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.
*** 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.