Wampanoag Gardening

Portsmouth history is farm history and we will be exploring that history in blog posts to come.  Our farm history starts with the fact that Aquidneck Island was a summer campground and hunting field for both Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes.  We know something about how the island’s first residents grew their crops through the heritage of Wampanoag Three Sisters Gardening.  URI Master Gardeners working at Prescott Farm created a Three Sisters Garden in back of the Sherman Windmill.  Just a week ago I saw the corn stalks, squash and green beans there.

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Green beans growing on corn stalks at Prescott Farm

How did our native residents feed their families?  They hand planted seeds in a mound pattern about 18 inches at the base and 10 inches at a flat top where the corn would be planted.  The mounds are about 4 inches high with a shallow ring around it to hold water.  When the corn reaches about 4 inches high, beans are planted in four holes around the corn mound.  Squash (summer, winter, pumpkin) is planted with the beans.   The beans, corn and squash all help each other grow.  The beans grow up the corn stalks and the squash spread out and help prevent weeds.

We associate the Wampanoags with our Thanksgiving, but in their calendar they have five thanksgivings.  Strawberry Thanksgiving greets summer when the first wild berries ripen.  Green bean thanksgiving  and green corn thanksgiving are held in mid summer.  Cranberry Thanksgiving celebrates the ripening of that berry in the Fall.  After all the work is done there is yet another thanksgiving. wampanoag-calendar Wampanoag Calendar