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.
This 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 plan on using 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 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 and three delicious heirloom varieties in your garden with The 1840 Farm Heirloom Three Sisters Garden Seed Collection. The collection includes one packet of seeds for three heirloom varieties. Stowell’s Evergreen Heirloom Sweet Corn, Sunset Heirloom Runner Beans, and Long Island Cheese Heirloom Squash can be grown together and celebrated on your family table.
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.
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.
All of the varieties in our collection are accompanied by plant profiles and planting instructions so that you can enjoy growing these varieties in your garden as much as we do here at 1840 Farm. The seeds in our collection are all heirlooms and non-GMOs and provided by a family owned seed purveyor.
We offer two other heirloom seed collections for purchase in our 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection. Our Easy Keepers Collection includes four heirloom varieties that are perfectly suited for the beginning or casual gardener. The Heirloom Tomato Collection includes three of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties and one heirloom basil variety that we grow every year in the garden at 1840 Farm.
The original illustrations for our collection were created by Jennifer Sartell of Iron Oak Farm. They are available for purchase in the Iron Oak Farm Shop on Etsy. The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.
We hope that you will enjoy growing these heirlooms for your family’s table as much as we do. We invite you to share updates and photos from your garden, your animals, and your harvest with other members of The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Flickr.
I hope that you will enjoy learning more about each heirloom variety and join other members of The 1840 Farm Community in growing them in your home garden. Join our Community and add to the discussion. Your experiences will help to shape our collection for 2014.