Wall Flower Studio Garden

  (Algonquin Highlands, Ontario)
Organically Grown ~ From The Garden
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Three Sisters Garden ~ Historical Companion Planting

This year at the Stanhope Discovery Museum, where I'm the garden's coordinator, we once again, planted a "Three Sisters Garden".

Until I moved from Toronto, here to Haliburton County, I'd yet to hear about what a Three Sisters Garden actually was. It's an immensly interesting, yet simple way to participate in companion planting in your own garden, so I'm happy to share what I've learned.

Many people think of companion planting as a relativley new idea, but it's definatley not! This is a First Nation concept which goes back millenia. It's truly heirloom gardening in it's finest form; A beneficial co-existance and a sustainable practice, passed down from generation to generation, just as the seeds were. It's success was passed on as well, to other tribes and regions in North America.

Here's how it works...

The Three Sisters is a combination of three plants:
-corn (maize)
-beans (pole)
-squash
Each supports the growth of the other in one way or another. Corn supports the beans physically, and squash grows around them both. The original "design" concept was to plant it on a mound of soil, and in a circular method.

The beans naturally wind themselves up the corn stalks, which provides the support. The beans in turn, feed the corn by providing nitrogen to the soil. The squash, with its vines and trailing habit, winds it's way around the base of the corn and beans, hence becoming a barrier against weeds, as well as shading the soil, which helps retain moisture. Ingenious, really. : )

If you'd like to try planting in this method, I'd suggest first preparing the soil. Plenty of compost & organic matter should be used to offer the seeds a healthy beginning.

The wonderful thing about a Three Sisters Garden is that it can also be grown in a container.
If you don't have enough garden space, it's a fun way to garden, and children will love it too! Make sure however, that the container will have direct sunlight for at six hours or more, and of course, that the container has good drainage.

Start by planting the corn in the middle. Let the corn grow a few inches before sowing the beans directly around it. Then, plant the squash seed along the edge. Squash will trail, and can be trained to grow right around your container.
Keep the seeds moist and water well throughout the growing season. You'll likely have to water every day when growing anything, especially edibles, in containers, which will dry out much quicker than if planted directly in the ground.

Try planting heirloom varieties, enjoy your harvest, save the seeds, and have fun!
: )

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