Farming cheats: Use maize to grow vegetables!

If the high cost of trellising puts you off growing vegetables that need support, then you might be interested in a farming cheat used by producers in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Mini-vegetable producers in these countries use the residue stalks of the baby corn crop as a trellis for the follow-up crop of mange tout peas.

The baby corn, a 90- to 100-day crop, is planted in February. In mid- May, after harvesting, the peas are planted in the interrows and the tendrils are trained to prevent them crossing the rows. Peas are continuously harvested from seven weeks for a three-week period. Repurposing the maize stalks saves farmers a considerable expense on trellising. As an extra bonus, peas are part of the legume family and the nodules on their roots enable them to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil.

This nitrogen gives the following year’s crop of baby corn a head start. While mini-vegetables might not be grown extensively here in Mzanzi, farmers can apply this same trellising concept to more common crops. Maize, sweet corn and baby corn are all summer crops, so their stalks would be available in winter. They could be used to provide a trellis for peas, mange tout, peppers, tomatoes and chillies in spring.

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