CTG Week 6: June 8th to June 14th – Planting a Three Sisters Garden

Activities:

  • Planting Leeks
  • Three Sisters Garden
  • Trellising Peas
Welcome to our Garden
Welcome to our Garden

According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations.

Learning the History of Three Sisters Gardens from Carolina
Learning the History of Three Sisters Gardens from Carolina

The amazing thing about a three sisters garden is that all the plants complement each other.  Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure.

A Beautifully Mounded Three Sisters Garden
A Beautifully Mounded Three Sisters Garden

For detailed instructions on how to plant a three sisters garden visit the following link.

http://blogs.cornell.edu/garden/get-activities/signature-projects/the-three-sisters-exploring-an-iroquois-garden/how-to-plant-the-three-sisters/

Baby Leek Plants
Baby Leek Plants

The second task we accomplished this week was planting leeks.  Conveniently we planted the leeks in the garden bed neighboring the potatoes, I guess we must have had potato leek soup on the brain.  There are a few ways to plant leeks.  Some gardeners like to plant them and mound soil around the base every two weeks so that the leek develops that delicious milky white stalk.  Our class chose a slightly different method we dug a trench that was roughly six inches deep and planted the leek plants about four to six inches apart.  The trench will allow us to add soil to the leeks as they grow until eventually we fill the trench providing the plants with enough soil around them to produce the stalk.

Planting Leeks
Planting Leeks

After the leeks were in the ground some love for the peas was in order.  It was time to provide a trellis.  Depending on the variety of pea you plant it may be necessary to give the vine a place to grow.  This is where a trellis comes in handy.  The trellis provides a vertical structure for the pea vines to climb and grow onto.  Growing up rather then out saves space.  We used bamboo sticks and twine to crate a fence like structure.

Trellising the Peas
Trellising the Peas

As the pea plant grows you simply add another layer of twine to the bamboo to give the peas more vertical space.  As we nurtured the garden we all enjoyed how far the space had come in such a short period of time.  As each plant grows so do we as gardeners and that is a pretty awesome feeling.

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