Time for a Change in Vegetable and Flower Gardening Methods?

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village archeological remains from a thousand years ago in this Northern Plains region show evidence of Three Sisters vegetable gardening methods, saved seeds, and corn cob fossils about three or four inches in length.

Immigrants to the Northern Plains in the late 1800s saw that some Native Americans who grew produce used the “Three Sisters” method. In a square foot mound of soil, corn, pole beans, and squash. Corn supported the pole bean, and the prickly squash leaves discouraged caterpillars, shaded the soil, and discouraged weeds. As nitrogen fixers, the beans added fertility to the earth, all in harmony with the land.

Today’s Square-Foot or Small-Space Gardening methods use soil and plant compatibility traits that align with ancient gardening methods. Gardeners learn about tried and true ways to increase the odds for production each year against other seasonal variables such as weather, natural moisture, and pressure from pests.

September/October ’22 issues of Northern Gardener and Horticulture magazines offer considerations for changing some gardening methods in climate change. (These magazines are available for browsing at the Yankton Community Library.) 

The above photo shows half my in-ground tomato harvest. (Container cherry tomatoes are more plentiful.) No cucumbers resulted from blooms, and the photo of the squash harvest is compared to a plastic teaspoon. As slow to change as any gardener, the modest yield from this season’s produce induces me to think about a few techniques that apply to garden this season.

Plant as soon as possible, starting with cool season plants early and late for an extra growing month or so. Note to self: For heirloom tomatoes that may mature later, these starter plants must be ready to plant after the last frost date. Kale and spinach greens will continue under grow-light indoors for shoulder-season harvest.

Plant native plants. Genes for resilience in prairie plants can be beneficial for perennial flowers to overcome the seasonal spring and fall freezes after and before dormancy. Native plants or their perennial cultivars have performed better over time in this garden.

Plant more diversity. Fresh beans are a vegetable garden staple most of the season. Plant several varieties of bush and pole beans in succession so that some beans produce better under pest pressure and recover from sweltering temperatures.

Amend soil for next year. Cover vegetable garden soil with grass clippings during the season and tree leaves this fall. The protective layer is ready to plant next season. Flowerbeds are covered with wood mulch year-round.

Fall is busy for all, whether you are preparing to fly south like this butterfly or take on other interests. Reviewing the garden season may be helpful for next year.

Thank you for visiting Plant Exchange Blog. You’re invited to share your garden season thoughts. Thanks for the “Likes” if you enjoyed the topic. Thanks for loyal “Followers” who show up for the weekly posts.

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