Spring Gardening Tips from American Indian Town

Staff working in the American Indian Town garden at Roanoke Island Festival Park
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

After a long, cold winter, we are finally beginning to see the first signs of spring. Watching flowers blooms, soaking up the warm weather and working in the garden are a few of the springtime rituals we can not wait to enjoy. At Roanoke Island Festival Park, we know spring has official sprung when the garden mounds are formed and the seeds are planted in the American Indian Town.  

Long before HGTV, the American Indians relied on their elders to teach them gardening and harvesting techniques. These methods were passed down from generation to generation and are still practiced today. One of these gardening techniques you can use in your garden is the three sister crops planting method using corn, beans and squash. When planted together, these crops make the perfect trio and help each other grow.

Three Sister Crops Planting Steps

  1. Start by forming mounds in your garden soil. This gives plants a few more inches of growing room. 
  2. Plant corn in the center of the mound. 
  3. Next, plant beans around the corn so the when the beans grow, they will climb up the corn stalk.
  4. The last step is to plant squash around the mounds. Their leaves keep weeds out of the garden and provide shade and moisture to the soil.
  5. Enjoy watching your garden grow!

This method proved to be successful for the American Indians, despite the sandy soil on Roanoke Island. We now know that the beans also replace nitrogen in the soil, helping all of the sister crops grow. Add the three sister crops to your garden and enjoy a bountiful harvest this summer. 

To see the process for yourself, visit our garden in American Indian Town. Our garden features corn, beans, squash, gourds and sunflowers that will be in full bloom in a few months. You can also learn about coastal Algonquian culture and pick up other useful skills like fishing, weaving, cordage making and building. 

Corn growing in the American Indian Town garden at Roanoke Island Festival Park