I’d like to preface this post by mentioning that Plant Lady is moving on up! (…in planting terms). For the past 4 years I’ve lived in a little townhouse that has the most frustratingly shady patio as the only outside space. The first spring I was there, I had super high hopes about what I would be able to grow, but I was quickly disappointed by the (maybe) 3 or 4 hours of late afternoon sun that I would get on that patio. It did teach me to adapt – I learned about shade tolerant plants & flowers, grew lettuces that I could pick as baby leaves, and it’s even what got me into community gardening.
But this spring, however, I’ll be moving into a new condo with a super sizeable & sunny south-facing patio! Barring a major deer problem (it is New Jersey so you never know), I should be able to grow all kinds of interesting things out back. I will still be participating in a local community garden, to plant larger crops & also to get involved in the wonderful foundation that runs the garden. So I will have lots of exciting things to share! I plan to get a small grow light system to start seeds indoors, and I’ll be trying out lots of different heirloom varieties of plants. I’m also taking a horticulture class at a local college, so I’ll even be getting some formal education in plant propagation.
What I would like to share today is something that I first came across while browsing my favorite garden supply site for ideas (groworganic.com). They sell ‘collector tins’ of varieties of seeds, each with a different theme – things like ‘Edible Front Yard Collection’, ‘Ferment It!’, and one that caught my eye called ‘Three Sisters’.
Three Sister planting may have been new to me, but it’s a Native American practice that dates back thousands of years. It involves planting beans, corn and squash together in a way that benefits all three. The Rodale Institute explains:
The Three Sisters is a combination of three plants working together:
Sister Bean fixes, or makes available in plant form, nitrogen from the air.
Sister Corn provides the support for Sister Bean’s trailing vine.
Sister Squash provides ground cover to hold moisture and maintain healthy soil environment as well as deterring animal invaders with its spiny stems.
They also mention a fourth sister, ‘Sister Sunflower’, that attracts pollinators, and lures birds away from the corn. These were the staple crops of North America, and their inter-planting was so successful, some consider it an agricultural revolution.
‘Companion Planting’ is something that I’ve been learning over my past few years of gardening. I’ve also driven myself a little too crazy with the concept (Basil – has to go next to tomatoes, but stay away from cucumbers! Peppers – can go next to tomatoes & cucumbers, but not beans! Ahh this garden plan is getting too complicated..) I’ve heard a scientist say companion planting is nonsense, but I’m going to side with generations of practice on this one. But maybe not stress out too much about my peppers being too close to the beans.