The Native-American Way: Gardening Survival Techniques
Native Americans were great stewards of the land they planted on and ate from. It is remarkable to know that they didn’t toil on it with tools made today but with knowledge, respect, instinct, and reverence. They were grateful for the produce the soil provides, and for generations, they passed down the vital knowledge on how to do this by walking alongside nature and the aim to preserve the earth for years to come.
Their methods can be used by everybody – from the farmer with the largest field to the smallest patch of soil a gardener tends to. Below are some of the methods they used that we can learn to apply in today’s time.
Native-American Gardening Methods
The Basics of Planting in Companionship
Planting different species of plants together can be very helpful for them to grow well. This means that together, these plant groups grow better than they would individually, protecting each other from pests, providing cover from the sun and wind, and enhancing soil moisture.
A good example of this is the 3 sisters and the 4 sisters method discussed below.
This is one of their most well-known techniques. It is based on a Native-American story that squash, beans, and corn are each monitored by sister spirits and are gifts from the Great Spirit. So, they plant a mixture of squash, beans, and corn in the same patch of land at the same time. Scientifically, these three different seeds contribute to the richness of the soil in unique ways:
- Squash discourages pests and shields the other plants, so the soil’s moisture would not escape.
- A trellis is provided by the corn because the vines of beans can use it like a pole.
- Nitrogen is then supplemented into the soil provided by the beans.
Natural fertilizer like fish is then added to enhance the fertility of the soil.
A 4th sister is sometimes added to the 3 sisters. It may be either a sunflower, a bee balm, or the bee-spider flower. This adds to the mix by attracting a ton of bees to pollinate the plants, thus steering birds away from the corn and to the plants instead. A 4th sister can act as a support for the beans as well.
The Native-American principle of not tilling the soil is the biggest contributor to the sustainability of the soil, which is a method that will do wonders to your garden.
Tilling has a negative impact on the soil today. It causes the soil to erode because each tilling session makes the soil break down a little bit more, making it a bit less nutrient-filled. It will need more fertilizer with each season that comes. Good worms, bacteria, and fungi are killed each time the ground is tilled as well.
Before this technique is applied to your planting, you must:
Change the way you think about gardening – work with the soil and not against it.
Try out no-till techniques:
- Raise your vegetable garden – Raising your vegetable garden is easy and inexpensive. It will also help you control your soil quality and environment.
- Make straw bale gardens – It works especially well if your gardening space is little.
- Make lasagna gardens –It builds up your soil remarkably.
Adopting the Native-American gardening techniques is more than following their principles. It is firstly about changing your mindset into one that prioritizes the preservation of the earth and sustainability of the soil. Doing so will enhance the joy of gardening, and the positive results will more than speak for itself.