Crop associations in the organic garden: What it is, benefits and examples

What is the crop association?

It involves planting vegetables, medicinal and aromatic plants, fruit trees, shrubs, etc. in the garden in a way that creates a beneficial relationship between them. The association of crops is a practice that brings benefits as important as the prevention of diseases and pests.

Later we will see why it is advisable to use this resource in organic farming and some examples so that you know how to put into practice the association of crops in your organic garden.

We also advise you which organic seeds to use , the best planters, growing boxes and tables for your garden and essential books to learn everything about organic gardening .

What are the benefits of the crop association?

The association of crops is a fundamental practice of any agroecological garden that helps us to:

  • Optimize the available space : the key is to combine horizontally growing plants with other vertically growing ones (leeks and lettuces, respectively) or fast growing species (radishes and lettuces, for example) with some slow growing ones like carrots and cabbage.
  • Optimize the use of the substrate : the combination of some species allows the plants not to compete for the same nutrients from the soil. Leafy vegetables have shallow roots and consume nitrogen from the soil. On the contrary, plants with deeper roots extract, above all, potassium.
  • Avoid the growth of weeds or spontaneous plants : by using the soil intensively, the surface is covered with vegetation and adventitious or uncultivated plants have less space and light to grow.
  • Promote agroecological control of harmful insects : horticultural species can be grouped together, with floral plants or with aromatic and medicinal species. Some species attract beneficial insects to the garden (such as pollinators or insectivorous birds ) and others, especially aromatic plants, act as repellants for harmful insects.

For example, in the association of corn with beans (beans or beans) both complement each other. The beans provide the nitrogen that the corn needs for its growth. The pumpkin or pumpkin benefits by taking advantage of the semi-decomposed organic matter that was accumulated in the previous stubble and from the cleaning of weeds.

The corn stalk serves as a support for the bean, which grows into it. In turn, the squash, due to its horizontal growth, covers the ground helping to control weeds.

Associated sowing of spring – summer

We can make two planks or terraces and we will use them as follows:

  • One for various vegetables
  • One for tomatoes
  1. In the plank or terrace for vegetables, we can associate root vegetables ( radishes , carrots , beets ), with leafy vegetables ( lettuce , chard , cabbage , etc.), in the following way: three lines of roots (at 0.50 m distance) and between them, we can plant lettuce, cabbage or spinach and at the head of the plank, two lines of parsley .
  2. On the tomato board, we can insert basil plants between the lines; This is a natural ally of the tomato that helps to counteract the attack of insects.

Let’s not forget about the flowers (the pompadour , the marigold , the nasturtium , etc.) which, placed at the ends of the boards, are beneficially involved in the control of pests, some acting as “repellants”, others harboring insects. beneficial.

Some examples:

  • The calendula on bulletin boards tomato, repels tomato worms.
  • Basil sandwiched between the tomato lines, prevents the attack of insects.
  • The basil is considered cheating Aphids plant and insect repellent in general; with greater incidence on the bedbug.
  • Marigold plants among tomatoes, avoid tomato moths.

crop associations

Also read: 12 things you can do to prevent pests

Associated sowing of autumn – winter

In winter, half of the beds, terraces or planks in the garden will be used to restore fertility . For this we will plant two lines of broad beans between which we will make a shallow ditch to pile weeds or wild herbs and plant remains as a contribution of organic matter to the soil .

In the rest of the boards you can combine leeks or garlic porridge , cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce.

Some examples:

  • When we associate dill with cabbage and carrots, the amount of worms that attack the cabbage decreases.
  • The mint near sprouts (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) away from pests that attack these plants.
  • Intercropping common sage between cabbages and carrots keeps diptera (flies) away through a repellent action.
  • Thyme plants on the plank of cabbage, prevent the presence of the leaf lizard and cabbage fly.
  • Sowing mustard between cabbages or Brussels sprouts regulates the presence of the cabbage aphid. Mustard acts as a trap plant and also attracts insects that eat and parasitize pest insects.

How to distribute these species so that they associate in the best possible way and make better use of space and time?

We can grow leeks or onions in the central part of the plank, as they are long-lasting crops (leeks 6 months and onions 8 months). On the sides, we can alternate cabbages, at a distance of 0.60 m. between each. While the cabbages are growing, we take the opportunity to transplant lettuces between them (they will be ready to be harvested two months after transplanting). Graphically, the cut of a plank or bed might look like this:

organic garden

Here is a table in which you can see the crop (species), whether or not it resists frost, what minimum distance should be left between one plant and another, its size when it is adult and with which other plants it should be associated.

Read more articles about Organic Farming

cultivation association

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