Steve in the Garden with students.
Steve Tinling is the Project Director for the Good Road Garden Project / Native American gardens and features a number Newcastle-Upon-Tyne City Council’s Composting Project. The Good Road Garden is based on traditional Native gardens featuring different types of corn (Maize), squashes, herbs, and other plants. Its focus is on people, plants, and animals; our well-being; and our relationships with each other and the environment we all share. The garden is a celebration of Native North American environmental practices! Sponsored by the Newcastle City Council, in 2001 and 2002 Carla presented a variety of educational programs for children and adults.
The Good Road Garden Project
Members of Newcastle City Council’s Home Composting Project, friends, colleagues and interested customers set up the Good Road Community Garden Project in 1997 to investigate traditional plant usage and the historic growing methods employed by various Native American cultures. After setting up a series of small temporary gardens in various parts of the city, they finally took over a larger, permanent plot of land in January 2001 to set up their demonstration garden. Located next to the Composting Projects office at The City Council’s Jesmond Dene Nursery, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, the experimental garden demonstrates traditional Native American gardening practices, these being less labor intensive, ecologically sound, organic, sustainable, and having a positive environmental impact. Using wherever possible, traditional Native American/heritage seed stock, the garden shows many varieties of familiar food crops in unusual, beautiful, colorful and decorative forms.
Visitors are often dismayed to find that some parts of the garden appears to be a wilderness, with goosefoot, nettles and other ‘weeds’ growing in amongst the crops. This is not the neat and tidy, formal garden that they were expecting. These ‘weeds’ or wild/semi-domesticated plants are in fact some of the crops – most historic Native American farmers and gardeners practiced semi-agricultural systems, with only the major crop fields being kept free of weeds. The farmers and hunter-gathering cultures would forage-harvest many medicinal, food and utility plants from the wild: The garden reflects this practice.
The Three Sisters’ –
Corn, beans and squash – The Three Sisters – are grown from the northeast to the southeast, from the Plains to the southwest and into Middle America. Many Native American cultures grow corn, beans and squash, but the tradition of calling these crops the ‘Three Sisters’ originated with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) – ‘The People of The Longhouse’. ‘The corn, the bean and the squash are three loving sisters who must always live together to be happy.’ The older sister is tall and graceful, the next younger loved to twine about her and lean for strength upon her. The youngest rambled at the feet of her sisters and protected them from prowling enemies. When the moon drops low and the summer night is lit only by the mysterious light of the stars, these three sisters come forth in human form wearing their green garments and decked in blossoms. They have been seen dancing in the shadows, singing to their mother earth, praising their father sun and whispering words of comfort to mankind. And men to show gratitude, call the three sisters Dyonheyko, ”they who sustain our lives”.’ Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) legend
‘Three Sisters Gardening’
A traditional three sisters’ garden forms a community of plants, bugs and animals – an ecosystem – that lasts for the growing season. It does not use ploughing and relies on the natural relationships between corn, beans and squash. This relationship is a form of companion planting. The tall stems of the corn will support the vine-like climbing beanstalks, and the beans will in return convert atmospheric nitrogen to a form that becomes available to the hungry corn. The large leaves of the squash plants act as a ground- covering weed-suppressing mulch – a living mulch – that also helps in reducing evaporation of soil moisture. Three sisters ‘gardens are planted using small round mounds or hills. These mounds slow down the flow of water and help hold the soil in place, unlike planting in rows, which can channel rainwater and can cause soil erosion. Growing corn, beans and squash together will also attract beneficial insects that prey on those that are destructive; this is a method known as biological control. Three sisters gardening will create a fertile soil that encourages strong healthy plant growth. Strong healthy plants are more able to resist disease, and damage from insect pests that may otherwise destroy them.