Wild + free + jamming with life

30th Nov potager

Dear Gardeners,

As you gear up for your spring and summer planting here’s a phrase I’m chucking out for you to ponder – relay intercropping. Its like companion planting on steroids and will take the health of your vegie patch next level.

In a nutshell, it’s plant combos of different root depths and nutrient needs that support each other to be great at the same time creating a flow of constant ground cover without the empty bed syndrome in between. This varied, living soil cover comes with a big pool of microbial soil helpers – and these guys are the key!

The bigger the range of soil life, the more garden jobs you tick off ergo the less you need do + buy-in. Microbes sort converting and distributing minerals, protection from pests + disease, humus building + carbon capture.

The more variety in plants above = more variety in life below = stronger soil = less fert = saving the planet one microbe at a time = best gardener.

Densely planted perennial gardens create this microbial haven so incorporate strips of perennials around the edges of your vegie patch and up the middle too. And dont uproot your vegies!, chop them off at soil level, leaving the roots ergo the microbes in play.

I’ve been playing with plant combinations and relay intercropping to see if I can keep a constant living cover happening on most of my vegetable beds. The plant combos are well worked round here, but the constant ground cover adds a new and exciting layer that takes a bit of thinking about. Its a work in progress!

Last years winner combo was peas (nitrogen + living mulch), oats (big roots + chop and drop mulch), nasturtium (pollinators + living mulch) and pumpkin that flowed beautifully into carrots and calendula sown amongst the finishing crops. No need to cover the carrot seed, the ground was already covered plus heaps less carrot fly. It’s wild and I love it! This year I’m excited about my dwarf bean, zucchinni and zinnia combo planted into buckwheat + phacelia. Garden happiness!

Yours in the earth, Kath


  1. what would you suggest to intercrop with early potatoes?

    • If you are trenching your spuds intercropping is tricky, but you may be able to time it with hilling up and come up with a cunning plan. Easier to intercrop potatoes in a no dig situation. At this time of year have a play with broccoli, parsley, peas or broadbeans or a greencrop of mustard and or phacelia. Enjoy!

  2. Anne Sapphire says

    Hi Kath

    I have been following your talk about Comfrey for the last year, and decided to plant some this year.
    On Sunday, while weed eating a patch of the garden that I have not yet developed, I came across several comfrey plants. I know they were not there when I weed- eated that area last Autumn and can only assume that they have self seeded from somewhere. Guess this is not the sterile sort. Guess I could initially use this for tea, but are the leaves suitable for mulch and how can I get rid of it before it spreads to the developed areas of the garden.

    • Its not that common to come across seeding comfrey, not to say thats not the case, but dig around the crown to see how big it is. If the plants are only young the roots wont be developed. Is there a patch of comfrey nearby I wonder and finally many plants look like comfrey – double check!

  3. Hi Kath, I was recently reading about doing green crops, I’m keen to do this but we have heaps of weeds all the time and I usually mulch the garden with manured straw from the chook house to keep them down. Do you think I could just sprinkle lupin or mustard seed on top of the barley straw or would this not work? Thank you 🙂

    • Chances are high! You know how peas straw sprouts peas…. say no more. Lupin and mustard arent much chop at keeping weed pressure low though – they’re light and airy so the weeds still come through. Have you tried sheet mulching? Such an awesome way to get on top of a weedy garden. Lay a couple of layers of cardboard then alternate straw and rotten manure or compost or greenwaste – whatever you’ve got up till about 80cm high. Make 20cm pockets in and fill with compost and plant heavy feeders out for the first season.