Is it crazy to plant a Three Sisters garden in a climate that is not especially hospitable to two of the three elements? Is it crazy to put out frost-tender plants before June 1 in Duluth? Perhaps, but what fun is a garden if you can't be a little crazy, and besides, I figure that if there are volunteer squash sprouting in the compost pile, that it is officially warm enough to plant squash (and tomatoes and peppers and etc.) in the garden, which is mostly compost anyway.
My attempt at lasagna gardening didn't really work--I should have put a lot more organic material on top of the cardboard--so this spring I had two big loads of compost delivered from Hobbes at Garden Magic (which, for the locals, I highly recommend: this is beautiful compost) and I planted directly into that. That was in early April, and the cardboard from last fall was still completely intact; now when I dig deeper in the garden to put in transplants, the cardboard is almost entirely disintegrated, and I swear that the native soil underneath looks better than in the rest of my yard, although it doesn't seem possible for the soil to have improved that much that quickly.
Over the past month or so, I have planted round one of my garden, and now everything is in the ground, many of the seeds are sprouting, the spinach is big enough to harvest some baby leaves, and the tomatoes, peppers and squash have all survived their first night outside. The corn and beans of the Three Sisters garden went in late last week, and I though that my biggest challenge to growing corn would be cool summer temps and hungry raccoons, but the corn might not even make it that far: a few days after planting, the little hills looked disheveled, and I think that squirrels or birds dug up a lot of the seed corn already, and in the processed displaced some of the beans. The beans themselves are somewhat experimental; my packet of Kentucky Wonder Pole beans wouldn't cover all the hills of corn, and I didn't want to make a trip to go buy more bean seeds, so I planted some kidney beans and navy beans that I had in my pantry. I have no idea if they'll mature in time, or how many will even grow--I seem to be finding a fair amount of lightly nibbled kidney beans on the surface of the soil.
So! This is what I'm growing this year in my vegetable garden:
Sugar Snap Peas
Gigante d'Inverno Spinach
Early Wonder Beets
Little Finger Carrots
Saxa II Radishes
Bright Lights Chard
Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
Kidney Beans (from the bulk aisle at the co-op)
Navy Beans (from the bulk aisle at the co-op)
Luscious Sweet Corn
Toma Verde Tomatillos
Joe's Long Red Cayenne Peppers
California Wonder Peppers
Sweet Slice Cucmbers
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Cantaloupe (unknown variety; from my neighbor)
Giant of Italy Parsely
Cilantro (unknown variety; from my neighbor)
All that in a roughly 15 by 30 foot plot. I'm trying to use the space as effectively as I can. The carrots and radishes, for example, are intersown, because the radishes will be in and out in no time and after I pull them there'll be room for the carrots to mature. Because the scallion are so small, they're sown between the rows of other plants (I'll do that for additional plantings of radishes, too). The Roma tomatoes are planted between the rows of spinach; the spinach will be mostly done by late June/early July, so they will be out by the time the tomatoes are getting big. And since Romas are determinate and produce all their fruit at once, depending on when the fruit matures I might even have time for another planting of greens between the Romas in the fall, where the spinach is now. In a few weeks, I'll be putting in additional plantings of carrots and beets in between the peas, so that when the peas are finished in midsummer there will be something else growing in that space.
It seems very large and complicated written out like this, but when I am actually in the garden is feels small and haphazard. And when I look out in the yard all I see is wasted lawn space where I can expand my garden next year.