Throughout the year, we produce as much food for our family table as possible here at 1840 Farm. We span the calendar year from spring’s maple syrup to summer’s garden produce to fall and winter’s fresh eggs from the coop and milk from our dairy goat herd. Each season and crop has a purpose.
Each year, the beans, corn, and squash grown in our garden will be featured on our Thanksgiving table. These three crops can be grown in a variety of ways in the garden, but I like to use an interplanting technique that may be as old as Thanksgiving itself. Planting a Three Sisters Garden will provide delicious produce for our November celebration and allow us to participate in an American history lesson right outside our farmhouse door.
The Three Sisters Garden may very well be the first instance of the companion planting technique that gardeners still use today. There is a wonderful old legend about the Three Sisters Garden that involves a Native American woman who had three daughters who struggled to peacefully coexist.
The legend tells the tale of her brilliant method for showing her daughters the value of diversity and peaceful coexistence. She planted the three crops of corn, beans, and squash together to show her daughters that together, they could support each other yet retain their own individuality. As members of the group, they were stronger than they could possibly be as individuals.
While some historians disagree regarding the historical accuracy of the story, the legend of the and its gardening technique have endured through the centuries. In fact, artwork of a woman tending a Three Sisters Garden appears on the reverse side of the Sacajawea US Dollar coin that was released in 2009. Now you can help to preserve the legend with The 1840 Farm Three Sisters Garden Heirloom Collection.
Last year, we offered a collection of three heirloom varieties used by the Wampanoag Tribe to our customers in our Three Sisters Garden Collection. This year, our The Sisters Garden Collection features four historic heirloom varieties. We have paired the original three heirlooms with a sunflower that was named for the Hidatsa Tribes that also famously planted corn, maize, and squash as companions in their gardens. The 2014 Three Sisters Garden Collection includes four historic heirloom varieties:
To plant a Three Sisters Garden, prepare a mound of garden soil approximately 48 inches wide. Amending the soil with compost will help to improve the productivity of each of the crops during the growing season. After the danger of frost has passed, plant the corn in the mound, making a circle about 24 inches in diameter. Plant four to six seeds in each inch deep hole. Space the corn plantings about 8 inches apart along the perimeter of the circle.
Once the corn has grown to between 4-6 inches tall, plant the bean seeds. Evenly space the beans around the base of each corn stalk. Seven to ten days after planting the beans, plant the squash seeds. Plant 2-3 squash seeds in each of three or four holes inside the circle of corn and beans.
Planting corn, bean, and squash together is a sustainable method of companion planting, allowing each plant to help contribute to the success of the other varieties. The towering corn stalks serve as a trellis for the climbing beans, allowing them to be grown without the need for a supplemental support system. As the beans grow, they help to enrich the soil. Their roots produce nitrogen which feeds the corn and squash plants throughout the growing season.
In the Three Sisters Garden, the large leaves of the squash plant shelter the soil, suppressing weed growth and discouraging pests from damaging the trio of crops. The prickly vines of the squash plant deter pests from the garden and help to protect the developing crops. The flowery blooms of the bean and squash plants help to attract pollinators to the garden, increasing the productivity of the entire garden.
The sunflowers can be planted along with the other three varieties in the Three Sisters Garden. Their bright blooms will help to attract pollinators to your garden. When spent, the large flower heads can be harvested for their delicious seeds or shared with your flock as a nutritious treat.
I look forward to showcasing produce directly from the garden at 1840 Farm on this year’s Thanksgiving table. Beans, corn, and squash will join spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and fresh herbs in our favorite holiday dishes. Enjoying this homegrown produce on our family table will make our holiday celebration even more memorable.
The Three Sisters Garden Collection is available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy. The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily. Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together. The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
This year, 1840 Farm offers five heirloom seed collections for purchase. The 1840 Farm Favorites Garden includes six of our favorite varieties to plant in the gardens here at 1840 Farm. The Easy Keepers Garden includes four varieties that are perfect for the beginning gardener and can be sown directly into a small garden plot or containers. The Pollinators Garden features six flowering plants that will help to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden. Our Three Sisters Garden includes four packets of seed that allow you to enjoy delicious produce and an American history lesson as you put into practice one of the oldest forms of companion planting. The Tomato Lover’s Garden features six of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties.
We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter. In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour. More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.