Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three Sisters Container Gardening

Most Master Gardeners who grow vegetables have heard about a three sisters garden, a method of "companion planting" learned from Native Americans where corn, beans, and squash are planted together.

The corn supplies a natural way for the beans to climb. The beans, via a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, are able to fix nitrogen naturally, making it available in the soil, and the squash shades out competing weeds along the ground and provides a living mulch to shade roots from the hot sun, so there's less moisture loss from evaporation.

You can read about the Mohawk legend of the three sisters here.

If you've followed the blog for a few years, you're probably aware that I've been playing around with the concept of using ornamental edibles in my container plantings that decorate the stairs of the entrance to my home. This idea just adds the three sisters component.

The container consists of an ornamental corn (Zea mays var. Japonica), scarlet runner bean (extras from the planting at the John Brown House) and an ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas - guessing it's the variety 'Raven' from the Sweet Caroline series developed by North Carolina State University) spilling over the side.

I'm playing with using Hyacinth Bean at home as the climber, and a red stem Okra plant, instead of the corn in an "experimental plot" I have going.

This container is located near the entrance to the Extension Office in Chambersburg. I was able to implement the idea when the dahlia's that had been planted died soon after, and space became available. Seems like an appropriate decoration for a building housing a Land Grant University educational outreach program, wouldn't you say?

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