Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Three Sisters

We are trying a new experiment this year, I guess that should come as no surprise I am doing a new experiment every few weeks it seems like.  There is a gardening strategy called companion planting.  Many plants have synergistic "powers", they work together, to provide more than they could on their own.  For example marigolds can be used as a natural pest protection, or basil and chives can improve the flavor of tomatoes when grown in close proximity.  

One of the oldest of these companion plantings is the three sisters, corn, beans and squash.  The Native Americans grew these three together with great success.  The corn provides a stalk for the beans to grow on, the beans foster nitrogen fixing microbes in their roots to feed the nitrogen hungry corn, and the squash provides ground cover to reduce the weeds et cetera.

Today we planted the corn for our three sisters garden.  It is an heirloom black sweet corn that can be eaten early as sweet corn, but then will dry into a black corn for seed and to be ground into meal.  I am way excited for the purple cornbread in the fall.  In about two weeks we hope they will be tall enough to plant the beans and the squash.  Because we are doing it in a square foot garden, we are about a foot short of the normal spacing for the hills.  There are several people who have talked about wanting to do a square foot three sisters garden, but I have not found anyone who actually has done it, so here is the layout.

4x4 squares with 4 corn in a hill on each of the four corner square feet.  Then 1 bean for each corn stalk.  There will be a two squash hill in the center of the 4x4 bed.  We have 5 of these three sisters beds.  There should be lots of squash and hopefully lots of corn and beans.

You can read about the three sisters legends here and here

The boys and I also planted 36 beets and 18 broccolini today.  The carrots and onions are coming up like crazy, and some of the spinach is almost two inches long.  The peas are about 8 inches tall, along with the Mesclun.  There is also a lot of lettuce popping up all over where the cat dug it up and spread it all over the box.  The grapes are leafing out nicely.  The rhubarb is almost ready for a first harvest, mmm pie reminds me of grandma...

I hope to get tomatoes into the ground this week if things stay warm.  We are waiting on pepper starts to come up and we will have them in the ground as soon as they come up.  The winter squash (Hubbard and Pumpkin) will probably go in this week too.  It is a great time in the garden.

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