- Basic rules for intensive planting
- Allelopathy – compatibility of crops in the garden
- Key benefits of intensive planting
- Self-defense of plants
- Compost biomass and mulch material
- Alternative to watering
- Improving soil structure and weed control
- Caring for the environment
Refusal from deep cultivation of the land, from the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides sometimes causes a skeptical smile on the faces of some gardeners. Indeed, it is easy to stigmatize a shovel and a plow, to refuse chemical services. But where are the guarantees that good fruits will grow in the garden, and pests will share the harvest with us?.
In previous articles “Organic farming: the main features”, “Flat cutter instead of a cultivator”, “Stop destroying the land by digging and weeding”, we found out that the basic principles of natural farming are – a complete rejection of deep tillage and respect for the land, as well as refusal from the use of any chemicals when growing vegetables and fruits. Today we will talk about intensive planting, which many agronomists consider the most important and fundamental principle of organic farming..
If you try to build a row of the main enemies of the garden, then plowing, bare land and monoculture will be in the first places. And if the farmer knows firsthand what an intensive planting of plants is, then both the shovel and the chemistry can be abandoned without any doubt.
In most cases, a particular crop rents a garden bed for the entire season, and before planting and after harvesting, the land remains uncovered. However, as we have already found out, this negatively affects the fertility of the soil, so the “relay race” in growing different plants on the same bed suggests itself. For example, in early spring, you can plant any hardy frost-resistant crop, then a thermophilic crop can be planted in its place, and after harvesting, the garden bed can be taken under something early maturing or technological. Thus, the land will be covered all season, and the life of the soil inhabitants will become more comfortable. This will contribute to an increase in the humus layer, and therefore, to improve the health of the soil and increase its fertility..
It is better to make the passing of the baton proactive. That is, the middle crop must be planted when the early crop is not yet fully harvested, and the late crop must be sown when the middle crop is still bearing fruit. For example, onions on greens, peppers and radishes get along well on the same bed. The onions can be left in the ground until the pepper has survived the stress of replanting, and the radish can be a wonderful undercoat for a fruiting pepper. There are a great many such combinations, but not all plants get along well with each other. Intensive planting must be approached thoughtfully and followed by a few basic principles that will guarantee high yields..
Basic rules for intensive planting
First of all, you need to ensure that the plant nutrition zones are separated. This can be achieved if crops with roots of different depths are neighbors in the garden. A striking example of such cohabitation is carrots with a deep core and onions with a small fibrous root..
Light is another important factor for intensive planting. It is necessary to combine plants of different heights so that each of them has the opportunity to receive a sufficient amount of sunlight. Here, as an example, you can cite a combination of cucumbers with cosmos. Cucumber whips in this case receive good support and light shading useful for them..
When choosing neighbors in the garden, it is necessary to take into account special agrotechnical methods when growing a particular crop. You can plant carrots and onions next to them, they will grow great together, but it’s time to harvest. Onions are dug up much earlier, which can lead to significant inconvenience. Cabbage feels good next to onions, but will it benefit from refraining from watering, which is useful before harvesting onions.
Another important point that must be taken into account when planting plants intensively is the concept of allelopathy, which I would like to talk about separately..
Allelopathy – compatibility of crops in the garden
Throughout its life (from the development of the seed to the formation of decaying residues), each plant constantly releases various biologically active substances into the environment, which creates a protective biochemical sphere around itself.
Gardeners, who are thoughtful and attentive to the growing process, often notice that different crops growing nearby affect each other in different ways. One plant can oppress another, or vice versa, have a beneficial effect and help with the growth and ripening of fruits. Scientists became interested in this phenomenon, and in the process of scientific research it turned out that cultures influence each other in different ways:
- through root secretions;
- spreading various physiologically active substances from leaves or stems;
- forming toxins during the decomposition of plant residues.
Based on these studies, such a subsection in the study of plants as allelopathy appeared. In agrotechnical science, this term is understood as the effect of one plant on another by each of them releasing special substances (antibiotics, colins, phytoncides, other enzymes) that affect the process of life of the garden. Substances secreted by plants can affect neighbors at any stage of development, be it seed germination, flowering or fruiting.
In nature, there are practically no plants in the secretions of which there would be no toxic substances, and a third of all species are capable of producing sufficiently strong toxins. However, it should be noted that allelopathy in many cases is not negative, but positive, which contributes to the better growth of the neighboring culture. Some substances secreted by plants are able to protect the “roommates” from diseases and pests, increase yields and improve the taste of fruits. And it is precisely on these allelopathic properties of crops that intensive planting of plants in organic farming is based.
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for assessing how well different cultures live. In this case, considerate attitude and life experience can help. For example, it has long been noticed that pumpkin gets along well with corn, onions with carrots, cucumbers with beans and peas, tomatoes with radishes, garlic and beets, and so on. The compatibility of most crops is described very accurately and in detail in the books of such famous agronomists who adhere to the principles of organic farming, such as Nikolai Kurdyumov, Natalya Zhirmunskaya, Boris Bublik.
Before settling plants of different species on the same garden bed, you need to figure out what effect they will have on each other. When creating plant communities, it is necessary to combine cultures that help each other and avoid planting oppressors together.
Key benefits of intensive planting
In the wild, there are no large patches planted with only one crop, such as potato fields. In our gardens, in most cases, instead of the lush natural diversity, there is a dominance of monocultural patches and stripes. And hence, in the opinion of the majority of gardeners-organists, and all our problems, which can be solved by intensive planting of plants. Let’s figure out what bonuses the farmer will receive by applying this basic principle in practice..
Self-defense of plants
As you know, pests mainly find their food by smell. A cabbage scoop, for example, always flies for the smell of mustard oil produced by cruciferous crops. In a companionable planting of plants, there are some effective ways to protect against harmful insects, the main of which is odor repelling. In onions with carrots, this happens on a reciprocal basis, in other neighboring plants – unilaterally. The scent of a tomato cannot be tolerated by the cabbage fly, and the aroma of basil is not at all to the liking of the horned worm, who so loves to eat tomatoes and corn. Some plants can provide excellent camouflage and confuse pests. For example, marigolds successfully protect cabbage from caterpillars.
Sometimes plants act as traps. Marigolds and rye attract nematodes, but they are unable to reproduce in their roots. Many plants attract beneficial predatory insects to the garden, which eat parasites, reducing their number.
Intensive planting of plants is able to simulate the diversity and ecological balance that exists in the wild. At the same time, neighbors in the garden protect each other from diseases and pests, everything is included in the work – flowers, herbs, technological crops and even weeds.
Compost biomass and mulch material
The principle of organic farming, such as intensive planting of plants, allows the farmer to almost completely abandon the “import” of fertilizers. Thanks to intensive planting, all the necessary components for the preparation of compost can be grown right in the garden, which, as you know, is a valuable fertilizer that improves the structure and fertility of the soil, protects plants from diseases.
The intensive planting method will also provide the gardener with the lion’s share of organic mulching materials. The benefits are obvious. Imported mulch must be mowed, transferred or transported and spread out on the beds. And for this, you see, it takes time and effort..
Grown right in the garden, the mulch does not need mowing, carrying, or laying out – it will completely independently fulfill its mission of structuring the soil and increasing the humus layer. The “live mulch” created as a result of intensive planting frees a person not only from the hassle of it, but also from many worries about the crops growing under its protection.
Alternative to watering
Intensive planting of plants dramatically reduces the need for watering, and in some cases allows you to completely abandon them. This can be explained by the fact that organic-rich soil retains much more moisture than clean bare soil. Live mulch reduces evaporation and promotes intense dew formation. With intensive planting, the moisture required in the root zone can be maintained for weeks without watering.
It’s no secret that irrigation takes a lot of time, effort and money, not to mention a constant source of water. Intensive planting of plants, even in the driest period, maintains sufficient soil moisture, protecting it from overheating and drying out.
Improving soil structure and weed control
The roots of all plants living in the garden constantly loosen the ground in the process of life. And this most important function of the principle of intensive planting allows you to completely abandon deep tillage..
The more abundant the vegetation, the softer and more airy the soil becomes. When decomposing, numerous roots enrich the earth with organic matter, leaving behind many channels through which air and moisture penetrate deep into the soil. Remnants of roots are excellent food for all soil inhabitants, which contributes to an increase in their population and, accordingly, leads to an increase in the fertility of your site.
Intensive planting of plants allows in some cases to control weeds. Probably, many paid attention to how clean the land is after rye has grown on it. This plant poisons all neighbors with its root secretions. White mustard, oats, buckwheat and barley are also good at cleaning the soil..
An intensively planted bed always creates competition among the plants, as a result of which even weeds can suffer. In this case, we are talking about their oppression, and the intensive planting of plants here plays a role by no means an episodic one..
Caring for the environment
Respect for the land, preservation and enhancement of its fertility is at the forefront of all the principles of organic farming. Intensive planting helps keep the soil from erosion and dust storms. Sheltered all year round and bound by roots, the earth is protected from weathering and washing out, it is not afraid of frost in winter and scorching sun in summer. In such a land is simply teeming with various useful organisms that make it “alive” and fertile. Intensive planting helps to restore ecological balance, which helps protect your garden from pests and diseases.
In those areas where the principle of intensive planting is applied, you will never see a dull black-pothole picture. The beds here, both in spring and in autumn, shimmer with all shades of green, not gray thawed patches, but emerald seedlings of rye and wheat, peep through the February-March windows from under the snow. There is no need to talk about summer at all. At this time, replacing each other, all kinds of flowers decorate the site. Such beauty improves mood, adds energy and health. Having mastered the principle of intensive planting of plants, you can not only improve the fertility and structure of the site, not only grow an ecologically clean rich harvest, but also significantly save time and energy, and get incomparable pleasure from working in the garden.