Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Yesterday I was writing about making plans to have more Winter veg next year, and one of my blogging friends - Daphne from Daphne's Dandelions - suggested using the method called "underplanting". This is something I already do in some small measure, but she is right that I could do more. The idea is that you sow or plant your second crop underneath an existing one which will mature and be cleared away before the second one gets big. This is an example of what I have at present - Endives and Radicchio growing at the feet of my Brussels Sprouts.

And lurking in amongst the Autumn leaves beneath the PSB and Cavolo Nero is this little Curly Endive:

The technique is one that takes a bit of trial-and-error before you can expect to perfect it, since it is difficult to make sure that the crops get enough light and moisture, but it's worth persevering with because it can markedly increase the yield from your space.

Just to illustrate the difficulty of getting light levels right, have a look at the Broccoli plants in the following series of pictures. I planted six seedlings of the miniature broccoli variety "Matsuri", at the corners of two of my raised beds. One of these beds was that in which my Brussels Sprouts have been growing. The Sprouts were already very big when I planted the broccoli and they have definitely blocked out most of the light - and probably grabbed all the nutrients in the soil too.

"Matsuri" Broccoli at extreme right
On the other hand, the broccoli in the other bed, planted at the same time as the PSB and Cavolo Nero, is much more luxuriant:

Nearest camera - two Broccoli flanking a Cavolo Nero

This is how the Broccoli is supposed to be! I don't think the ones in the Brussels Sprouts bed will ever mature properly (they are probably not very cold-tolerant), whereas the bigger ones in the PSB bed are nearly ready now:

Tiny flower-head is visible - approx 5cm across!

My experiments with underplanting will continue, probably using some less leafy veg next time! Have any of you had success with this technique, and if so, what combinations worked well for you?


  1. It will be interesting to see your results.

  2. The under planting is a good idea and seems like it will work well. I see you have lots of leaves falling. Autumn leaf clearing will soon be top of the 'to do' list for me.

  3. Right now I've got my cilantro running between two rows of kale. The kale leaves touch, but cilantro doesn't need much light. At my last house I used to grow carrots in between my tomato plants. By the time the carrots were harvested they would be in total shade. But I did get a crop that I otherwise wouldn't have gotten. I've always wondered if you could put some quick maturing fall crops under the tomato plants or cucumbers. By fall they have lost most of their leaves anyway. I don't know how much of the nutrients the plants are still sucking up. Currently I don't worry about it much as I have a lot of growing space now. I tend a little more toward the time efficient than the space efficient.

  4. I always practice underplanting to optimize my limited land. I practice it on the pots and beds. You can check my last post about Terrace Garden Update.

  5. I was very pleased with the broad beans I sowed under my still cropping brussell sprouts this April. My rows wandered a little but then I don't do straight! By the time the beans germinated the ground cover of the sprouts (which I crop to death!) was fairly feeble and by May the beans had the space to themselves and gave me a very fine crop.

  6. I don't underplant as I have enough space at the allotment, but I realise how important it is to get the most out of the beds when space is limited. You always seem to do well with the endives


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