martes, 26 de mayo de 2009

Las Tres Hermanas

As a gal with two brothers, perhaps i was especially drawn to the idyllic notion of a Three Sisters Garden. Or maybe it's remnant passion from my anthropology undergrad days--i was completely riveted for an entire semester of Native American "Indians," and to be honest i still maintain a fascination with any indigenous culture. OR just maybe, as i initiate myself into the cult of gardening, it is a right of passage to attempt this historical romantic and much-hyped traditional technique.
i did my research. many tout the awesome triad of responsibility that corn, squash, and beans share amongst each other in the garden:
the eldest sister, she provides strength and support,

with her wide-spreading vines and large leaves, squash acts as a living mulch, shading out potential weeds and holding in moisture for herself and her sisters,

and finally BEANS
the littlest sister winds her way up the corn stalk, and as a legume fixes nitrogen in the soil to feed her sisters.

SOUNDS groovy. however, lots of serious gardeners consider the three sisters gig to be an impractical, unproductive waste of space; they commonly argue these three (non-sisterly) points:
1) Corn is not always the sturdiest stake, and pole beans are an impressively aggressive climber. true story.
2) Scientific naysayers claim that the beans are technically not able to provide nitrogen to their sisters, as the nutritional benefit to the soil is reaped after the fact.
3) Lastly, the everyday farmer notes that tripping through tangled squash vines to harvest corn and beans is ANNOYING and UNNECESSARY.

Holding fast to my sister-less native-people-obsessed gullible-gardener persona, i embarked on the 3 sisters garden project regardless. the above fotos are MINE! after barely one month of transplanting the corn (golden bantam) and squash (saffron yellow), VOILA!
Different native american tribes reportedly grew the three sisters together, though in different patterns. I crafted my garden with interspersed mounds: corn and pole beans in one, squash in the other. i have also seen layouts with squash surrounding each corn/bean mound as well as a huge block of corn with beans and squash planted around the perimeter.
i unwittingly chose a non-spready squash variety, reducing treacherous foot trapping. the sweet corn got blown to heck in its early days, but gosh darnit if the lovely ladies aren't supporting pole beans AND sporting EARS already!!! mira:Without even having tasted the full bounty of el projecto de las tres hermanas, i am already hugely satisfied, pleased, and proud. Like all healthy sibling relationships, las tres no son perfectas...(the squash are bitter and full of seeds; the corn is way short; beans cannot grow to full height, etc) but that's family for ya. Does is it seem like somewhat of a pain in the ass? Yes. Do i LOVE the three sisters anyway? totally!
p.s. my rain dances are starting to pay off:

4 comentarios:

alissa dijo...

i think of the walshs and souders. my particular brand of sisterhood may act a little different. comment comment.

La Gringa dijo...

I love the idea, too, though I've never actually tried it. ;-) I think I've done 2 of the 3 in the past. I had trouble with my corn falling over and our worker said we should push the soil up over the stems.

This made me hungry for sweet corn!

Dan R-M dijo...

Three sisters is an idea we have been playing with for a long while up here in Willits. The idea that it was a concept used by indigenous [north] Americans makes it seem to me that it could be a good idea even if WE don't fully understand it scientifically. I heard recently a theory that the prickled on squash act as a deterrent for deer and some other garden party crashers.
Ecology Action's garden manager figured out that it works best for us to transplant the beans (bush) in two weeks after the corn, and plant squash in corners of beds.

Liz dijo...

i think i'm gonna give it another go,,, maybe try more of what you're doing, Dan. i hadn't thought of using BUSH beans. and i want to plant more of the local squash, ayote.