Simple, Effective, and Sustainable Gardening Techniques
Grace Farms’ Community Garden uses several sustainable gardening practices for growing produce, including indigenous techniques like Three Sisters gardening, cover crops, and innovative new solutions like gardening with kelp. Learn more about these practices below.
Three Sisters Gardening
The Iroquois’ were known for using this intercropping technique, which farmers and gardeners still employ today. The Three Sisters consists of planting a trio of crops: corn, beans and squash (and sometimes sunflowers, known as the fourth sister). The plants complement each other, both in the garden and nutritionally.
The corn is the centerpiece, grown on small mounds, with sturdy stalks providing support to the climbing beans. The beans have nitrogen-fixing nodules that naturally add extra nutrients to the soil. The squash covers the surrounding ground, shading the roots, suppressing weeds, and helping to retain soil moisture. It’s prickly leaves also deter pests.
Learn more about companion planting and the Three Sisters test bed in Grace Farms’ Community Garden from Nature Initiative Director, Mark Fowler, and Garden Manager, Lauren Elliot:
Cover crops are plants used to enhance soil health, increasing organic matter, and providing a source of nutrients for plants, particularly nitrogen. Typically planted in late fall or early spring when traditional crops are not actively growing, they work to slow soil erosion, reduce compaction, enhance water availability, and suppress weeds.
There are many different types of cover crops, from grasses and legumes to brassicas. Red crimson clover is a favorite, with prolific early spring blooms attracts the bees.
At Grace Farms, we use cover crops in our Community Garden to increase productivity in the garden and protect our natural resources. Nature Initiative Director, Mark Fowler, explains more:
Gardening with Kelp
Kelp is a type of marine algae comprised of concentrated nutrients that can grow up to three feet per day. It is a natural, organic, and sustainable resource that can be used as a natural fertilizer to condition soil for a healthy garden. Kelp is harvested in a way that is not detrimental to the environment and studies now show that this macroalgae plays a major role in reducing the effects of global warming by permanently sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Fortifying the soil with renewable materials such as kelp (as opposed to chemical fertilizers) benefits both the plants and the planet.
Last spring, we began working with Soundwaters in Stamford to harvest kelp and use it in our rain barrels and compost to enhance plant growth. Learn more from Nature Initiative Director, Mark Fowler:
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