Monday, August 6, 2012

Three Sisters Garden

The littlest young-un and I took a trip to upstate NY last week. We visited Erin and Kenney, the founders of FutureFarming. Erin and Kenney finally closed on the property that they've been working on getting since Christmas! Here is the home, the headquarters, of! I have a big interest in FutureFarming, since they share a feed to my blog...and I am on their board of directors. No really, I am! Look here!

Ok, so. I have HUGE hopes and excitement for what my buddies Erin and Kenney will accomplish with their land and new home. I wish I lived closer to them, but I know that over here in Indiana, I will also accomplish many important things in our Little Hands Garden.

I have a TON of pictures from the homestead in NY, but this post has a particular focus. At the farm, there is a garden that was established by the previous owner. I immediately recognized the setup of this garden, which was situated a little ways apart from the main veggie garden:

It's a Three Sisters Garden! Corn, Squash and Beans. Planted together in perfect harmony. ;) I have been reading things about this setup in many sources. Here is a little information I happened across recently that explains the setup pretty well:

From The New Food Garden by Frank Tozer:

"Field corn is the easiest and most space efficient staple grain to grow, but it still requires quite a bit of room to grow in quantity. You can increase its efficiency by interplanting with beans and squash in a polyculture known to Native Americans as the three sisters. In this very efficient system the corn stalks provide support for the beans, while the squash creates a living mulch that covers the ground. The beans supply nitrogen to the soil.

In a three sisters garden the corn is planted 5 to 6 seeds to a hill and left to grow for several weeks. When the seedlings are about 10" tall they are earthed up to a height of about 6", to give them more stability. After this is completed 10 to 12 pole beans are planted in a circle around the growing corn, a few inches away from them. These sprout within 7 to 10 days. A week after they have germinated, 5 squash seeds are planted around them, about a foot further out.

Once everything is growing there is little left to do, except ensure that the plants aren't overtaken by weeks and have enough water. You may want to help the individual pole beans find corn talks to climb and direct the growing squash vines so they cover the ground more evenly."

Tozer goes on to explain that the Three Sister Garden can actually be very flexible:

Two Sisters and Their Cousin Garden
"The three sisters concept opens up a whole new avenue for different combinations of crops. If for example you don't much care for squash you might replace it with kale or potatoes. You might replace the corn with Jerusalem Artichokes. You could use groundnut or another climber instead of beans."

You know what I am thinking?

I'm thinking that a Three Sisters Garden needs to find a place over here in our space! Making plans for next spring...and it's only August!