Geoff Wakeling recently shared an article about growing strawberries in the home garden, and now returns to present an idea borrowed from the Native Americans for planting three different crops together to improve the growth and production of each one…
For many vegetable gardeners, having everything growing in perfectly straight lines, boxes, and neat formations is one of the appeals that they aspire to. There is nothing like the sight of a beautifully conditioned and formal vegetable patch to inspire the growing mood.
However, if you want to really utilize space as best you can then creating a vegetable bed using the three sisters’ method is ideal, but it also means that you will have to embrace a somewhat messy looking style of gardening.
Explore Native American Techniques for More Efficient Production
Using three different types of complimentary crops, vegetable patches were created in small areas which not only maximized the use of space but provided as much harvest from the land as possible. Using corn, beans, and squashes, a relatively tiny plot could offer a large amount of food for the residents over a number of seasons.
Such a good method was the three sister process that it was taken up by vegetable growers around the world and gardeners continue to use it today. For any vegetable garden, growing corn, beans, and squashes in this way allows for a large yield to be gained from a small area.
Three Sisters Planting Strategy for Corn, Beans, and Pumpkins
Simply plant corn as you normally would, ensuring that rather than sowing in rows it is planted in groups to increase cross pollination. After several weeks, when the corn stalks are thriving, beans can be planted in the soil around the bases of the corn stalks. Gourd seeds, including pumpkins and squashes can also be planted in the patch, a little further out from the beans and corn, completing the three sisters’ bed.
You will soon find that, whilst this vegetable method is far different from the formal and neat traditional growing format, the plants will thrive with very little help. As the bean shoots emerge they will quickly scramble across the earth and up the stems of the corn to reach the light.
Gourds will grow similarly, with their shoots winding across the patch and intertwining with both the beans and corn. Pollination is greatly successful in this scheme as there are a multitude of flowers from all crops for insects and bees to visit. Meanwhile the planting method also helps protect harvests, with the beans and corn in particular helping ward off gourd borers which can ruin crops of squashes and pumpkins.
Creating a Mess can Enhance Yields in Small Garden Spaces
Embracing the untidiness and unruliness of this planting scheme can be hard to do at the beginning, with it remaining very tempting to try and neaten up the vegetable patch a little. A rambling patch of leaves and crops is not for everyone, and many see the garden as a failure in terms of proper vegetable gardening.
However, sometimes leaving nature to take its own course works best, and without the normal “interference” you will find that certain crops flourish best when left to their own devices. Whilst the rest of your garden may be clipped and perfect, allowing one small patch to go wild will reward you with a large amount of harvest for very little work.
Geoff Wakeling is a writer with Brookside Patio Furniture which specializes in outdoor chaise lounge chairs which can be conveniently stored during the winter in a recommended facility such as Toledo storage.
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