Intercropping Vegetables in Late Spring and Early Summer, aka 'Relay Planting'


| 6/19/2015 9:28:00 AM


Tags: intercropping, companion planting, relay planting, Pam Dawling, Virginia,

 

On 18 March 2015, I wrote Intercropping: Companion Planting that Really Works. In that post I talked about planting spinach with peas, and chard with lettuce or scallions. Here I’ll write about vegetable crop combinations that work well for later spring and early summer plantings. In the near future I‘ll write about undersowing winter cover crops in summer vegetable crops.

 

Interplanting Lettuce and Peanuts (or Tomatoes, or Peppers)

Interplanting, or relay planting, is a version of companion planting where the second crop is planted while the first is still growing. Lettuce can be interplanted with a slower crop to increase the productivity of an area and provide better habitat for one or both crops. Cultivation is reduced, and the relay planting allows maximum use of the space. Examples include sowing or transplanting warm-weather crops such as peanuts, tomatoes or peppers into the center of beds of lettuce at the transplanting stage, or one month or more after direct seeding.

We have had great results sowing a row of peanuts in the middle of a lettuce bed. The timing is a little tricky, so try it at least twice before deciding whether it suits you. We are still fine-tuning this one! We sow the peanuts April 29–May 12 (around our average last frost date) into the middle of the bed with lettuce transplanted on April 22–May 15. The ideal seems to be to plant regular size lettuce transplants (not overgrown ones!) on the same day you sow the peanuts, or up to two weeks later. We use romaine lettuces and small Bibbs for these plantings, not large spreading leaf lettuces. Back when we sowed peanuts in an empty bed, the slowly emerging peanuts got lost in weeds and the slow-growing unusual seedlings were hard for some of our newer crew to distinguish from the weeds. 

We hoe our lettuce beds to kill the weeds, and as long as we remember that the peanuts are there and don’t hoe them off, they do well. In hot springs we have had shadecloth over the whole bed for the lettuce, and the peanuts come up very nicely. In cooler springs we use rowcover. The lettuce grows faster in cooler, wetter springs than peanuts do, so if necessary, we harvest the inner rows of lettuce a bit earlier than we might have expected, before the peanuts get swamped. All the lettuces are harvested before the peanuts grow large, leaving the peanut canopy to fill out the space.




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