Three Sisters and Straw Bale Gardening with Children’s Workshop

The Children’s Workshop is a progressive public elementary school that neighbors the Campos Garden, and has used the garden as a place to bring its students and learn from time to time. After the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, the Children’s Workshop PTA generously took it upon themselves to seek a grant from Citizen’s Committee for New York City to help repair the garden. The school won the grant and the garden decided to use the funds to create a gardening experience for the students to learn about gardening, food, history, science, etc. I am thrilled for the opportunity to organize this project and have set out to design as fun and diverse a project as we could do in the small space.

The garden will be a circle/ellipse of about 9 feet in diameter. Inside the circle, the kids will plant a Three Sisters Garden, which is an ingenious Native American companion planting technique that uses maize/corn, squash and climbing beans. The three types crops help each other grow. The corn provides support for the beans, eliminating or at least reducing the need for poles. The beans add nitrogen to the soil, which enriches it for the benefit of the other plants, and the squash acts like a mulch to retain moisture and prevent weeds and pests. The corn, beans and squash together provide a well-balanced combination of nutrients and protein. In an upcoming post, I’ll give photos and more information on how to plant a Three Sisters Garden and what type of corn, beans and squash the Children’s Workshop students will be growing. Here’s a very rough diagram of the design.

Children's Garden Layout at Carver_0002

I’m particularly excited about the border beds. Instead of soil beds, the kids will be using straw bales, which are prepped with nitrogen for about ten days and topped with soil and compost. They are great for planting summer vegetables and tomatoes, and for greens in the spring and fall.  The outer beds in pale green in the diagram above are the straw bales.

Bushel basket

For the root vegetables, like carrots, beets, and radishes, we’ll have planters made from bushel baskets.





We got the delivery of the bales yesterday and will be setting them in place and beginning the preparation process. I’ll follow up with a post about how to prep and use straw bales for gardening and photos of the process in an upcoming post.



Here are some photos of the plot being marked off, prepped with newspaper and cardboard, a bit of mulch to hold it down while we awaited bale and soil delivery:

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Many thanks to the Children’s Workshop and the Citizen’s Committee for New York City for their generous support of the Campos Garden and the students’ horticulture and food gardening education.



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