Welcome to the 2009 Casual Gardener “Get It Garden” Challenge!! The challenge: create a garden that makes a difference in your life and your community, then share it with The Casual Gardener readers.
Native American Indians were able to domesticate several important crops including corn, beans, and squash. There is an Iroquois legend which states that these plants are three loving sisters who only grow and thrive together. This is actually a marvelously sustainable planting combination which helps provide long-term soil fertility and a handsome food crop simultaneously.
Planting a Three Sisters Garden has been a gardening dream of mine for some time as I love the idea of being able to grow a lot of food in a small amount of space while being connected to a little bit of our American history. This year I found a full sun spot in my shared easement public garden area to finally live my dream.
Each sister works in a unique way to help support the other. Corn is a perfect pole for the bean vines to climb. Beans add nitrogen to the soil from their roots. Squash plants then become a living mulch keeping weeds away and providing a way to hold soil moisture.
My primary concern in planting the three sisters is ensuring the the plants do not become a giant mess of vines which overwhelm the corn and that there is enough corn for adequate pollination. To do this you will need a 10 X 10 space and plant at least eight stalks of corn.
Plant your garden in an area which receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Since corn is a heavy feeder, amend the soil with compost or aged manure (I used rotted buffalo manure as a historical tribute) the first year. Nitrogen from your beans will not be available to the corn until next year. Some people plant the corn in rows, while some observe a more traditional approach of planting in one large mound with the corn encircling the squash area. I chose to do it the large mound way.
In a perfect world, it would be best to plant the corn first, followed three weeks later by the beans and squash. I did not have that timing luxury due to my travel schedule this year, so have planted them all together and will protect the corn seedings from being overwhelmed by the beans and squash with a protective covering until the corn is strong enough to hold the bean vines.
In the video above you can see the process I followed. My daughter and mother-in-law pitched in to help. Hopefully we will be rewarded by lots of delicious veggies at the end of the season.
Try growing a garden utilizing a traditional technique like the Three Sisters Garden uses. Let me know what techniques you are using this season – write in and tell me all about it.