3 Sisters

We are doing some fun, different things in the Fiddlin’ Goose Farm veggie garden this year!

Like gluttons for punishment we have expanded our garden this year. Hubs has started a series of garden-adjacent compost bins which will eventually be a buffer between the chicken coop and the garden. The vision is that the chickens can work the compost and then we’ll be able to rake it directly into the garden without having to load it into a cart and move it. Every bit of labor-saving is key when you just keep growing and growing!

Hubs has been experimenting with different ways of supporting tomatoes. They can grow so crazily! In the past we’ve had problems with not enough air flow and support which can lead to tomatoes ripening on the ground. This can cause insect infestation, blight, uneven ripening and all sorts of shenanigans. A few years ago we learned the benefits of pruning tomatoes more than we were ever accustomed to and that has made a huge difference. Now we’re evaluating different trellising/support systems to balance plant health and yield.

As usual, we have gone overboard on the number of plant varieties. There’s a little bit of everything. Some of our favorites are the tomatoes, of course, including a variety new to us this year: Brad’s Atomic Grape. We get most of our seed from Seed Saver’s Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, High Mowing, from saving our own seed from the previous season, or swapping seeds with Farm Friends and/or the local seed library. The Brad’s Atomic Grape is a purple, yellow and orange, recently hybridized variety from Baker Creek.

We also have ground cherries which are a very special, succulent, annual fruit. Little yellow berries grow inside papery husks that are ready to eat once they’ve fallen off the plant onto the ground! Luckily they haven’t succumbed to commercial growing yet, so they remain a special, local treat.

The biggest square foot expansion came from the introduction of a 3 sisters garden. A three sisters garden is a style of companion-planting that originated with Native North Americans. The name and legend of the Three Sisters comes from the Iroquois confederacy of the Northeast, but variations of this beneficial and supportive growing plan could be found across North America.

The genius of the Three Sisters garden is the perfectly balanced inter-dependence of the plants involved. Here in the Eastern Midwest, that means a combination of beans, squash and corn. Beans are nitrogen-fixers and actually add vital nutrition to the soil, needed by both the corn and squash. The corn acts as a trellis for the climbing beans, and the squash provides protection by acting as natural mulch and weed suppression, and warding off some predators with it’s prickly stalks. It is a beautifully balanced, mutually beneficial relationship. It has been a lot of fun to grow so far!

A garden this size is a lot of work, but my husband finds it incredibly rewarding, and we are both grateful for his hard work in the cold darkness of winter when our freezer and pantry are full of of home-grown foods that taste like summer.