HOME GARDEN TECHNOLOGY LEAFLET 13
LONG-TERM CROPPING SYSTEM
Natural forests are multilayer structures built over many years, with tall- and medium-size trees, shrubs, climbing vines and leafy undergrowth. In a natural forest, plants share water and sunlight and provide shade and soil protection.
The multilayer structure of the natural forest can be imitated in the home garden. Such a home garden requires careful planning and time, but once established, it provides many benefits.
A multilayer cropping system mixes fast-growing plants with slow-growing plants, and early-maturing plants with late-maturing plants, using the basic multiple cropping principle described in Home Garden Technology Leaflet 12, "Multiple cropping". Figures 1 and 2 provide some ideas for designing parts of a home garden using a system of mixed planting.
Plants of different heights protect the soil
Table 1 provides examples of trees and other crops that can make up the different layers in a home garden. If the suggested crops are not suitable for a given area, the local agricultural extension worker can advise home garden managers on the crops best suited to that area.
Suggested layers of crops
Upper or ceiling
A multilayer plant community is a perfect and cheap support system. Yam or runner bean or certain varieties of cowpea can be grown together with maize or sorghum. In this scenario, the cereal stalks provide support to the climbing plants. Trees can be planted in the home garden to provide natural trellises.