Due to an excess of almost finished compost, and the need to empty my compost box to make room for more material, I ended up with a new garden tucked into the space behind my little greenhouse. It didn’t take long for me to decide that it would be a perfect spot to plant a “Three Sisters Garden”.
One day I hope to have a large greenhouse in this space, but until I can afford that luxury I figured that I might as well make use of the real estate, it’s sunny, flat, and was just begging for a garden…
At first I thought that it would be a good location to plant pumpkins; I like to grow them for their tasty flesh (pumpkin muffins are yummy) as well as their chewy, nutritious seeds. I also debated planting sweet corn, because corn on the cob is a favourite summer treat – I buy it regularly, so why not grow it? Then I realized that I was two-thirds of the way to a traditional three sisters garden – and off I went!
Long before Europeans set foot here, native North Americans were cultivating (among other things) a trio of food crops which, when grown together, help each other to thrive. The three sisters are; beans, corn and squash.
How it works
All three plants thrive in sunny, warm conditions, and grow rapidly when they are given ample light, fertility and moisture. The corn provides a vertical structure for the beans to clamber upon, and the squash spreads along the ground, shading the roots or the corn and beans, reducing weed growth and keeping root zones cool and moist.
In my three sisters garden I’ve planted:
Golden Jubilee corn –a high-yielding, main-crop variety that bears 20-25cm (81/2-9″) ears with 16-20 rows of deep, sweet, yellow kernels with a rich corn flavour. There are certainly sweeter varieties of corn available, but I like my corn to taste like corn – not dessert.
Triple Treat Pumpkin – billed as suitable for roasted seeds, cooking and carving. I grew this one last year and used up the last of the seed this year. Germination was poor, and the pumpkins were too small to carve, but the flesh was delicious and the naked (hulless) seeds super tasty.
Kakai Pumpkin – New to me, I’m growing this cultivar primarily for the hulless seeds. The fruit is striped and smallish (5-8lbs).
Connecticut Field Pumpkin – An heirloom variety predating 1700, producing 15-20lb pumpkins suitable for cooking and carving. These will be my hallowe’en Jack-o-lanterns.
Kentucky Blue Pole Beans – An AAS award-winning green pole bean, plants are vigorous and heavy-bearing.
Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole Bean– Kentucky Wonder Wax is a vigorous climber and heavy yielder of slight flattened yellow pods about 15cm (6″) long that will bear til frost if kept picked.
After a slow start, this garden is growing so quickly that I swear I can see changes every day! I guess that’s what happens when you plant in pure compost! The corn is taller than me, the beans are beginning to flower, and some of the pumpkins have already set fruit. My three sisters garden is definitely very successful, and I’ll plan on growing these crops together again.