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The Lazy Farmer


Tantalizing Tomatoes

I have a confession to make.  I’m an unrepentant addict.  My addiction is tomatoes:  little ones, big ones, ugly ones, pretty ones, red, yellow, green, or pink.  I’m rather indiscriminate, except when it comes to taste.  And I don’t think I’m alone.  Admit it!  Aren’t tomatoes the main reason you garden?  Beginning in very late June, right up through October, I can be found in the garden with tomato juice dripping down my chin. 

 Blog16  heirloom tomatoes

After that the tomatoes we’ve “put up” continue to feed my cravings for many months.  Jar after jar of tomato basil soup, colorful diced tomatoes, and spaghetti sauce line my canning room shelves.  Sealed tubs of dehydrated tomato slices line the counter, and packets of roasted cherry tomatoes fill the freezer.  Jars of spicy tomato jam and peach/tomato/pepper salsa wait patiently to perk up our winter meals.

I regularly grow 25-30 tomato plants a year for our family of three which may seem excessive until you know that we all happily eat tomatoes all day long.  A big bowl of mixed cherry tomatoes shines like jewels on our table throughout the summer and is always empty by evening.  I’m never done trying new tomato recipes for dinner.  New tomatoes always sneak into my seed orders and get planted out in the garden.

cherry tomatoes 1

So how do I choose which tomatoes to plant?  Descriptions in catalogs are hard to judge by.  They can’t all be the “largest, juiciest, best tasting, most popular” tomatoes on the planet.  You need to identify what is most important for you and your garden.  Then you need to try lots of tomatoes!  In the early days of our garden we went to harvest festivals and tomato tastings to try lots of varieties.  I read voraciously in books like Amy Goldman’s Heirloom Tomatoes, and Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier.  Since then we just keep trying tomatoes that are new to us while hanging on to the ones we know we love. 

The things we’ve decided are important to our family include:

  • Taste, taste, taste! We like most of our tomatoes to strike a balance of sweetness and acidity, and to have complex flavor profiles.  We love the smokiness of black tomatoes, and the surprise of citrus undertones in some of the bi-color or yellow tomatoes.
  • A variety of colors and flavors in small cherry and grape tomatoes to keep that bowl on the table full each day
  • A steady variety of tomatoes ripening together so that our tomato basil soup is a complex and tasteful work of art impossible to duplicate from batch to batch.
  • Early tomatoes to get a jump on the season along with ones that take a little longer to start production but weather the period from late summer into fall more reliably.
  • And, with one notable exception, open pollinated tomatoes from which we can save our own seed and develop lines that thrive in our particular garden.

multicolored tomatoes

I used to make and can tomato sauce, which effected which types of tomatoes I grew.  But I’ve since started dehydrating tomato slices in large quantities, which expands the tomato varieties you can then turn back into sauce with a little water and an immersion wand.  Because of this only a few of the tomato plants I grow each year are actually paste or sauce types anymore.

  • Amish Paste is a large, meaty, full flavored tomato good for sauce or paste.
  • Opalka is rich flavored, sweet and slightly smoky, great for roasting or sauces
  • Cour di Bui, with its true tomato taste, is a meaty pink tomato great for dehydrating

Salad tomatoes are small at 2-4 ounces and tend to produce early giving me that first “fix” of the season eaten out of hand or on salads.  Our two favorite are:

  • Juane Flamme, a beautiful orange jewel that is sweet and fruity
  • Green Zebra which is sweet yet zingy with green-on-green stripes

Our favorite early season tomatoes include:

  • Cherokee Chocolate which is a more stable selection of Cherokee Purple
  • Pink Berkeley Tie Dye’s taste is superb and it’s the tomato that caused my addiction!
  • Rebekah Allen has a nice sweet/tart balance and is our earliest producer.

My huge beefsteak tomatoes are in full swing by mid-summer, cranking out an abundance of color and flavor that combine into the most interesting meals imaginable.  African Queen and Red Rose are our red/pink giants, Carbon’s deep flavor beats the socks off of many other black tomatoes, and Hawaiian Pineapple has a fruity citrus flavor that is amazing.  Green Giant was a new find last year and has converted me back to at least this one green beefsteak.  And after almost giving up on Lillian’s Yellow to come into production it proved well worth the wait with the best flavor of any pure yellow we’ve ever tried.  We even had to put away the touch of salt on these last two beauties as it masked their natural flavor too much when eaten fresh.

cherry tomatoes 3

And what about the bowl of tomato gems that grace the table?  After years of trial and error, we’ve narrowed the selection down to Cherry Roma, Sugar Cherry, Black Cherry, Napa Chardonnay, Sunrise Bumblebee, and Sungold (the only hybrid tomato we grow).  Why a hybrid?  Sungold quite simply has the brightest and most interesting flavor profile of any cherry tomato we’ve ever tried.  There are many open pollinated selections of this tomato, but we’ve found them to be either inconsistent, unstable, or just not up to the original in flavor.

What tomatoes are making your list of favorites?  Why do you like them, and how do you use them?

Sunny Floral Desserts

I’ve told you that edible flowers are so much more versatile in the kitchen than just used in desserts.  They are.  But they also make incredible, mouth-watering desserts!  The main thing to remember is that edible flowers can be important ingredients in your dessert concoctions, not just decorations.  While candied violets are lovely, they are just the icing on the cake of what you can bake up in the kitchen with edible flowers.

Consider making a citrusy marigold cake spread with sweet floral butter.  Lemon balm and calendula combine in a sunny tea cake.  And who can resist frosted lemon lavender cookies!  Lavender pairs well with chocolate as well.  Add dried lavender buds to your chocolate cupcakes. Try anise hyssop flowers in your next pound cake instead of poppy seeds for a flavor between licorice and root beer.

Blog15  marigold and calendula cake

The perfect topping to just about any dessert is floral ice cream, gelato, or sorbet.  To flavor these chilly desserts use some of the following petals steeped in the cream or sugar syrup:

  • Gardenias
  • Lavender
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Roses
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Hibiscus

Marigold Cake

  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter             
  • 1 cup sugar                                        
  • 4 eggs, beaten     
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Tangerine Gem Marigold petals
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour                      
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder    
  • Zest from one orange
  • Zest from one lemon

Grease and flour a loaf pan.  Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy; add beaten eggs a little at a time.  Sift the flour and baking powder; fold into creamed mixture.  Add the orange and lemon zest, and the marigold petals.  Spoon into the loaf pan and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for an hour.  Cool on rack for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and cool completely before serving.  Serve slices spread with sweet floral butters — see suggestions below.

Blog15  sweet floral butter

Sweet Floral Butter Combinations

Start with 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened

Add in any of the following combinations:

  • Rose petal chiffonade, minced crystalized ginger, Red Clover petals, honey
  • Lilac petals, Red bud petals, honey, vanilla paste
  • Japanese honeysuckle petals, apple blossoms, honey

Lemon Balm Tea Cake

  • 3/4 cup milk             
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon balm leaves and flowers 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour                                                     
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened            
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh calendula petals

In small pan, heat milk and lemon balm until almost scalded.  Remove from heat and cool.  Mix the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, continuing beating.  Blend in the lemon zests.  Strain the lemon balm milk, discard the leaves and flowers, and add the milk and flour mixtures alternately to the batter.  Mix until just blended.  Pour the batter into a grease and floured loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for about an hour.  Meanwhile mix the lemon glaze (below) and set aside.  Cool baked cake in pan for 5 minutes, remove onto a wire rack placed over a cookie sheet.  Pour lemon glaze over cake while it is hot.

Lemon Glaze for Tea Cake: Put juice of two lemons, 1 teaspoon of calendula leaves (chopped), and 1 teaspoon of rose petals (chiffonade) into a bowl.  Blend in powdered sugar until a thick, but pour-able paste forms.

For more recipes go to BouquetBanquet and look at the blog and recipe pages.  Let us know what new concoctions you make with edible flowers and we’ll share them in one of our blogs.

Taking Time to Enjoy Your Gardens

What drives you?  What passions prod you into the garden as the sun rises?  What responsibilities keep you hoeing and harvesting into the evening hours?  Are you growing much of the vegetables your family will eat, creating a healthier diet for your children, or recapturing childhood taste memories?  Do flowers captivate you?  Are you working towards having a rose bed like your grandmother’s or a peaceful garden in which to wander?  What is the connection between you and your soil?

Blog14  pergola garden bench 

Mine began as a mid-life dream to escape the city and a life-long dream to put down roots.  A new rear-tined rototiller and five acres on which to play gave me vegetable gardens and flower beds in profusion.  Much like a child, my eyes were frequently bigger than my resources.  “Small” flower plots I created visually with the tiller turned out to be massive when it came time to put in the plants.  In the early days, I often resorted to planting watermelon between the tiny shrubs I could afford because the vines quickly covered the bare dirt to create a living mulch.

As I sought to grow the majority of the vegetables we ate, my initial food gardens continued to expand.  Curiosity compelled me to plant a myriad of vegetables I’d never heard of.  That led to fascinating experimentation in the kitchen.  When upkeep of the gardens took too much effort I turned to no-till gardens and permanent mulching so I could keep adding to my growing space without more work.

Working in the gardens rarely feels like actual work to me because it is my favorite place to be.  Watching things grow, tending to plants that sustain us physically and emotionally, this is a deep pleasure for me.  And yet there are days in which the weeds or rampant honeysuckle threaten to bury me in responsibility instead of the mental relaxation I sought from spending time on the land. 

 Blog14  garden swing

It is important to take time to sit and enjoy your gardens, be they floral, vegetal, or both.  Design comfortable seating throughout your gardens so that momentary breaks are as easy as planned days of relaxation.  I have a covered swing in front of my edible flower garden that overlooks the vegetable gardens as well as many of the flower beds.  For years we had a rustic bench in the middle of our miniature orchard.  The weather finally deteriorated it, and later plantings took its spot.  I do miss it.  We have a 200 year old black walnut at the back of our pasture that overlooks the sheep and the wild wineberry patches.  It is a lovely shaded place to relax or nap in the heat of summer.  Our front porch rockers look out over massive iris gardens, peonies, day lilies, weigela, lilacs, and snowball bushes.  The deck seats rise beside butterfly bushes and give us a panoramic view of the chickens, sheep, vineyard, and vegetable gardens.  Trees and large shrubs near all the seating bring in birds of many kinds to add their music to our quiet times.  My newest, and most restful spot, is transient.  It is a sturdy hammock on a stand that I drag around to wherever I want to take a quick nap.

 Blog14  garden hammock

Do I take breaks to enjoy the garden as often as I’d like?  No.  But I try to take some time each week to while away some time just soaking in the beauty and fragrance of everything we’ve planted.  I’ve also learned that inviting a friend over for a cup of coffee is a great excuse to spend an hour on a swing while reaping the emotional rewards of the gardens and of friendship.  Where are your favorite resting places in your gardens?

The Sky's the Limit: Vertical Gardening

What’s a lazy farmer to do when she’s already weeding as much garden as she cares to tend?  Why go up, of course!  Much like urban housing, gardening has been reaching skywards for a while now.  There are as many ways to garden vertically as there are gardeners.  Let’s talk about a few approaches with specific vegetables. 

 Blog13   bean teepees

Standing Tall

One method of vertical gardening is to intercrop short and tall crops in the same garden bed.  You can extend the season by growing cooler season vegetables under taller summer crops to benefit from their shade.  Planting early season crops in hills with wider spacing allows for bunching later season crops in between the hills.  The early crop is harvested before the later crop needs more room in the bed.  You might also plant fall crops a month early by placing them between tall summer crops which provide the shade to keep the ground cooler.  Many flowers will grow taller than usual in search of sunshine if you plant them amongst tall crops like corn.  Some examples of this type of planting include:

  • Turnips planted in bunches followed by hills of sweet corn a month later
  • Pole beans grown on bamboo tee-pees with lettuce under them in summer for deep shade
  • Zinnias growing in the corn patch grow as tall as the corn
  • In rows of caged tomatoes, plant winter radishes or Napa cabbage seedlings anywhere you pull a past-production tomato plant. Make durable, sturdy cages from concrete reinforcement wire.
  • Okra creates a leafy canopy for Swiss chard or spinach

 Blog13   tomato cages

Double Duty

If your garden is fenced you’ve got a built in vertical garden.  When planting garden boundaries pay attention to the sun’s track during the growing season.  You can use the extra sun to boost crop production and sun-blockage to create cooler conditions down below.  Our garden fencing is full a great part of the year.  Seasonally it is used for:

  • Snap peas in the spring, positioned so as not to create shade until late afternoon
  • Italian zucchini positioned on one of the fences where no shade is created by the plants
  • Runner beans create a dappled shade across beds that need to be kept cool
  • Small melons grow in sections of fence that only give early morning shade to the beds
  • Cucumbers grow readily up fences while rampantly covering the bed as well

 Blog13   fenced peas

Garden Art?

Create visual interest in your garden by devising unusual trellises or creating tall towers of crops.  We’ve tried these ways of creating our own unique “garden art”.  Try different vegetables on each trellis you create to make your garden stand out.  Vegetables with pretty flowers look particularly nice waving upwards.

  • Tee-pees made from bamboo poles tied at the top host runner beans and pole beans
  • Old wagons or wheelbarrows filled with dirt create higher beds for winter squash to tumble from – make sure to punch some drainage holes in the bottom
  • Tall woven metal fences two-abreast provide a tight upright corridor for tomato plants
  • Sections of wooden lattice slanted onto stakes allow cucumbers to hang straight underneath
  • Old wooden ladders create a whimsical tall ramble for any climbing plant
  • Straw bale compost piles create lovely warm beds in which to grow early cantaloupe, the cascading vines creating a living green mound covering all that compost
  • Stacks of old tires filled with dirt make unique celery or potato beds
  • Cracked planters filled with herbs relive their past when placed in the garden

With a well-composted garden, consider using the space most effectively by growing up as well as out.  There are so many ways to grow vertically.  What will you try in your garden this year?

Edible Flowers of Summer

If you enjoyed the post Edible Flowers of Spring, then you’ll love learning about all the wonderful edible flowers of summer and how to use them in your kitchen.  Elegant day lilies, sunny squash blossoms, and graceful gladiolas take center stage in summer.  You can add crunchy texture, interesting vegetable flavors, and a rainbow of color to your meals.  Wow your friends with outstanding presentations and bold new taste combinations.  Here are just a few of the many edible flowers of summer that you should try.  For information on more flowers visit BouquetBanquet where you can also find additional recipes to try out in your kitchen.

Blog12  Daylily Bleu Cheese Salad

Anise Hyssop  Agstache foeniculum

Leaves and tiny petals have a flavor between anise and root beer that is pleasant used sparingly in both sweet and savory dishes.  We use it in ice cream, beef stir fry, chicken marinade, salad dressing, and pound cake.

Clover  Trifolium pratense

Clovers, particularly red clover, have a sweet, anise-like taste and are wonderful sprinkled on desserts, tossed in fruit or green salads, or used in teas.

Calendula  Calendula officinalis

These petals have a slightly bitter taste and are used primarily for color.  We remove the petals from the flower head and toss them in rice pilafs, on top of soups, or in omelets.

Day Lilies  Hemerocallis fulva

The buds and flowers of day lilies vary in taste from sweetly floral to beany, depending on variety.  Make them into a salad, stuff them with soft cheeses or ice cream, add them to casseroles, or chop them for salads.  CAUTION:  Only day lilies are edible.

Gladiolus  Gladiolus spp.

We like their mild, lettuce-like taste and texture and use them as a salad base, or stuff them with soft cheeses or sorbet.  They make a delightful presentation.

Hibiscus (red roselle) Hibiscus rosasinensis

The cranberry-lemon taste of the calyxes make a unique and tasty sauce or jelly, while the flowers can be used fresh or dried to make a kind of red lemonade.  Steep the flowers in hot water with mint and some ginger to make a wonderful hot tea, or chop the petals and decorate frozen desserts with them.

Lavender  Lavandula angustifolia

A strong lemony perfume taste comes from both the petals and leaves - it doesn't take many to get the flavor.  We like to steep them for jelly, ice cream, and crème brulee.  Lavender works well in sweet and savory dishes from cookies to grilled meats.

Nasturtiums  Tropaeolum majus

This flower is stunningly pretty, varied in color, and has a great, peppery taste found in both the leaves and flowers.  We use nasturtiums in butters and soft cheeses, oils and vinegars, sandwiches and salads.  We stuff whole flowers and serve them on toast pieces, and you can even pickle the immature seed pods to use as you would capers.

Okra flowers  Abelmoschus aesculentus

The flowers of this plant are beautiful and look like small hibiscus flowers.  They have a somewhat indescribable "vegetable" taste.  We use them in salads and in tossed into vegetable stir fries.

Runner Beans  Phaseolus coccineus

These flowers have a sweet bean/pea taste and a crunchy texture.  We like them atop soups, in sandwiches and tossed in green salads.

Squash Blossoms  Cucurbita spp.

The slightly sweet nectar taste of these flowers tastes wonderful stuffed with soft cheeses.  We also keep the stems on them, dip them in tempura and fry them.  They are good sliced and used in cream soups, soufflés, or omelets, and we like to sprinkle them - chopped- on pasta dishes.

Sunflower Helianthus annuus

Young flower buds can be steamed and served like globe artichokes. The leaf petioles can be boiled and mixed in with other vegetables. Flower petals can be used to make tea.

Herb Flowers

The flowers of all edible herbs are also edible.  We use the savory ones with savory dishes, the mints in Thai cooking or on fruit salads, and the sweet ones on desserts.  Chocolate mint is particularly delicious served with watermelon.

Day Lily Blue Cheese Salad Recipe

  • Whole day lilies with stems and stamens removed (3 lilies per serving)
  • Blue cheese, crumbled
  • Garden fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
  • Flower vinaigrette

On each individual serving plate, place three day lilies and gently spread out their petals so that they remain whole yet overlap each other.  Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese and matchstick carrots over the day lilies.  Top with halved cherry tomatoes.  Serve with your favorite flower vinaigrette.

Blog12  Floral Appetizers

Edible Flower Appetizers

  • Softened cream cheese
  • Crusty bread sliced thin, toasted rustic bread, or crackers
  • Flower petals, chopped fine (possibilities include runner beans, herb flowers and herbs, calendulas, roses, nasturtiums, violets, and many others)
  • Whole edible flowers

Blend the flower petals and any herbs into the cream cheese.  Put in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve on bread or toasties and top with whole edible flowers.

Garden to Table: Spring Treats

I’m sheltering in place this spring, more from the weather than the pandemic this Mother’s Day.  The polar vortex came swirling southward this week bringing us freezing temperatures and worries over which vegetables and flowers will survive.

 It hasn’t been this cold in May in the mid-Atlantic in a long time.  We hit 33 degrees last night and are headed for more cold in the next few days.  That’s in a month when we typically see nights from 40-50 degrees and daytime temperatures in the 60-80 range.  Which is what was happening in late March and April – highly unusual for those months.  I was lulled into complacency and I planted my tomato seedlings two weeks ago.  This week will be fraught with anxieties as I cover each plant with pots and blankets, try to time the removal each morning after it is warm enough but not cooking the plants yet.  27 out of 29 tomato plants survived the first frigid night, and then two more of them succumbed to wind damage as 30 mph gusts ripped through the farm.  It’s turning out to be a very interesting year!

As I sit here snuggled up in my fleece and slippers, it’s difficult to remember that it is truly spring.  Yet our table shows the reality as overwintered Swiss chard, kale, and cabbage make their way into meals.  I’ve harvested most of my early radishes already, and new asparagus spears knife their way out of the ground daily.  Green garlic adds umph to many dishes, while the last of the tulip salads ended a week ago.  Dandelion fritters and wild sorrel soup fill my foraging thoughts this time of year.  Visit BouquetBanquet to find some ideas on using spring flowers in your meals.  While I wait for the snap peas flowers to turn into pods, and the spring cabbages to head up, I’m starting to think of more recipes to bring the garden goodness to our table. 

 Blog11  another spring salad

Here are a few dishes for you to try as you wait for your summer garden to swing into production.  Spring can be such a neglected time of year in the garden as people wait for consistent warmth to start planting.  Step away from the crowd and start your garden early each year so you can try these delightful recipes.

Wood Sorrel Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 4 cups wood sorrel (leaves, flowers, and tender stems)
  • salt
  • 3 T. flour
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup cream

Instructions

Melt 3 T. butter in a pot on medium.  Add the onions, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring stock to a simmer in another pot.   Add the sorrel leaves to the pot with the onions, add a pinch of salt and stir.  When the sorrel is wilted, cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium-low.  Mix in the flour and cook for 3 more minutes.  Whisk in the hot stock and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a bowl.  Temper it by spooning a little of the hot soup mixture in while whisking the egg/cream mixture.  Do this 3 times to warm the mixture without cooking the eggs.  Now - whisk the egg/cream mixture into the soup and add the final Tablespoon of butter.  Let this cook BELOW A SIMMER for 5 minutes.  Using a stick wand, blend the soup until creamy.  Serve immediately.

Radish Toasts Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 baquette
  • Butter, softened
  • Large spring radishes
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Slice the baquette thinly and toast lightly in the oven.  Slice the radishes thinly as well.

Spread butter on the bread slices, top with a radish slice, salt and pepper.  Eat up…you’ll find it’s hard to stop!

Lemon Parmesan Asparagus Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Two handfuls spring asparagus, sliced long-wise, very thinly
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Whisk the oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper together.  Place the thinly sliced asparagus and Parmesan in a bowl, pour dressing over-top and toss lightly.  Serve immediately.

Citrusy Spring Peas Recipe with Mint

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups freshly shelled English peas
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Zest of one orange
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves, chiffonade

Instructions 

Cook peas for 4 minutes in 2 quarts boiling water.  Drain well.  In a small bowl, mix melted butter, orange zest, and mint chiffonade.  Pour over peas and toss lightly.  Serve warm.

 Blog11  floral sesame snap peas

Floral Sesame Snap Peas Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups freshly picked snap peas
  • 1/2 cup snap pea flowers
  • 1/2 cup calendula flower petals
  • 1/4 cup dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup light sesame seeds

Instructions

Cook snap peas for 2 minutes in boiling water, drain well.  Cool by running cold water over them in the colander for a moment.  Toss the peas with sesame seeds, calendula petals and snap pea flowers.  Pour sesame oil over everything and toss lightly.  Serve cool.

Lessons in Intercropping

Oops!  That’s not supposed to work that way! 

Gardening is a science, but it’s also an art.  We can control things like location, how we amend the soil, and which seeds we plant.  This is the science.  But the weather is in God’s hands.  Some things work some years, and then are complete flops the next.  Some techniques work for one person and cause catastrophe for others.  Herein lies the art.

 These are a couple of the mistakes we’ve made, and what we learned from them.

Blog9  Zinnas in the Corn

The Three Sisters

Planting corn, squash, and pole beans together in a single bed was practiced long ago by Native American tribes.  If they could do it, so could we, right? 

Wrong.  The Native Americans planted corn that remained in the field all season, drying on the stalk to be used for grinding flour or for parched corn.  We grew sweet corn, meant to eat in summer.  We wanted to harvest our corn 80 days after we planted it.  Squash vines are REALLY prickly when you try to walk through them to get at your corn.  Pumpkins need the full season to mature.  We also planted pole beans we wished to use fresh as shelly beans rather than dried beans.  Same problem with the prickly squash leaves.  And the bean harvest was definitely reduced.

If you want to try the Three Sisters we strongly recommend planting corn, beans, and winter squash that you want to fully ripen and dry in place for harvesting together just before frost.  How To Grow a Three Sisters Garden will guide you on your way: 

If you want to intercrop sweet corn we recommend planting hills of turnips in the spring at 3 foot intervals, and then planting 4-5 corn seeds in between each hill once all danger of frost is past.  The turnips won’t get too tall before the corn outgrows it.  And the turnips will be harvested before the corn begins to shade it seriously.  Trellis beans onto the garden fences and plant shorter things in front of them.  Zinnias and gladiola look lovely rising gracefully from the middle of your pumpkin patch.

White Clover Undercover

A great idea for gardens that grow one or two crops and then are turned under at the end of the season.  The idea is that you plant the clover under taller vegetables and it suppresses weeds.  Dwarf white clover (Trifolium repens) is considered ideal for use as a groundcover. It grows just 3 to 6 inches tall with a spreading, mat-forming growth habit. While it does spread, and is considered invasive in some areas, it is less invasive than many other clover varieties.  This should work under our caged tomatoes, right?

Wrong.  We plant in permanent, no-till beds.  The clover loved it, spreading aggressively underground, flowering and dropping seeds all over for next year.  It did a great job of eliminating other weeds.  But it took three years to fully eradicate the clover. 

We recommend planting lettuce around your tomato cages.  Lettuce can get bitter in the heat of summer unless shaded which your tomato plants will do nicely.  Closely planted leaf lettuce cuts down on weeds and provides a lovely cut-and-come-again salad bar right there under your cherry tomatoes.  Plant a few carrots in-between the tomato cages and you’ve got a full salad growing together.

Blog9  Tomatoes and Lettuce

Intensive intercropping takes some skill and experience.  There are lots of good books and internet sites to provide you with initial information.  But your garden is unique.  Developing skill and experience requires making some mistakes and learning from them.  With practice you’ll find the combinations that work for you. 







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