Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Three Sisters

The Three Sisters
By Catherine Dougherty
In Native gardening, there are three sisters: corn beans and squash. They are not just plants, as if there is such a thing as "just a plant". When you grow a good strong tall corn, not like sweet corn or popcorn, she acts as though she is a post for beans to climb and be shaded from excess of sunlight.
The beans planted at her feet provide an even more valuable service in return, giving the corn the benefit of her nitrogen fixing colonies of fungus, symbiologically noded in her roots. They provide nitrogen fertilizer absorbed from the air not only just when the roots and vines return to the soil, but also all throughout the growing season when water leaches it into the soil.
Thirdly, the squash, who is shaded enough by the two other sisters, covers the rest of the hill with wide leaves, protecting the roots and the hill from excess sunlight and evaporating, becoming a living mulch that keeps the soil moist and cool. sun exposed soils release carbon more readily, making them decrease in water retention and fertility even greater than the effects of evaporation alone. Covered soils have fewer weed seeds germinate, and few out compete squash. Squash with her prickly spiny leaves and stems, deters the soft little hands of corn hungry raccoons!
What a marvelous plan!

Do you need to transplant roses?

                         *Remember to wriggle to release air pockets!


The old saying which reads: ‘February’s child is full of woe For after sunshine follows snow’ has certainly proven true this year as we continue to experience record breaking cold, snow and ice. Of interest is another saying which promises if ‘March Comes in like a Lion, it will leave like a lamb’ so we will cross our fingers, hold our collective breath, and remain optimistic this is a truism.


As soon as the thaw begins, it will be time to assess the garden for potential shade problems. Often trees surrounding the garden will grow without notice to a breadth which provides far too much shade for the flowers living in beds below them. Chinese Elms, Locusts and soft Maples, all popular in Oklahoma landscapes, are notorious for this.


Now is the time to check the location of your roses to assure they are getting enough sun. Often the lack-luster rose, with wilting and falling leaves, will flourish in a new garden location. If you need to move one, it is wise to revisit the rules for transplanting, which by definition means ‘lift, remove, relocate and reset in another place’. The seasonal timing now is perfect for the roses are still relatively dormant and the move will be less of a shock to them. Also since early spring is the time to prune roses, you will have the advantage of being able to prune excess growth before the bush actually begins to take off for the growing season.


Prior to any transplanting, mark the north side of the plant with a string or piece of cloth. Hint: To enable you to move the rose easily give it a good soaking several days before the dig and try to choose an overcast day when rain is predicted. Dig around the rose, cutting in a circle. As you dig, lift and probe occasionally to see if the plant is indeed moving and note where roots may still be anchored. Take as much soil as can be lifted so the root system is least disturbed. After it is dug, place it in the same direction it was before and it will adjust to new surroundings far more rapidly and with greater success than if it is planted in an opposing direction. After choosing a new sunny location dig the new hole and I have found I tend to underestimate the size… it must always be larger than I initially think. Make a small mound in the center of the new hole to prevent air pockets from forming as you plant and spread your roots until they look relaxed.


Place it slightly higher in the hole as it will settle several inches after planted. The bud system should therefore be one to two inches above ground level. Point the exposed roots and rootlets outward and add ½ cup of bone meal around the root system. Fill with soil, water well and wriggle to eliminate air pockets before adding the final water. Lastly prune the spindly growth leaving three to five good strong canes and prepare to enjoy the show later in the season!


Tip: It is unwise to apply fertilizer to newly transplanted specimens… they need time to adjust to new surroundings and must rest a bit before beginning a growth spurt. To give fertilizer to a recent transplant is akin to giving a man in ICU a five course dinner… it is not a good idea.