is ready to harvest before the tomato plants get really big (also garlic is a good companion plant for tomatoes).

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      • #4
        Most people use underplanting / intercropping to make the best use of space - it's like trying to get two crops out of the same bit of land.

        Intercropping tends to have two crops that have different growth rates - you could plant radishes on the same bit of land as your cabbages. And a long time before the cabbages needed the space, the radishes would have been long gone

        Under cropping something like sweetcorn with dwarf French beans or salads is usually done as the beans / salads can stand a bit of shade, and don't compete for the same light / space / nutrients. Peas or beans fix nitrogen which is in turn used by the sweetcorn. The idea is that everyone wins - 3 sisters planting is a well known one for sweetcorn. I only do 2 sisters

        A different reason for undercropping can also be to help reduce damage from pests - underplanting brassicas with clover, for example, is said to reduce damage by cabbage whites. The butterflies check potential site vegetation to see that it's "mostly" something appropriate before laying eggs. The fact that cover is among the cabbages, means that the butterfly think it's a less tasty site and it may move on. Like the above tho, the cover also fixes nitrogen which is taken up by the cabbage.
        Douglas

        Website: www.sweetpeasalads.co.uk - starting up in 2013 (I hope!)
        Twitter: @sweetpeasalads

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        • #5
          Hi Douglas,

          How do you time the planting so that the corn is tall enough to support the peas/beans? I've never grown corn before, is it fast-growing?

          Margaret

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          • #6
            When i underplant Sweetcorn, it's with a dwarf variety with only grows to about a foot high so it doesn't need much in the support - it just has a few twigs in the ground
            Douglas

            Website: www.sweetpeasalads.co.uk - starting up in 2013 (I hope!)
            Twitter: @sweetpeasalads

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            • #7
              I found doing the 3 sisters really cut down on the lifespan of the beans & courgettes plants ie less crop and also a nightmare spotting/picking your beans/courg's. But then its always worth trying again & again and maybe oneday mastering the art
              Blog

              Hythe kent allotments

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              • #8
                I was thinking of trying 2 or 3 sisters this year.
                I figured that if the beans / squash were the kind that don't need to be harvested regularly (beans for drying, pumpkins??) then it wouldn't matter if it was hard to get in there. Or maybe use yellow beans / courgettes so they are easier to spot?

                It also occurred to me to use Sewer Rat's tip from a recent thread to pop a bean seed in the hole when planting out the sweetcorn plants, so the bean comes up only once the corn is well established. Thoughts?
                Last edited by Demeter; 26-03-2009, 08:11 PM.
                Warning: I have a dangerous tendency to act like I know what I'm talking about.

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                • #9
                  I'm not convinced we have the right climate here to do Three Sisters successfully - and the Native Americans used it with beans for drying, not for eating fresh. I'm going to underplant my sweetcorn with squash and grow the beans separately - I like my beans too much to risk them not growing properly!

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                  • #10
                    Food for thought...haha.

                    Will have a go and see what happens. Thanks for your help

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                    • #11
                      Yet another thought...I do have them some times...lol

                      Could you do "sisters" planting with any of the brassicas? I'm growing cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts. And scarlet kale and purple top turnips (which I've been told is a brassica). Broccoli is everything from calabrese to PSB to Romanesco as it's favourite around here.

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                      • #12
                        Go to your library and get out several books on veg gardening and allotments. They will describe catch/ inter/ and under cropping fairly well

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Rossa View Post
                          Yet another thought...I do have them some times...lol

                          Could you do "sisters" planting with any of the brassicas? I'm growing cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts. And scarlet kale and purple top turnips (which I've been told is a brassica). Broccoli is everything from calabrese to PSB to Romanesco as it's favourite around here.
                          You can grow broccoli with other plants as companions. Some plants may help to deter certain pests (e.g. marigolds). You can also grow quick-cropping veg like lettuce, radish, baby carrots in between rows of slower growing brassicas like PSB. The other veg will be long gone by the time the brassicas really need all that space between them.
                          Warning: I have a dangerous tendency to act like I know what I'm talking about.

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                          • #14
                            Had a look around on the 'net and some say grow climbing beans up artichokes or sunflowers. Guess that's cos they all grow so tall, so artichokes and sunflowers are the support.

                            If the beans in the 3 sisters planting would be better being beans for drying would my borlotti beans be a better idea than climbing French beans?

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                            • #15
                              Corn and butternut squash (2 sisters) works really well.

                              Comment

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