Taking companion planting a bit more seriously – Guest Post

Oh March, how you bring out the dreamer in me… My daughter keeps looking at me saying “Mom, I miss Summer.” To which I reply “But in Summer, all our seeds will be planted! How about we start with Spring?” 🙂

When we listed out our New Year Intentions on the last day of 2014, one that we were extremely serious about was transforming our gardens into a food production gardens. For many years, we had been, for lack of a better term, winging it. We weren’t too worried about failure, we knew some stuff would grow. And if it didn’t, well, we always had the CSA baskets and the Farmer’s Markets. But not this year! Yes, we may not be growing everything we eat, but the goal this year is to truly start owning our skills as gardeners and one of the first concepts we wanted to really start working on was Companion Planting.

I’ve asked my husband to start the ball rolling by introducing one of the plantings we will be trying out this year, an inter-planting trio that dates back to the First Nations, the 3 sisters planting.

IMG_0468 (800x573)

*** The 3 sisters ***

Permaculture, Companion Planting, Smart Gardening numerous names same glorious result….

Hello All, as Yanic has mentioned in a previous post this year, I will be tossing in a few times throughout our dreams of creating a small homestead for ourselves. One of the things that we have really decided this year is to be serious about our gardening, try out some new techniques, concentrate of a smaller variety of heirlooms and attempt to maximize on production, keep work to a reasonable amount and keep some journals of the process along the way. In this we have split the job of reading gardening books that we have purchased, so that we can share the knowledge we are gaining back and forth and it is not on one or the other to read all.

The first book on my list this year was Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway. From reading many reviews and also doing some free online permaculture courses, this seemed to be the place to start if you are wanting to expand your knowledge in what encompasses the idea of permaculture.

During the reading Yanic and I were exchanging ideas back and forth about some ideas that we had seen and what we wanted to try in our plantings. She had mentioned the evening previous to me reaching the part of the book about wanting to try a 3 Sisters Planting. I was certainly intrigued.  For those that don’t know such like me, the 3 sisters is a companion planting that has been used back to First Nations Tribes. In this particular planting, you are combining 3 crops: Corn, Winter Squash and Pole Beans.  Through this process, you are benefiting your planting and combining tasks in the following manner.  First in the ground is the corn, as in the long run this will play the part of your trellis for the beans which will be planted soon after. Finally you will be adding in the squash which will help with two jobs, weed control and moisture retention with their wonderful sprawling leaves and vines.

Back to the book, I was really amazed by this trio of foods and how they support one another. In reading about permaculture (and gardening in general), I have come to understand that all good gardens start with good soil.  Some plants will aid in pulling up nutrients for you.  As we all know any fertilizer on the market contains Nitrogen. The amazing part about those beans we are planting in this group is that they are a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means they have the ability to take nitrogen that is readily available in the air and bring it down into the ground through their roots.  This process benefits the two other ladies in the trio by providing this natural food available directly in the soil. As well, it is mentioned in the book that through the roots of the corn, there is a sugar that is released that is known to be a natural booster for your squash, win and win here again.  It is also mentioned that through studies which have been conducted on this particular type of planting, even without the addition of multiple fertilizers, the harvests that are coming from this combination planting are yielding a 20% higher nutritional value than if you were to plant the same varieties in different parts of the garden.

The final thing that I would like to mention here that was in the book as well, is that if you would like to increase the symbiosis in your garden and the yield received, you can actually increase this to a 4 or 5 sister planting.   In South America, there is a plant known as the Bee Plant which was found to be used by the Aboriginals in that area.  For the 5th sister, you could add in a grain producing variety such as Amaranth that is going to help increase yield by being a haven for Pollinators in your garden oasis.

I hope that you are enjoying making plans for the upcoming season, if you would like a book that is a bit different and provides some different ways to view how we interact with our gardens and areas surrounding our homes. I highly suggest picking up a copy of this book and reading through.

Happy planning!

About Yanic A.

Hello to all of you and thank you for stopping by! My name is Yanic. I'm a wife to a wonderful husband, a mother of 2 beautifully complex and unique children and a lover of all things inspiring. Having started a personal journey of self discovery when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter 4 years ago, I've since embraced a daily life of simpler pleasures and gratitude. As we get to know each other, you will know me as a quilter, a gardener, a Tao cultivator, a vegetarian foodie, a true believer in a healthy family life as being the secret to my happiness and hopefully as time goes on, a friend... I will try to share with you my days as they unfold, speaking of my happy successes without censoring my challenges, trying to make this blog a true portrait of the ever-changing path that I have chosen for myself. I'm hoping to find in these pages others to share with and learn from, bringing to light the absolute connection in all things and people, showing this world as being a true community.
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19 Responses to Taking companion planting a bit more seriously – Guest Post

  1. kspring says:

    I love this book! It’s been on my shelf since I took a sustainable agriculture course in college, and I’ve held on to it since. Another good book specifically on companion planting is “Carrots Love Tomatoes,” by Louise Riotte.
    Have fun!


  2. kathrynpagano says:

    I’m working on companion planting too and attempting to rotate crops in my beds. It feels like a huge learning curve and I always have a companion planting chart with me when I go out to plant something new.


    • Yanic A. says:

      Tell me about it… took us hours to figure out the seasonal rotations, companion planting, bed rotation and spacing to avoid cross pollination in some of our veggies like squashes and tomatoes! But gardening is suppose to be relaxing, right? LOL!


  3. barnraised says:

    Great post. You two seem like a good team! Thanks for the advice and book recommendation.


  4. Carie says:

    Oh that sounds exciting – I wonder if it’s a trio that works just for North America or whether it would be as successful in the UK? Though we’re some way from being that industrious in our little patch!


  5. Can’t wait to see how it all works out 🙂 This is the second recommendation I have had for this book in the last two weeks….might have to pick it up.


  6. sally says:

    It’s lovely that you’re such a team. And I hadn’t quite appreciated how amazing the basic plants we kind of take for granted could be,


  7. That sounds really interesting, I have come across companion planting before and follow it in my own garden but not in this way……..


    • Yanic A. says:

      WE used to be all about what you “shouldn’t” put together! But to actually make it a point to combine things that actually boost each other, this will be a first. We will also be planting our herbs and carrots in between our tomato plants. We’ll post about it more later, something about carrots airing out soil and the basil and oregano boosting tomato flavor. (My husband has the gist!)… It’s a very interesting topic.


  8. I do hope you’ll have more luck with 3 sisters than we have. We’ve completely given up on corn all together around here. And pole beans, too, as a matter of fact. Thanks for the book tip. We’re planning carrots between tomatoes to this year, but we still have a lot to learn.


    • Yanic A. says:

      We are doing herbs and carrots between tomatoes as well! 🙂 This will be only our 3rd time trying corn and last year, the cold came too quickly. We had lovely little ears on our stalks but they were stunted by early cold nights. We are keeping our fingers crossed this year! 🙂

      Same here, so much to learn still. But that is part of the fun isn’t it?


  9. jenny says:

    i LOVE this!! (and the wonderful way you two are working together!) i had definitely heard of companion planting and the three sisters, but i did not know any of those beautiful details about the nitrogen and sugar in the corn… AMAZING!


    • Yanic A. says:

      Companion planting is quite a fascinating subject. Add in permaculture plants that work your soil like comfrey, elecampane, daikon radish… you can do amazing things by simply making sure that everything grows at the right place.

      And yes! I’m s lucky to have a true partner in this crazy road we are on. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by!


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