This is the week I am starting my three sisters’ garden or in this case, we are going to make it a four sisters’ garden. The Three sisters include corn, beans, and squash. To make the fourth, I am adding sunflowers.
Planting the Corn
Saturday, I planted the corn. One way to do it is by planting it in the Iroquois way. What they used to do was plant in their corn in hills or flat circles. Some of the Native Americans put a fish under every hill. And then put five corn seeds in a circle and watered each hill. They waited a week before putting in beans, the second of the sisters.
I decided to plant my corn in rows rather than in hills. I planted four rows relatively close together so that they have guaranteed pollination. Instead of using fish for fertilizer, I spread a generous layer of chicken manure on the bed back in January so that it would not be too hot by the time I planted the corn. The night before I planted the corn, I soaked the seed so that each kernel was full of water before going out in the garden. By soaking the seed the night before, the corn has a better chance to germinate.
The corn that I planted in my garden is an early heirloom variety called Delicious. The supplier that I bought the seeds from no longer carries this variety, but because I saved the seed last year, I have plenty not only to grow, but to grow in succession planting. The corn takes less than sixty days from planting to harvest. Last year I planted the corn, let it go to seed, and then planted a few seeds again in late summer and had a small harvest. This year I have enough seed that I can plant some of it every couple of weeks for eating fresh, selling at farmer’s market, and even for putting some in the freezer.
This first planting of sweet corn, I’ll use to sell at farmer’s market (maybe eat an ear or two myself), but the best ears I am going to save for seed to plant next year.
Planting the First Beans and Sunflowers in the Four Sisters’
Once the corn germinates, I will move onto planting pole beans and the sunflowers. I will plant the beans along on the south side the corn. The beans will climb the corn stalks and help fix nitrogen for the corn.
I will plant the sunflowers along the western and northern edges of the corn patch. The sunflowers will keep Bermuda grass from growing into the garden. They will also provide wind protection for the corn from western winds.
Planting Squash in a Four Sisters’ Garden
When the beans and sunflowers germinate, I will plant the squash. I have a lot of choices on what squash I will want to plant. However, I think I will plant the luffa in this four sisters’ garden.
This week I started growing the first of the succession plantings of corn for sweet corn. For this, I worked a small amount of chicken manure into the bed and planted the corn in three small rows fairly close together. Each week for the next few weeks I will plant another bed of corn until I run out of seed corn.
Sorghum Sisters, Another Four Sisters
The next major companion planting that I will be growing I call the Sorghum Four Sisters. I created this grouping last year and had excellent results. I am going to repeat the same structure this year and see if I get the same results.
In this grouping, I am planting sorghum. Like corn, sorghum is a C-4 grass. It grows sturdy and tall and makes a good climbing pole for the bean. The legume (bean) I will plant with it are cowpea, and rather than squash, I am planting watermelons. The fourth and final sister I will plant is okra. I think these four are better suited for the south than the corn three sisters because sorghum handles heat better than corn does and handles drought better. Sorghum is best known for making sorghum molasses. However, I plan to use the seeds of the sorghum and the cowpeas to help supplement the chickens’ feed this year.
Do you have a favorite way to companion plant in your garden?