By Francisco Nava
The Three Sisters
Corn, beans, squash…their universal language – food.
Corn is the first born. It grows straight and tall and has a lofty goal—a strong stem for its younger sisters. Once planted in the moist earth corn seeds take on water quickly. The endosperm drawing water to it, creating its starchy contents. Corn the first to emerge from the ground. Corn is all alone at first, while the other sisters get ready.
The bean focuses on leaf growth while the corn concentrates on height. The bean grows almost a meter a day, embracing the corn. The bean seed swells and bursts its coat and sends rootling deep down into the ground. Beans take their time, finding the light because they are well provisioned. Their first leaves are already packaged into two halves of the seed.
The squash is a late bloomer, taking the longest and is the slower of the sisters. She extends herself over the ground, moving away from the corn and beans. The broad lobed leaves are bristly, giving second thoughts to nibbling caterpillars. The leaves grow wider, sheltering the soil at the corn and bean base, keeping moisture in and other plants out.
The birth order is important to their relationship and to the success of the crop.
Native people speak of this planting as the Three Sisters. During a long winter, when people were hungry, three beautiful women came to their dwellings. One was tall, dressed in yellow with long flowing hair. The second woman was dressed in green and the third wore orange. Food was scarce, but the visiting strangers were fed generously. In gratitude for this generosity, the three sisters revealed their true identities—corn, bean and squash and gave themselves to the people in a bundle of seeds so that they may never go hungry again.
‘Respect one another, support one another, bring your gifts to the world and receive the gifts of others.’
– Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
What to plant in October
The weather turns cooler in October and some rains persist. Think about plants that are happier with cooler weather. Root vegetables: plant beets, radishes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga from seed this month. For a colorful harvest try white, red, purple, and pink radish varieties. Carrots also come in a variety of colors, including yellow, maroon, and several shades of orange. Leafy greens and Brassicas: Lettuces, spinach, and Swiss chard can be planted from seed or from transplant this month. Plant members of the Brassica family, including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, and cauliflower from transplants. Kale can also be planted from seed in October. Alliums: The allium family features strong-tasting veggies like onions, garlic, shallots, chives and leeks. Besides spicing up savory dishes, alliums help deter pests from your garden. Peas: Plant sugar snap peas, snow peas, and garden peas from seed. Be sure to provide this vining plant with a sturdy trellis to climb and enjoy its lovely blossoms. Harvest frequently to encourage plants to produce more peas. Artichoke: Save space for this large, dramatic member of the thistle family (which grows to a full size of 2-3 wide and 3-4 feet tall) and you won’t regret it! Plant artichokes from transplant in October, and harvest the large flower buds in early spring (you can also leave some buds to open into brilliant periwinkle blooms.)
The viveros have gerberas, fuchsias, petunias, pansies, asters, arcotis and calendulas. Plant sweet peas, nasturtium, larkspur, yarrow and viola seeds now for cool weather bloom. Set out gladiola corms. Divide Shasta daisies and start cuttings of chrysanthemums for next year.
Prune, deadhead and clean up all plants in the garden, especially geraniums, which tend to become leggy and messy looking. Despite the sun lowering itself slightly in the sky, the soil is still warm and toasty. The bonus is that the flavor of many crops get tastier due to the upcoming cold winter temperatures concentrating the sugars.
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