Sunday, February 19, 2017

3 Sisters Garden - Recap

With the season over and taking time to reflect on the 3 Sisters Garden project, I would put it in the "win" column!

My most successful piece was the Cherokee Long Ear corn.  This was the first time I had attempted to grow corn of any type. It was very rewarding for me.  Since I don't have the space to grow enough corn for my family of five to eat fresh, flint corn is definitely a good choice. I will be growing this again.


I removed kernels from ears
that weren't fully developed.

Opening each ear at the end of the season was like opening a little present finding out what color was inside. I had some beautiful, decorative corn to use as decorations through the fall and Thanksgiving.  I gave several bundles as gifts to close friends and family, along with a gourd or two that grew from my "mystery" plant.  Much of the corn from this plot was removed from the cob and used for pop corn.  It made for some beautiful and very tasty snacks.  I hadn't realized how much the taste of popcorn changed over the years until I tasted this I raised myself. 

Ground Kernels and Cornbread

When I chose this corn, I knew I wanted to use some of  it to grind and make cornbread.  I like to have as much of my Thanksgiving dinner grown and homemade as possible. This cornbread was, by far, my most ambitious project for the table.  The multiple colors of the corn kernels made for a beautiful one-of-a-kind cornbread.  

The beans grew up the corn as they were supposed to and did quite well.  It was a fun challenge to duck in between the stalks of corn and over the vines to collect these beans.  We wanted to eat them fresh, but leaving them on to dry would most likely be the better choice.  While I was away one long weekend, the bean beatles came in and defoliated many of them before my return.  At that point,  I left the remaining beans in the garden to dry on the vines. 

Rattlesnake beans with beautiful purple striping, growing on the corn.

The squash, on the other hand, did not fair so well.  Perhaps it was too much shade from the stalks being close, the tree on the edge of the garden that created more shade than I realized, or the devastating squash bugs. I did get some gourds from that "mystery" spot, and a few small squash from the southern edge of the plot.  

3 Sisters Garden during growing.

I love trying something new in my garden each year.  This was an incredible project and one I look forward to doing again.  I have decided that flint corn will be something incorporated into my garden spaces on a regular basis for decorations, gifting and fresh popcorn.  

I have mason jars of "seeds" from this crop, corn kernels and dried beans, saved to plant next time which is another lesson from our past - self-reliance.

I hope I have inspired you to try the "3 Sisters Garden" or, at the least, to simply try and experiment with something new.


Friday, July 3, 2015

3 Sisters Garden Planting

This was the year I decided to delve into a little "history gardening". 

In my yard, each new garden season brings with it some type of new project or planting experiment. I have long been intrigued by the Native American, and subsequently early colonist's, planting of the "3 Sisters" -corn, pole beans, and squash.  

The contents: "Indian" Corn, Pole Beans, Winter Squash

I wanted a dried corn that I can use. I purchased an heirloom corn, Cherokee Long Ear Popcorn, which will be ornamental, can be used for popping, or ground for corn flour. Since I bake my own bread, this was a plus. For beans, I chose three pole beans I had prior experience with: Rattlesnake, purple, and yellow Kentucky Wonder.  I personally use each of these as a fresh eating bean, but you can allow for them to dry on the vine for use as a dried bean. Last, for the squash, I chose several winter squash varieties for long term storage: Acorn, spaghetti, Long Island Cheese, Delicata, longneck, butternut, and one hybrid, Sugar Dumpling.

The Planting:

Next, I did some research on how to plant.  I found an article written by RenĂ©es Garden that explains simply how to layout and plant as well as some history behind the three sisters garden.  This is the plan I followed.

I chose my area and used a marked string to center my holes on.  Using a 5 gallon bucket, I made the outline for each hill, and placed a couple handfuls of compost on top of each one. This made it easier to see as well as was a great starter for the seeds.
A marked string & 5 gallon bucket made outlines for the planting hills
When all the outlines were completed, I went back and made hills around the outside leaving the inner compost as a depression in the middle.  This made a little "bowl" to help retain water.
Completed hills with center of compost for seed planting
The first item to be planted is corn, so 4 corn per every-other mound was planted. I had one volunteer squash from last year that just so happened to be In the middle of a hill.  I decided to leave that in place.
"Volunteer" squash was left in place
The corn planting was actually followed 1 week later with the squash seeds planted in the other hills. This is sooner than called for in the plans, but I was already late in my plantings and wanted to get things started.  I did follow the recommendation of waiting for the corn to be 4" tall prior to planting bean seeds.


I did keep a pretty constant eye on the progress. Two hills of squash did not germinate and had to be re-seeded. I also discovered while young, the corn tended to blow over in the storms we experienced and had to be uprighted and reinforced with some soil. Next, as the beans grew, I made sure they were climbing the corn vs. rambling the ground. Simply "wrap" the end gently around a cornstalk.
Beans climbing up the corn, squash between

Overview of entire planted area - Late June
So far, so good in this garden experiment. I feel a connection to history through this process. Due to time and "supply", I did leave out one "authentic" item in this planting (as my children pointed out)...I did not bury a fish in each hill. I originally planned on doing this but my fishing and garden timing were not in sync. Furthermore, our ancestors did not have spigots nearby and watered everything by hand.  I did this in the early phase when I watered the seeded hills daily, leaving the surrounding soil dry.

Follow me on Twitter @AlisonRolen, where I will continue to post progress on this and more.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Growing Now - May 31

I would like to thank Beth at More Than Oregano for hosting GrowNow2015. My participation in this event slows me down and gets me out in the garden with an eye and appreciation for what is happening, blooming, and budding versus just what more needs to be done. There is miraculous beauty all around and I've been too busy lately to enjoy it.

In Bloom:

Mexican Evening Primrose - stealing the show right now in the garden.
Growing around entire driveway island perimeter (below)
Driveway Island
Newly planted Jalapenos are tucked between Sedum & Primrose
continuing around entire perimeter
Shrub Roses just coming into bloom.
Coral Bells
Waterfall garden
Coral Bells - Japanese Iris
Wild Honeysuckle
The air is thick with their fragrance
Lambs Ears
They will soon be filled with bees

In the Veggie Garden:

Ruby and Neon Glow Swiss Chard
Almost time to begin light picking
Garden Babies
Baby loose head lettuce
Red Sails
My personal favorite lettuce
Yellow squash seedlings
From this week's planting

Grow Now Logo smWelcome to the GrowNow2015 Garden Tour. I hope you take the time to check out what's growing...or, better yet, join in with your own garden tour. Click on icons below to Tour or "Hop" over to view what's growing elsewhere.

What are you Growing?

If you would like to participate as well, click on the text below that says, "You are next." Follow the directions to link-up your post and share it along with the rest of us.  If you would like to show the entries on your own blog, after you've linked up, click "Get the code" and follow directions there.