Small Space Gardening: 3 Sisters, Watching The Moon, And Finally, Planting Your Garden

Part 8 in Diane Dryden's series on gardening in small spaces.

Small Space Gardening: 3 Sisters, Watching The Moon, And Finally, Planting Your Garden

Note: Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run the entire summer with information for both new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks the articles will update as the gardening year progresses; from picking out a site up to harvest in the fall.

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Small Space Gardening - Article #8

3 Sisters, Watching the Moon, and Finally, Planting Your Garden

First of all, let me congratulate first-time gardeners for hanging in there during these crazy days and nights of above and below-average temperatures. If you've managed to keep those precious plants alive that you started from seeds, good on you!

This has been a challenging spring, and who knows what summer will be like?

Don't be discouraged because this is the week to plant.

Suppose you're an experienced gardener and would like a challenge. Why not make this the year you follow the lunar calendar for planting? Basically, it works on one principle: when the moon is full, until it is dark, about two weeks is the best time for planting below-ground crops like beets, rutabagas, carrots, and onions. As the moonlight decreases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.

Conversely, your above-ground plants need to be planted between the dark of the moon until the next full moon. As the moonlight increases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.

Think of the lunar month like a clock, with noon being the full moon and 6 being the dark of the moon.

Several years ago, I followed the lunar calendar to the letter. Amazingly it worked. But the downside for me was the waiting for the next moon phase to continue planting what I could have put all in one day.

On the plus side, four days on either side of the dark moon is excellent for pulling weeds. They come out like butter; try it.

Harris' Farmer's Almanac is your go-to book if you want to take a crack at lunar gardening. At the beginning of each month, important dates for the coming 30 days are listed.

For instance, June.

  • Plant above-ground crops 2, 3, 9-12, 29, 30
  • Plant root crops 15, 16, 19
  • Plant annual flowers 2, 3, 29, 30
  • Plant biennials and perennials 15, 16, 19
  • Plant berries, trees, shrubs, and vines 16, 19
  • Transplant 9-12
  • Control plant pests 21-23, 26, 27

See what I mean? But it works.

Okay, back to the garden and the importance of reading the back of the seed package.

Like so many of us, if you sow too thickly and have to thin your crop, take heart. Instead of throwing the thinnings away, now you can eat them. We could always eat them, but until they were given the name Micro-greens, they became popular.

Radishes, carrots, spinach, and lettuce are all eatable as babies.

Speaking of radishes. We discovered this year that if the container isn't level, it creates an interesting problem.

These radishes were planted around the center of a pot designated for a later tomato plant. Using the theory that the tomato could take over the container when the radishes were harvested. We didn't plan on the rain. Radish seeds are tiny, and when it rained, they all floated to one side of the uneven pot. It wasn't until they came up that we saw what happened. So half the crop became thinnings, and it worked out fine.

If you planted potatoes, they should be up and thriving. If you keep covering all but the top leaves with good soil, they will continue to race to the top of your container.

The best time of day to plant your garden is in the evening. This is when the hot sun is no longer baking you and the soil. And it gives the plants an entire night before they're blasted by the sun. If you're planting the vegetables you've started from seeds, remember they have to be hardened off for at least a week. That means they need to be outside in a protected area, the north side of your house, or tucked inside a building whose doors can stay open to help them get used to being outside.

Dig your soil, and then rake it smooth, removing rocks and sticks.

If you've got a good eye, use your hand or a hoe, and make a trench as long as you need for the number of seeds you're planting. To ensure straight rows, a string suspended between two sticks works well.

Please do not feel obligated to plant the entire package of seeds if you have no plans for your excess crop. Just grow what you'll need to harvest.

Cover the seeds with soil twice the depth of the seeds. Barely cover the tiny seeds, and you might want to pre-water the soil before you plant anything. That way there are no air gaps between the seeds and the soil.

Designate the beginning and the end of the rows with markers, rocks, or sticks. Use anything that will indicate the area that's been planted.

When emigrants came to Wisconsin, many planted their seeds by scattering them instead of putting them in rows. I find that scattering only works if the area is no wider than four feet wide. This way, you can reach the bed from both sides without stepping into the area to weed, trampling the growing crop.

If you're wondering, it's still too early to plant tomatoes. Especially this year when the weather has been so unpredictable. Wait until the middle of June, and then plant them along with your peppers. You won't be sorry.

We're putting in a 4' x 4' Three Sister's Garden this year.

This clever planting was one necessity used by the American Indians, and I think it's sheer genius.

The first sister that was planted was corn. She would be the one that would grow tall and become the support for the second sister, beans. The third sister was squash with her big leaves that kept the soil moist and shaded as the hot summer weather baked the southwest.

When the Indians returned home after spending most of the summer at their hunting grounds, all the crops would be ready. The corn and the beans were dry, and the squash was ripe and ready for drying for the winter.

This is a perfect example of the old saying that "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Okay, back to the garden. Plant, water, thin. Now that there is more sunlight and heat, things should take off, and you should only be required to pull weeds during June. Best weed-pulling time being right now and at the end of June from 28 until July 6.

We invite comments, suggestions, and wisdom of all sorts.

Next time, annual and perennial flowers, berry bugs, and all you need to know before planting a tree.

Last Update: May 29, 2022 10:47 am CDT

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