The Three Sisters

Hello everyone! My name is Shannon and I am a 2017 intern here at Albright’s community garden. Although I have only been here for a short amount of time, each day spent in the garden is a new experience for me. It is amazing to see just how much the garden can change within a couple of days. Before you know it, seeds that we have planted will soon begin to sprout and it is such a satisfying experience knowing that something we planted is growing and thriving. Although, we will have to work diligently and tirelessly before we can reap the benefits. Fellow gardeners alike will agree that most of their time is spent fighting weeds and keeping pesky insects away from their crops, and still more are looking for ways to create a garden with limited space. Along the way, I have found multiple methods of gardening that require minimal effort to upkeep and does not take up a lot of land, but the one that stuck out the most to me was the Three Sisters.


Image result for three sisters

We all know that Native Americans had a reputation for being excellent hunter-gatherers, but did you know about their popular farming technique called the Three Sisters that is still used today? The Three Sisters, otherwise known as corn, beans, and squash, were the staple food to the Natives. It was the Iroquois tribe that first coined the term, “Three Sisters.” When grown together in a small section, they form a symbiotic relationship with one another. The corn stalks allow the beans to climb and act as a trellis while the beans provide nitrogen for the soil and help ground the corn during severe storms or high winds. Squash plants assist in preventing weeds from growing due to their large leaves covering the ground. Not only do the plants grow well together, but a diet consisting of these is perfectly balanced which was important for the Native Americans since they had limited resources to work with that would provide the necessary nutrients they would need to survive. While corn is rich in carbohydrates, beans contain high protein and amino acids not found in corn. Finally, squash is chock full of vitamins and other nutrients that both corn and beans do not supply. Usually, the three types of seeds are planted in the same mound in the ground and each should be planted in different stages. Always plant the corn first and once after they have established a small stalk, the beans should be planted next. The corn should also be planted closer together depending how much you are planting because if they are far apart, they may not be able to pollinate. Squash should come last so their leaves do not cover the beans. Making a mound will aid in water drainage so the plants do not receive an overabundance of water.

I think it is interesting to see a farming practice that managed to survive hundreds of years still incorporated in gardens and farms. Even right now the Albright garden has planted the Three Sisters. With the grouping of these three plants, we are able to work on other tasks at hand since they do not require much maintenance besides basic needs that every plant has. The best part is not having to weed (gardeners you know the struggle!) Trust me when I say that you only need a small area to do the Three Sisters. We have only a small plot dedicated to this technique and we are still getting three different crops out of it! Overall, I believe this is a fantastic example of a symbiotic relationship with plants and shows that anyone can plant something healthy on a small area. If you put your heart and soul into planting, you will see the results!

Happy planting!

Additional information on the Three Sisters:

Recipe of the Week: Bean Salad with Lemon and Herbs


*makes 6 servings*

· 2 cups fresh cooked shell beans (such as cannellini or cranberry) or 1 14-oz. can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed

· 6 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

· ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves with tender stems

· ¼ cup olive oil

· 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

· 2 tablespoons capers, chopped

· 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

· 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

· ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ¼ crushed red pepper flakes

· Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Toss shell beans, green beans, parsley, oil, chives, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.



Saying of the Week:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

-John Muir

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Fish Emulsion

Good Afternoon!

Today I will be explaining the function and benefits of fish emulsion for organic gardening.

So… what is fish emulsion? Fish emulsion is an organic fertilizer made from leftover parts of fish.

Yes, the smell and/or thought is unsavory but, fish emulsion benefits your plants by providing them with nutrients, amino acids, proteins, and oils. Furthermore, it feeds the plants and microbes while also improving general soil structure.

When using fish emulsion in your garden, use 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Make sure that you back the fertilization with a thorough soak to the soil around your plant(s); this will further allow your plant(s) to absorb the newly added nutrients.

Because fish emulsion is a better but, unfortunately, expensive alternative to organic fertilization, below is a link on how to make your own fish emulsion, as homemade fish emulsion has more nutrients through using whole fish rather than industries who only use fish scraps.

Fish Emulsion Fertilizer – Tips For Using Fish Emulsion On Plants

Thank you for your support!

Until next weekend,


Recipe of the week- Ratatouille:

-peel and slice 1-2 (depending on serving size) yellow zucchini/squash and eggplant-asian eggplant is slimmer thus making ideal slices

-use tomato base (or dice about 10 paste tomatoes mixing with 1 cup of flour)

– Season with thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper to your liking (I prefer about 3 medium sized branches of thyme and a decent amount of salt).

^ bring these items together in a large pot or large deep pan, cover, and simmer on low for about 2 hours

[Ratatouille makes a nice side dish- my good friend and intern Renee Gares and I added ground sausage to the stew which made it a heartier meal]


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Early Blight

Overall, Albright’s community garden is still healthy and producing plentiful produce. Lately, we have been harvesting cucumbers, swiss chard, a number of different and scentful herbs, as well as other crops, and just the beginnings of different varieties of tomatoes.
These past few weeks, as the heat has increased, we have noticed some problems with some of our tomato plants. The bottom leaves are beginning to become yellow and brown spots also have become obvious to us. We’ve learned that this is because of a very common disease among gardeners alike. The disease is aptly named early blight.
Early blight is caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. The fungus usually begins attacking the tomato plant’s leaves closest to the ground because of the higher amount of moisture there (fungi love moisture). The disease typically begins as it forms round brown spots on the leaves and as is spreads, the whole leaf will turn yellow and eventually die. Sometimes early blight can affect the stems as well as the fruit.
Early blight spreads by water and soil coming into contact with tomato plants and can attack plants throughout the growing season, especially when conditions are humid.
Now don’t completely freak out because there are remedial measures that can be taken. For one, it is important to keep the lower leaves of the tomato plants off the ground by snipping them before the disease gets to them. Another remedy is to snip off any affected leaves. This will slow the spread of early blight. Another way to keep early blight out of the garden is to put a layer of something between the soil and the plants. Some gardeners use newspaper or a thick mulch. This will prevent the fungus spores in the soil from splashing onto the leaves. Also, good air circulation among the plants can keep the leaves dry and less susceptible.
If these methods fail to keep early blight from potentially ruining your tomato plot, there are organic fungicides that can be used. We have been using a copper fungicide over the past week to attempt to keep the early blight at bay.
Early blight typically doesn’t affect the fruits. But the disease must be kept under control in order to have a fully optimal garden.


Recipe of the Week:

Fast and Simple Salsa

6 large tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup green chile peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients to list

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and green chile peppers in a bowl; drain briefly. Return the mixture to the bowl; stir the vinegar and salt into the tomato mixture.

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Weeds that Benefit the World

Hi All,


Our garden here at Albright is home to a special plant that many consider a weed and oftentimes remove. Milkweed! Milkweed is home to the monarch butterfly as they are quite picky with where they will lay eggs. During their larval stage as a monarch caterpillar, plants in the milkweed family are the only plants that they will feast upon after consuming their own eggshell. Fun fact, milkweed has a poisonous toxin in it that is stored inside of the caterpillar’s body upon consumption which gives monarch butterflies a foul taste, warding away predators. Also, monarchs are known for their incredible migration pattern; they leave from North America in large groups in early fall to mate, lay eggs, and die in Mexico. That generation then migrates north and repeats the process that the generation before them had done in the spring. Unfortunately, with people removing milkweed because it is a “weed”, monarchs have less area to lay their eggs.

If any of you have a yard or garden plot, plant some milkweed seeds in the fall, they’ll experience winter, and then they’ll come up in the spring. You can also go to your local plant nursery to find milkweed. For more information on how to care for your own milkweed to help out the monarch population, check out this site Hopefully we can harvest some milkweed seeds soon! Here’s a helpful video on how to collect your own milkweed seeds


Happy Gardening,



Recipe of the Week

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives



  • 3 large potatoes, washed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 ¼ cups pouring cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  2. Boil potatoes till tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain, cut in half, place in baking dish cut side up.
  4. Whisk together sour cream, cream, cheeses, chives, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over potatoes.
  6. Cook 20 – 30 minutes until top is golden.






Sources Used:

Additional Facts on Milkweed:



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Appreciating Nature in the Garden

Hi everyone! My name is Vince and I’m also a 2016 intern at Albright’s community garden. I just began my time working in the garden this year and am already quite surprised at the amount of growth that has taken place. The garden is a lively and wonderful place to spend time. The community garden is also very productive and healthy. As I look around at the variety of plants, I constantly find myself being closer to nature.

Cultivating food is one of the oldest activities people have done throughout history. It is a necessity of course, but there seems to be more to it than that. Crops depend on a number of factors to be able to grow and eventually produce edible food. These factors include healthy soil, adequate moisture, and of course a proper amount of sunshine. I’m amazed when I recognize all the connected processes involved when growing crops. Being a passionate environmentalist and majoring in environmental studies, I feel that working in the garden helps me to stay active with my views on our environment and my own well-being.

Working in the garden is also peaceful. Being that it is an age-old activity, I feel that gardening is a simple way to better connect with nature. Being outside on a sunny and warm day while getting a little dirty is not something to complain about. One can forget about life frustrations and feel in the present moment.




Recipe of the week:

Refreshing Cucumber Salad

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 half small red onion, thinly sliced

1 large tomato, halved and sliced

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, toss together the cucumbers, red onion and tomato. Gently stir in the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper until coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Importance of Permaculture

Hello All,


My name is Renee Gares and I am a garden intern for the 2016 summer season here at Albright College. I will be a junior this upcoming fall semester as I continue studying biology and Spanish. Coming in to this gardening internship as a novice, I have already begun to learn the value of permaculture.

Healthy, organic, and straight from the source are qualities that I appreciate in my food. As a child, my mother would go to the local farmer’s stand on the road and buy various fruits and vegetables; yet, I did not know at that time the benefits and value of locally grown, organic foods. I would like to take the time for my first blog to discuss the negative impact of processed foods.

During class one day, my professor mentioned her friend’s child who was diagnosed with ADHD. She later claimed that her friend changed the child’s eating habits tremendously which resulted in significant behavioral changes. I researched this further and found out that dyes in foods may be correlated to this phenomenon. The University of Southampton found that food additives and colorings led to an increase in “…ADHD-type behaviour, including impulsive behaviour and loss of concentration….” There is also a website located at the bottom of this blog where parents discuss their child’s symptoms and how they have changed in behavior due to diet! Also, according to, just about 80% of American processed foods contain ingredients that are banned in other countries.

With permaculture, we’re cultivating crops that we plant ourselves without the use of pesticides. It’s a nice feeling biting into a fresh piece of lettuce or whichever fresh produce, knowing that it is safe to eat without unknown or hidden health risks. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity and if the techniques that I learn are not used in my future career endeavors, I will definitely use what I’ve learned for a personal home garden.

For those of you that happen to have a garden of your own, take a look at your leek if you have any! There have been a few insects within our leek which is a recent and pressing concern for the PA area. Check out these links for further details on allium leafminer:

Happy Gardening,


{Recipe of the Week: Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese}

Credit to

Watch the Video Here:


  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ small red onion (diced)
  • Swiss chard
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine


  1. Juice 1 tbsp. lemon juice; put in small bowl (Or purchase cooking lemon juice already squeezed)
  2. Grate 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese; put in small bowl
  3. Mince 1 tbsp. garlic; put in small bowl
  4. Dice ½ small red onion; put in small bowl
  5. Chop off stems of Swiss chard, then chop stems into small pieces
  6. Coarsely chop leaves of Swiss chard
  7. Pour 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over MEDIUM-HIGH heat
  8. Add 2 tbsp. butter in skillet
  9. When butter melts, add garlic and onion for 30 seconds
  10. Add in the stems of the Swiss chard
  11. Add ½ cup dry white wine
  12. Simmer for about 5 minutes until stems soften
  13. Stir in chopped Swiss chard leaves until wilted
  14. Stir in lemon juice
  15. Stir in parmesan cheese
  16. Salt to taste (optional)
  17. You’re finished! Sprinkle additional parmesan cheese and/or lemon juice if desired


Website Links

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Hello all,

My name is Gina Whitfield, I am the garden manager for the Albright Community Garden 2016! I’m approaching my junior year at Albright College, majoring in environmental science. My interests in entomology and botany have encouraged me to intern for the garden this year.

During this year’s annual spring Permablitz, the kickoff to the garden itself, the community came together to help construct a hugelkultur hill (what we now simply call “the mound”).

Hugelkultur is German for hill culture, this technique being used in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years. Consisting of a base layer of logs and twigs, followed by a layer of leaf matter, and finally topped off with compost, the hugel mound ensures constant moisture and nutrients for plants to grow. The rich organic matter within a hugelkultur is continuous, as it takes over fifteen years to break down! The gradual matter breakdown inside the mound means the soil will aerate (long-term no till) and the resulting heat extends a plant’s growing season. Since our hugel mound is still young, we make sure to water it every other day. However, once the mound has resided for a year, the logs within will act as a sponge for plants’ roots to tap into and the mound will only need to be watered if there is a drought.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a low-maintenance, high-quality garden with too many benefits!

I’ve added two pictures below, before and after, of the mound.

Having previously experienced tomato blight in a typical plot, the garden team thought it would be interesting to see how well tomatoes freely grow atop the hugel mound; I will be sure to publish the end result!

Let us know what you think and/or if you have any questions about Hugelkultur and stay tuned for the weekly garden blog!

>< Gina

Recipe for the Week: Steamed Radishes
– Chop radishes
– Steam radishes until easily pierced with a fork
(Optional: add your choice of seasonings/herbs with a light touch of butter)
[Steaming radishes will lift their bitter taste allowing them to be an excellent side for any meal!]


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