|Three Sisters Companion Planting
Three sisters is a type of companion planting in the vegetable garden that the north Americans have traditionally used for over 6,000 years, both symbolically and beneficially.
Passed down through generations, the stories are that corn, beans and squash are sacred gifts from the Great Spirit. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honour the three sister spirits.
Although we didn’t follow the traditional three sister planting to the letter in our own garden (I planted the seeds in blocks rather than up and around each other), I can say without a doubt that we harvested bountiful crops of all three vegetables during 2010 when we experimented with this planting method.
|French Beans & Courgette
How does it work?
Traditionally the beans are planted at the base of the corn stalks which are then used to support the growing bean stems.
The leaves from the squash shade the roots of the corn and beans and help to preserve moisture. The also suppress the weeds and their prickly stems discourage pests. Also the roots from the beans are nitrogen fixers which benefits both the corn and the squash.
This method is quite different from the commonly grown rows of vegetables used in crop rotation, as here the vegetable families have been juggled up, but it works. Their growth habits and nutritional requirements are quite different but complementary to each other.
I’d certainly recommend giving this method a try and look forward to using it again in my own garden.
I adore Phacelia. It’s pretty, delicate flower attracts hoverflies as well as many types of bees into our garden. It’s easy to grow, hardy and it self seeds.
Phacelia is a green manure that can be sown into vegetable gardens when they would otherwise be left empty.
It improves the soil if the plants are dug in or cut before they flower and left on the top of the soil to break down.
I’ve never managed to do this. The promise of a garden full of the colourful spikey flowers is too great.
When the flowers come to an end the seeds start to form, uncurling in a way that resembles barley.
This year I got carried away and sowed Phacelia in our flower beds too. Along with the borage, (another self seeding, bee attracting plant) it’s taken over so this afternoon’s job is to head out with my scissors and cut stems to fill vases all around the house, filling our rooms with it’s scent before clearing the rest of the plants away to the compost heap.
Has anybody else tried growing green manures and do you have a favourite?
I managed to spend an hour or so yesterday sowing some companion plant seeds.
Last year I almost missed out on planting any Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) – the garden centres only stocked them fleetingly, and as I don’t tend to visit them on a weekly basis I wasn’t able to buy any. The seeds I’d sown earlier in the year didn’t take at all – not even one. There’s a lesson for not checking the viability of seeds. So it wasn’t until July when Jenny, my mother-in law came over for a holiday that I was finally able to get hold of some small plants.
I’m cheeky (so I’ve been told!) but Jenny definately has the edge. We’d taken her for a walk around Duckett’s Grove in Carlow. Two renovated walled gardens full of edible and ornamental plants – a joy of a walk on any kind of day. The children love it too as there’s a ‘three billy goats gruff’ bridge in the woody area and we always have to transform into big bad trolls (not difficult for me on occasions).
The gardeners were busy weeding the beds and Jenny asked them if they minded if we took a couple of ‘snips’ (I hid behind a bush.) Suprisingly consent was given so Jenny proceeded to dig up a few, small Nasturtium plants and stick them into an old plastic bag. (Thank You Ducketts Grove.) http://gardens.ireland-guide.com/ducketts_grove_walled_garden_and_pleasure_grounds.garden.8139.html
They did transport home okay but as it was so late in the year they didn’t grow very large before the first frosts took them out. They did provide a small splash of colour for a couple of months though.
Nasturtiums act as sacrifical plants. They attract the black bean aphid, thereby leaving the beans alone. They’re also attractive to cabbage white butterflies, flea beetles and slugs and if you’re able to plant a mixture of colours, can make a vegetable plot come alive with colour when trained up a cane wigwam.
I also sowed some French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) who’s strong smell discourages whitefly. Recent evidence is also showing that substances from their roots can help to prevent microscopic eelsworms so may be good to grow around potato and tomato crops.
Last of my sowings were some Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) . Although not edible they’re like a magnet for pollinating insects so can be a great help when planted near to french and runner beans. The scent is lovely too and the girls love to pick bunches to decorate the kitchen table.