Companion gardening has been a viable planting method for farmers for hundreds of years. It is a guided method that Native American Tribes, such as the Iroquois and Cherokee, used by planting different types of vegetation together to boost crop growth. Companion gardening is simply the act of using a planting chart to see what combination of vegetables can provide a beneficial co-habitat. “Some plants can help other plants grow because of the nutrients they give off,” said Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman.
In light of this traditional planting method, Roytman worked with members of the Spring Creek Senior Partners Gardening Club to create a Three Sister Garden at the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Class Room (UGC). Developed by Native Americans, the Three Sister Garden consists of three seeds; corn, beans, and squash (these were the most important crops in Native American agriculture). When planted together, these seeds help each other thrive—the corn’s tall stalks provide a winding post for the beans to climb and the squash vines create an umbrella of shade for the base of both plants (maintaining moisture and preventing weeds). In addition, the beans release nitrogen, which helps fertilize the soil and the beans winding vines help stabilize the corn stalks (so that heavy winds do no knock them down).
There are different variations of Sister Gardens called other Sisters, for example sunflowers and amaranth are considered a helpful addition to a Three Sister Garden because they offer shade for the plants during hot afternoons, attract pollinators for plant growth and allow more room for the beans to grow. Watermelon and gourds are sometimes substituted for squash because they both have sprawling vines that retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds.
In the UGC, Roytman planted a Three Sister Garden and added companion sisters: sunflowers, watermelons and pumpkins with members of the Spring Creek Senior Partners Gardening Club.
Photo: Amanda Moses