During the COVID-19 pandemic, home gardening has taken root and grown explosively. Over the last year, many Americans found themselves experiencing food shortages at the grocery store, local restaurant closures and extra time at home. In Indian Country, interest in traditional practices surged, including food sovereignty and gardening.
Throughout tribal organizations, “food sovereignty” describes local efforts to transform and reclaim food systems. These efforts increase access to traditional and healthier foods plus can help combat hunger. Accessing healthy food can be a challenge for some Native American families due to location or financial circumstances, global pandemic or not. This makes choosing more nutritious foods a challenge. Growing your own garden is a great start towards food sovereignty and better health.
“Working in a garden develops your relationship to the land,” says Aubrey Skye, a Hunkpapa Lakota gardener. Develop your relationship with the land this spring by following Indigenous gardening advice.
Plot your success: If you are new to gardening, ensure success by starting small. Try a few pots or raised garden beds with easy-to-grow plants. For first-time gardeners, be sure to seek the counsel of your elders and some gardeners you may know. Follow the directions on seed packages for how deep to plant seeds and how much sun and water they need. And, don’t forget to check the weather. Most garden plants don’t handle frost very well. Have some tarps or some type of cover ready if frost is in the forecast.
Cultivate plant friendships: For many Native American communities, three plants - corn, beans and squash - represent the most important crops. When planted together, they are known as the Three Sisters. They work together to help one another survive. The corn provides tall stalks for the beans to climb so that they are not out-competed by squash vines. But that’s just one of the benefits! More can be found here.
Make room: Don’t just focus on the fruit or vegetables within your garden. Embellish it with flowers, too! Flowering plants attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators to your garden.
Keep crops cozy: Got a plant that isn’t doing too well? Give it a rock! Yes, a rock. They are commonly set next to plants or seedlings that need help. The rocks smooth out day-night temperature variations by soaking up the sun's heat and slowly releasing it overnight.
Start planting today for a successful summer garden and inner-growth. Follow along in the app this week for seed starting for beginners on Tuesday, a garden planning booklet Wednesday plus a Medicine Wheel Garden inspiration Thursday!