Raising two or more crops in the same area at the same time is referred to as either intercropping or interplanting. There are several ways in which intercropping can benefit gardening practices:
Pest and Disease Control:
Intercropping can reduce a wide range of pest problems, because insects seem to recognize large areas of a single vegetable better than isolated or interplanted plants. Insects and diseases may also spread more slowly when they infested a mix of host and non-host plants compared to an infestation of an areas with only one vegetable.
Structure and foliage:
Intercropping involves using plants with opposite structure and foliage. Plants that have large structures such as leaves, such as corn and squash provide shelter for climbing vines such as beans.
Consider the amount of time it takes a vegetable species to mature and try to intercroop slow growing vegetables with fast growing vegetables. Small vegetables such as radish and lettuce may be interplanted between tomatoes oand other large vegetables. They will mature and can be removed before the tomatoes need the space
Vegetable species have different vertical requirements and can be grown on trellises. Squash, beans, cucumbers, peas, melons and tomatoes are just a few examples.
Narrow leafed plants such as onions, leeks, shallots and garlic can easily fit between many leafy vegetables.
During the main growing period, usually May through August, the sun is at its brightest. Consider interplanting cooler weather crops, such as beans, beets, chard, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes or turnips, in between sun-loving plants. This can extend their season by benefiting from the shade of taller warm crop.
Blog by: Sabine Ehlers, CMG
Source: UT Exension PB1578
It’s no wonder that some people don’t like vegetables very much. If their only exposure to some vegetables comes from a can or frozen entrée, I can sympathize. I won’t bore you (or embarrass myself) with the long list of vegetables that I once thought I didn’t like. But, when you grow something with love in your garden, harvest it at the perfect tenderness or ripeness, and then enjoy it fresh; that can quickly convert you to a big fan of many formerly-disliked veggies.
Many longtime vegetable gardeners realize how gardening has expanded their culinary horizons. For those who are new to
gardening, I like to recommend that you grow something you don’t like. Or, should I say, grow something you don’t think you like. The vegetable garden can be full of pleasant and tasty
blog entry and photos by Mark Murphy, CMG
One of the first veggies to harvest from the Spring garden is asparagus. If you don't get to enjoy truly fresh asparagus, straight from the garden, then consider planting a bed for yourself (and your loved ones).
In addition to the great taste and health benefits of fresh asparagus, I really like that asparagus is a perennial plant; the crowns lie dormant in the soil through the winter months and come back to life by sending up new shoots each Spring. So, unlike a lot of typical garden fare, here's a crop that you can enjoy without having to sow or plant it every year. In fact, a well-maintained and healthy asparagus planting can be productive for 15 years or more!
Here's a few notes that I thought you might find helpful, from my own experiences with asparagus:
1. Asparagus appreciates a friable soil that is rich in organic matter. Raised beds are very popular for asparagus plantings; with the soil amended with compost, peat moss, and sand (when gardening in clay soils).
2. Asparagus prefers a soil pH in the 6.5 to 7 range. Test your soil and add Lime if needed.
3. Asparagus can be started from seed, but, to establish the bed more quickly, most folks purchase crowns for planting.
4. Patience is required! Your Asparagus plants need time to get well-established and vigorous. Though the temptation is hard to resist, don't harvest any of the spears during the first year. Minimal harvesting can be done during the second and third year. In the following years, all spears can be harvested until the time that they decrease to a "pencil size" diameter.
5. To control pests, mainly the Asparagus Beetle, floating row covers can be used in the Spring. In the Fall or Winter, after several killing frosts, cut down and destroy the asparagus brush to eliminate over-wintering Asparagus Beetle larvae.
For more information about establishing and harvesting Asparagus, see this page of our web site... click
Also, for further study, visit University of Tennessee document SP291-R, Growing Asparagus in Home Gardens, by professor David W. Sams.
With a little effort to prepare a nice bed for the planting, and with a little time to allow the plants to grow strong, asparagus will reward you with many years of delicious returns!
blog entry and photos by Mark Murphy, CMG
Based on the official USDA Plant Hardiness Zones map, Rutherford County, Tennessee is considered zone 7a. What is this zone? Hardiness zones are based on the average annual extreme minimum temperature during a 30-year period in the past, not the lowest temperature that has ever occurred in the past or might occur in the future. Why should we as Gardeners care? It helps us to select the right plants for our gardens.
How do you know which plant grows in which zone? Plant tags provide a range of zones where any given plant is expected to thrive the best. Keep in mind that this map is just a basic guide. If you did not know about these zones when you went on your last garden center shopping spree, or, if your hardiness zone has changed as it did for us in Middle Tennessee last year, that does not mean you should start pulling plants out of your garden or change what you are growing. What is thriving in your yard will most likely continue to thrive.
Why? There may be micro climates that are simply too small to show up on the map. This means, there may be small climate differences in some areas in your yard. For example, you may have small heat islands in beds that are located near concrete or a sheltered area in front of a south-facing wall. Or, you may have an area that's cooler than the rest of your yard, because it's a low spot where cold air pools first. No hardiness zone map can take the place of the detailed knowledge that gardeners pick up about their own gardens through hands-on experience.
But it does give us a great place to start from. So, for most consistent gardening success: Know your Zone.
Blog by: Sabine Ehlers, CMG
Take a look at my prior blogs and you'll see that I've spent the last 2 entries discussing some cautionary considerations regarding excess Nitrogen fertility. To wrap up, here's a summary of some materials you might use as a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. You can "manufacture" many of these items yourself; such as compost, leaf mold, and grass clippings. Most others are readily available at garden centers or farm co-ops.
<---- A small-scale Winter Rye (Secale cereal) cover crop.
Please note that there can be significant variance between how fast or slow these materials release their nitrogen constituent, but all are typically much slower than common manufactured water-soluble nitrogen products. Also, some of the materials are "complete" fertilizers containing Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), so I have included an average NPK value in parenthesis for reference.
Compost (1 / .5 / 1) My favorite source for overall fertility, compost also has the added benefit of being a superb soil conditioner that improves the health and the structure or "tilth" of soil.
Blood Meal (12 / 1.5 / .6) Dried blood derived from slaughterhouse waste.
Fish Emulsion (5 / 2 / 2) Material from commercial fish processing.
Alfalfa meal or pellets (3 / 1 / 2) Soybean meal (7 / 1.5 / 2) Seed meals (6 / 2.5 / 1.5)
Coffee Grounds (2 / .3 / .3) Cover Crops (.7 / .2 / .5)
Grass Clippings (4 / 1 / 3) Grass clippings that are free of weed seeds and that are NOT from a chemically-treated lawn are a nice source of bonus fertility for your garden. Simply apply as a mulch, usually not more than about 2 to 3 inches thick. Be careful to keep really fresh grass clippings a few inches away from plant stems, as those "green" clippings can heat up and damage tender vegetation. You can leave the grass mulch to naturally decompose in the garden, which will add more organic matter to your soil.
Leaf mold (.8 / .4 / .2) Composted leaves.
composted Horse Manure (.6 / .2 / .5) composted Cow Manure (2 / .5 / 2)
All of the materials above are derived from organic (once living) plant or animal materials. As an "Organic" gardener, I prefer to use those types of materials when seeking sources of additional fertility for my garden. For those of you that may be looking for chemical (inorganic) slow-release nitrogen materials, fellow Master Gardener, Don Richardson, listed these materials in a recent presentation: Resin-coated Urea, Sulfur-coated Urea, Isobutylidene diurea (IBDU), Methylene Urea, and Urea Formaldehyde.
Until next time... garden on!
sources: Organic and Sustainable Gardening presentation, Reggie Reeves, CMG (with materials summarized from University of Georgia Extension). Coping with Common Garden or Landscaping Problems presentation, Don Richardson, CMG.
blog entry and photo by Mark Murphy, CMG
In my prior blog entry, I focused on the importance of applying fertilizers at the recommended rates; as the over-application of fertilizers is not only wasteful, but can also damage your crops and/or pollute the environment. Here is a summary of some other detrimental effects that may result from excess application of Nitrogen fertilizers:
* Damage to tender seedlings, or "burning" and killing of established plants.
* In the early part of the growing season, excess available Nitrogen may feed germinating weeds, allowing them to get well-established; which may allow the weeds to out-compete the main crop.
* Excess growth of foliage and sub-par fruiting.
* Plants that are unable to emit as much of the natural chemicals that signal beneficial insects when pests are feeding.
* Additional expenditures of time and money to control pests.
* Cost of fertilizer that was not needed.
* Common “chemical” (non-organic) Nitrogen materials are acid forming, and their use may require additional application of Lime to regulate pH.
* Energy usage to manufacture and transport "chemical" nitrogen, or energy usage to procure and transport organic nitrogen sources.
* Pollution of ground water due to leaching.
* Soil denitrification produces Nitrous Oxide losses to the atmosphere (a potent greenhouse gas).
* Accelerated decomposition of soil organic matter, resulting in a lower percentage of organic matter in the soil.
Choosing slow-release forms of nitrogen fertilizers can provide some protection from excess availability of nitrogen in your garden. In my next blog entry, I will provide you with a list of some slow-release nitrogen sources.
blog entry and photo by Mark Murphy, CMG
additional source: Building Soils for Better Crops, Sustainable Soil Management, Fred Magdoff and Harold Van Es, sare.org (USDA)
Nitrogen is a key macronutrient required for plant growth. It is common practice for gardeners to enrich their soil with fertilizers that contain nitrogen; often in combination with other essential nutrients. However, keep in mind that when nitrogen is applied in excess, it can cause detrimental results for the garden and the environment.
Have you ever applied nitrogen fertilizer to plants and noticed an explosion of pest insects shortly thereafter? You may have supplied nitrogen in excess!
Check out this excerpt from Geoff Zehnder of Clemson University; "... over-fertilizing crops can actually increase pest problems. Research has shown that increasing soluble nitrogen levels in plants can decrease their resistance to pests, resulting in higher pest density and crop damage. For example, increased nitrogen fertilizer rates have been associated with large increases in numbers of aphids and mites."
So what's the solution? First, apply fertilizers at the recommended rates. Remember that a double application of fertilizer will not give you plants that are twice as good. Also, you might opt for organic sources that can supply slow-release nitrogen which may more evenly match the fertility needs of the plants.
Tune in next time, when I'll arm you with a little more info about some other potential drawbacks resulting from the excess application of nitrogen.
sources: Managing the Soil to Reduce Insect Pests, Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University, eXtension. org.
photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, bugwood.org, eXtension.org
blog entry by Mark Murphy, CMG