The Three Sisters

More than 800 years ago the native American Iroquois people developed and employed a “cooperative” way of planting their three main crops:  corn, beans and squash—known as “Three Sisters.” 

If planted close together, the corn would provide a stalk upon which the beans would climb.  The beans would provide essential nitrogen to the soil and the large squash leaves would provide a ground cover to prevent the growth of unwanted plants and weeds.

We’re pairing two of the three sisters together this year. 

We grow rows and rows of butternut squash to allow proper garden space (after growing butternut for more than 10 years, I am still amazed at the amount of space the squash will eventually require).

The beans are nestled close to the corn, and once trained, will likely be very happy to hitch a ride on the cornstalks. This saves us the trouble of arranging a trellis of some sort and is a connection to history we’re happy to make.

‘Three Sisters” was all about maintaining an efficient garden, and environmental harmony as well.

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Florida Weave

Over the years, we’ve grown hundreds and hundreds of tomato plants.

It all begins innocently enough: nothing beats the sweet smell of a little tomato plant on one of your first trips to the greenhouse in Spring (we just don’t bother to start tomato plants by seed—just a preference).

The thick, sticky little leaves…the bright green signaling the approaching summer…the visions of bulbous, red orbs packed into quart jars. Before you know it, you’ve got a row of 50 tomato plants. Cute, right? Until they’re waist-high, uprooting the tomato cages that were, at one time, way too big for the tiny plant.

Staking tomato plants. You name it; we’ve tried it.

This year, we’re going with the “Florida Weave.”

David has hammered wooden stakes 12 inches into the ground between every other tomato plant. The twine you use should be resistant to weather (obviously) and “grip” the stakes. We’re using baler twine.

Begin your twine about a foot off the ground, wrapping around the end stake and continue down the row “weaving” between plants—the object being the course of a figure 8 in twine supporting your plants. It’s recommended the figure 8 support is necessary only on the first level. From then on, you can just run straight down the row, attaching to stakes.

Many thanks to our friends at the Penn State Cooperative Extension website for posting this and many other helpful suggestions. Remember, there is a wealth of information available through your Cooperative Extension offices and websites!

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Daylilies in Bloom

Daylilies are in full, blooming glory along our Pennsylvania roadsides now. I always assumed, because of their location, that these were the native variety. I was wrong (not for the first time, mind you).

According to (hey, where else was I going to look for answers?) daylilies that dot roadsides “escaped” at some point–that is, they are a hybridized version of the wild/native and the domesticated varieties which have been around since the 30s.

Underground bulbs of the wild lily reproduced vegetatively or were dispersed by hungry rodents. Native Americans also ate the bulbs, boiled; Cree referred to the species as “mouse-root” because of its association with voles. (Mind you, the lily family contains species not safe to consume).

Hemerocallis is the genus name meaning “beauty” and  “day”, hence the name “daylily” (each flower lasts only one day). However, I’ve learned through my online research that each daylily clump can produce 200-400 flowers in a season. Multiply that by the hundreds of clumps in any roadside stand of daylilies and you’re in for a spectacular show lasting throughout the better part of the summer!

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