Friday, December 26, 2008

Seeds for a Three Sister's Garden

Well it is after Christmas, so it is time to start looking at what I'm going to grow next year. Some years I don't plan and just grab whatever is available at the local nursery. Since my favorite one (with the best seed selection AND plant selection) closed down, I've decided I have to start growing from my transplants from seed again. So I need a lot more seed that usual. When I really plan things out, I tend to order from a couple of seed houses. My favorite is Pinetree. It is a New England (Maine) company, so fairly local to me. Plus it has seed packets for about a dollar each, so I can get more varieties.

This year (I suppose it is really next year, but in my mind the gardening new year has already begun) I've decided to do more companion planting to try to eek out more veggies from my garden. The first step to this is a three sisters garden. This will take up one of the three main rows in the garden.

I've been wanted to do a three sisters garden for most of last year. I've never done one before, and I always love trying new things. So first off I need corn. Tall corn. Since I haven't grown corn is YEARS, I haven't a clue as to what might do well here. I read the descriptions and picked out "Bon Appetit". My husband doesn't each much from the garden, but he will eat corn and he loves the really sweet corn. I like bicolor corn because it looks pretty. This one matched both requirements. It grows to 80" or just over 6 1/2' tall so it ought to be tall enough to support the beans.

Next are the beans. I will continue to grown Kentucky Wonder beans. I love the taste. They grow like crazy and best of all I still have seed left over. I may plant some left over Fortex beans, but maybe not. Even with those, I can only eat so many green beans. I will have four hills of four corn plants. Each hill will have 6-8 bean plants. One or two hills will meet my green bean needs. The other two hills I will plant dried beans. But which ones? Pinetree doesn't have any good dried pole beans. Nor does Johnnys (another of my favorite places to buy from - but expensive). Seed Saver's Exchange is perfect for dried beans. They have so many wonderful varieties. I love black beans, so Cherokee Trail of Tears seems very appropriately historical. But is my second going to be Brockton Horticultural or True Red Cranberry? Both are historically New England seeds. I've chosen True Red Cranberry because of my love of kidney beans. In a way it seems silly to me to only order two different seeds from a company. The shipping costs almost equal the cost of the seed, but I really really want Cherokee Trail of Tears, so I'm just going to have to put up with the shippng cost. Luckily beans are mostly self pollinating so in future years I can just save seed without much issue.

The third sister is squash. I'm actually going to have some cucumbers on the side, the same cucumbers that did so stellar in my garden last year - Diamant. I'm ordering it from Johnnys. I'm hoping for tons of pickles again. They will grow up and along the fence. The squash I'm growing are two zucchinis and neck pumpkin (really a butternut variety). The first zucchini "Dark Green Zucchini" is left over seed from last year. It was very prolific. The next zucchini is Costata Romanesco. It and the neck pumpkin are supposed to be resistant to the vine borers that are so problematic in my garden. The neck pumpkin I can get from Pinetree, but Costata Romanesco comes from Johnnys. So again I'm ordering just two seed packets from a company. Sigh. At least I'll have a large order from Pinetree. But I'll get to the rest of what I'm planning in a later post.


  1. My daughter bought almost all the seeds I need for my 2009 garden for my Christmas present this year. I think I get almost as much enjoyment from the planning as I do from the planting! I'm aiming for succession plantings and continuous production from my small garden this next growing season, and will be trying to start my own transplants for the cole crops. I wish I had room for a three sisters plot, but I'm afraid my pole beans will just be the "hide the dog kennel" variety, Kentucky Blue, sans the corn and squash!

  2. That would be a nice gift. And yes the planning is so much fun. I can grow anything in my mind - no bugs, no rain that washes all the seeds away, no mildew.

  3. I love this idea, but I'm having trouble imagining how it will look.

    Are you putting the 4 corn in a square and then planting 3-4 hills of beans and squash around each corn plant?

  4. Tam: Everyone seems to do their three sister's plot a little different. My hills will be 4' apart. For each hill of corn there will be (ideally, reality will intervene I'm sure) four corn plants about 9" apart. After the corn is up, I'll hill the corn up and plant beans around the outside of the corn, 6" away from the corn. I'm shooting for about 6 plants per hill. After the beans are up you plant your squash. Some do it around the outside of the beans, but I'm going to do separate hills for the squash (2 plants per hill) between and a little in front of my corn hills. I don't have an open garden. I have wide 4' permanent rows running east-west. So my squash hills will be to the south so they won't be shaded at the start and the corn hills will be to the north. I hope that is comprehensible without a diagram.

  5. Doesn't planning your garden and ordering seeds make winter more bearable? I have been pawing around a Seed Savers catalog for awhile and think I am just about decided on what I want to grow. We are going to do companion planting this year as well, not three sisters, but planting things like carrots and tomatoes next to each other. We had a problem with squash bugs and other pests last year at the community garden since most people tend to grow the same things. We won't be growing zucchini or summer squash this year as we get tons in the CSA and they really attracted the bugs. We are trying to grow a large variety so as to reduce our chance of infestation and to see what works best in our soil. I can't wait until I have my own yard, can't plant garlic or anything that has to overwinter in the community garden.

  6. Hey Daphne,

    I have some costata romanesca seeds I can send you. You can e-mail me at henbogle @ yahoo. com if you want some, and I'll pop them in the mail.

    I think you'll love it, but it is a monster!


  7. Thanks so much Ali. I would love that.