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Spacing Calculator for Biointensive Mixed Plantings Michael Bomford, Kentucky State University Organic Agriculture Working Group, http://organic.kysu.edu 400 East Main Street, Frankfort, KY 40601 BACKGROUND THE PROBLEM TOOLS BASED ON MIXTURE SPACING EQUATION Mixed planting, or companion planting, can offer • Mixed plantings spaced according benefits over monocultures: to Jeavons’ recommendations • Mixed crops often have higher yields than require more land than separate SPACING CALCULATOR monocultures because different species use monoculture beds when: SPREADSHEET different resources, making more efficient use of – One crop is much larger than the • Select options from drop-down menus: land.1 other – 1. Use pure stand spacing – The smaller crop makes up a • Mixed plantings often have fewer pest problems recommendations from Jeavons,4 Rodale larger proportion of the plants than monocultures because pests have a harder Institute,6 University of Kentucky than the larger crop time finding suitable hosts, or because diverse Extension,7 or another favorite source Mixture Snap bean • If mixtures use resources more – 2. Choose a primary and secondary crop 100 (pole) Corn plantings provide better habitat for natural 75 efficiently than monocultures they (spreadsheet limited to two-crop mixtures) enemies.2 cm 50 should not need more space. – 3. Select the number of secondary crop 25 • Diversity helps reduce risk. Promoting plants per primary crop plant in mix (crop 0 biodiversity is a stated goal of the USDAs ratio) 0 25 50 cm 75 100 national organic standards.3 • Spreadsheet calculates (in metric and US Corn Snap bean (pole) 100 100 Some crops are commonly grown in mixtures: measurement units): 75 75 • Hay is usually a mix of grass and legume cm cm 50 50 – Spacing between plants species. 25 25 – Spacing between offset rows 0 0 • Shade-grown coffee plantations mix low-growing – Crop ratio that dedicates an equal amount 0 25 50 cm 75 100 0 25 50 cm 75 100 coffee bushes with trees. of land to each crop The spacing calculator spreadsheet • Backyard gardeners often mix vegetables, herbs, – Planting density for component crops and generates planting diagrams for and flowers in the same bed. mixture mixtures based on pure-stand plant Although mixed plantings are common, practical – Much more… spacing for component crops. resources for those who grow mixed crops are Two-crop companion planting Download: http://organic.kysu.edu/CompanionSpacing.shtml few; production guides and extension materials diagram with dimensions, adapted often assume monoculture. from How to Grow More Vegetables... Corn plants are represented by yellow circles; beets are red. A mixture of 33 corn plants ONLINE SPACING Corn Beans Squash and 80 beet plants requires 60 sq. ft. CALCULATOR BIOINTENSIVE MINI-FARMING • Requires – Recommended spacing • How to Grow More Vegetables… by John for pure stand Jeavons4 advocates a gardening system (up to four crops) called "biointensive mini-farming," which consists of: – Relative proportion of – deeply-cultivated (“double dug”) beds crops in mixture amended with compost • Delivers – high-density mixed plantings – Between-plant spacing for – offset rows evenly-spaced mixture (every plant is the same distance from its six nearest neighbors, creating a beehive – Between-clump spacing for If each hill has 4 corn plants, 4 bean pattern of hexagons) clumped mixture plants and 1 squash plant then hills should be spaced 37” apart. The same number of plants grown in two pure stands would require only 53 sq. ft. SF SF B SF SF C of bed space, leaving 7 sq. ft. for another SF SF B C C C B SF SF crop SF B SQ SF SF SF B C B C B C 37” B C SF B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B SF C C C C SF B B B B B SQ B SQ B SQ B SQ 37” B C C C C C B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B A SOLUTION C B C B C B C B C B For plant spacing in mixtures, • An equation5 can be used to B C SQ B C SQ B C SQ B C SQ B C SQ B CHexagonal spacing diagram from Jeavons uses the mean of his B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B calculate between-plant spacing C C C C C CHow to Grow More Vegetables... The recommended plant spacings for B B B B B B for mixtures (smix) from: Example: The Wampanoag people SQ B SQ B SQ B SQ B SQ B SQspacing between plants is equivalent component crops. For example, he C C C C C – The recommended spacing for traditionally planted circular gardens of corn B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C Bwithin and between rows, forming a suggests that corn plants in C C C C C each component crop in pure and beans in clusters of four in evenly-spaced B B B B Bhexagonal lattice of tightly-spaced monoculture be spaced 15" apart, stands (sA, sB…) SQ B SQ B SQ B SQ B SQ mounds. A squash plant was grown by each C C C Cplants. and beet plants 4" apart, so corn B C C B B C C B B C C B B C C B – The proportion of the mixture mound. The online spacing calculator can be used C C C C B B B B and beet planted as a mixture are accounted for by each to calculate inter-clump spacing for clumped mixtures SQ SQ B SQ SQ spaced 9.5" ([15+4]/2) apart. component crop (pA, pB…). C like this from recommended spacing for pure stands. B C C C B B 2 2 smix = p A s A + pB sB + ... Try it: http://organic.kysu.edu/CompanionSpacingCalculator.shtml • Mixtures spaced using this equation use the same amount of 1. 2. P.A. Jolliffe. 1997. Are mixed populations of plant species more productive than pure stands? Oikos 80: 595-602. H.A. Smith & R. McSorley. 2000. Intercropping and pest management: A review of major concepts. American Entomologist 40: 154-161. land as if the component plants 3. 4. USDA National Organic Program. 1999. Definitions -- Regulatory Text. http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOP/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html J. Jeavons. How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Ten Speed Press, were divided into pure stands 5. Berkeley CA, 2006. M.K. Bomford. 2009. Do tomatoes love basil but hate Brussels sprouts? Competition and land-use efficiency of popularly recommended and discouraged crop mixtures in biointensive agriculture systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 33 (4): In press. 6. F.M. Bradley & B.W. Ellis. Rodales All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Rodale Press, Emmaus PA, 1992. 7. B. Rowell, R. Bessin, J. Masabni, J. Strang, T. Jones, & K. Seebold. 2006-07 Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Lexington KY, 2007