I am the self proclaimed queen of putting in a garden anywhere. At our last house the sandy, gravelly, ant hill of a driveway became a lush corn field and herb spiral. The front yard became a three sisters garden. The side yard held myriads of delicious orbs and buckets held treasures of vegetables as well. Here at our new rented farm we didn’t have a place to put the pumpkin patch. Lordy, how can we be Pumpkin Hollow Farm without pumpkins? There is a 650 square foot garden fenced in for all of our seeds to set up shop. We have pots. But we love the look of a 3 sisters garden and we needed space for it. Corn, pumpkins, and beans are staples around this place! And a pumpkin festival! The side yard caught my attention. The long swath of spiky prairie grass, conveniently mown down to look like city grass, beckoned.
Old ways die hard. I spent the winter reading, learning, taking online classes, studying with magnanimous passion. I was going to make this new farm a Permaculture one. But when I got ready to plant I realized that prepping a half-acre garden for this was not in the cards. I would have had to have had this crazy pumpkin plan last fall and laid down cardboard, finished compost, et cetera. Now, as I stared at the thick prairie grass, I knew I waited too long and would instinctually head back to what I know.
I have had this piece of gardening equipment for as long as I remember. It has gone through bolts to hold it together but this has carried me garden to garden with ease. My small arms were apparently meant to do more baby holding and decorating than heavy work so good thing I have a good looking farmer and “The Claw”! That’s really what it is called. Geez, I haven’t seen one of these in stores in forever. Do they still make them? If so, people, get one! It made quick work of prepping 250 square feet between the two of us.
Three sisters is a phrase out of history, a gardening technique employed by Native Americans. The original companion planting. The corn was imperative to make corn meal, it grew tall and strong and acted as a trellis for beans, a very important protein source. The squash was full of vitamins and immunity and spread its trails along the ground beneath the plants shielding the soil from weeds and the hot sun.
Hard to see in the photo but after we took out the top few inches of soil/weed carpet we laid our pattern. Squash seed…six inches…bean…two inches…corn…two inches…bean…six inches…squash. The trench planting will come in handy this summer since the Almanac predicts it hot and dry around these parts. Planting in a trench helps store moisture, protects from the wind, and is easy to water. Just fill the trench with two inches from the hose. Mulching in between established plants keeps weeds down and lessens water needs.
Then I throw handfuls of organic gardening soil or potting soil over the seeds, about half an inch. I planted Jack be Littles, sweet corn, and Bolito beans in one row. White butternut squash, black Cherokee Trail beans, and red sweet corn in another. The combinations can be creative for color and pantry needs. I even planted watermelon and cantaloupe at the ends of the rows.
The three sisters garden can be grown anywhere. Even on my friends’ top floor balcony! Plant in deep buckets, in the front yard, or many side yards are perfect for this project. I did not amend the soil. All I did was add packaged soil over it. I will add compost later in the season. The three sisters garden loves water so trenches and swales work well. In history we unearth fine gardening techniques and beautiful food producing spaces. Happy Planting!