What we are doing here in these photos is called Chain Sibbing, Also known as hand pollination. Hand pollination is pollinating plants by hand instead of pollination through the open air. This way we can maintain the original seed stock because we don’t know what pollen is flying in the air. We are using bags specifically for hand pollination which are waterproof and made out of wax. We place the bags on top of the tassels and place “ear sleeves” over the new sprouting ears of corn to prevent other types of pollen from pollinating. The next day we proceed to take and shake the bagged tassels to receive the pollen for the ears, then taking the ear sleeves off quickly replacing it with the bag of pollen we just collected. Thus completing hand pollination.

Hi my name is Aliah Gilbert; I currently attend American Indian OIC or Takota Prep. I’m 17 soon to be a senior; class of 2015. I’m Lakota and enrolled in the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe. I love the outdoors, very adventurous, and always trying to stay fit and be active. Some of the things I liked about the science museum and the Big Back Yard experience is that I got more familiar with all the various plant types, I learned about new creative ways on how to keep your garden organic and I learned how to make a basket out of sweet grass!

Posted by niilaaci aacimwaapiikonki on Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hi my name is Aliah Gilbert; I currently attend American Indian OIC or Takota Prep. I’m 17 soon to be a senior; class of 2015. I’m Lakota and enrolled in the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe. I love the outdoors, very adventurous, and always trying to stay fit and be active. Some of the things I liked about the science museum and the Big Back Yard experience is that I got more familiar with all the various plant types, I learned about new creative ways on how to keep your garden organic and I learned how to make a basket out of sweet grass!

My name is Sunkmanitu Walking Elk and I’m Senior at the American Indian OIC high school known as Takoda Prep. I am an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota but I was raised here in the twin cities and surrounding areas. I love stuff relating to the environment and just flat out groovy things that have to do with our world and earth, which is why I work in the “Native Gardens” in the big back yard at the Science Museum of Minnesota. What happens to our earth is all up to us. :D P.L.U.R

My name is Sunkmanitu Walking Elk and I’m Senior at the American Indian OIC high school known as Takoda Prep. I am an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota but I was raised here in the twin cities and surrounding areas. I love stuff relating to the environment and just flat out groovy things that have to do with our world and earth, which is why I work in the “Native Gardens” in the big back yard at the Science Museum of Minnesota. What happens to our earth is all up to us. :D P.L.U.R

MORE THAN knee high by 4th of July!

As you can see in these images, the corn in the Three Sister’s Garden is growing great! It looks like the organic soil building experiment is really working. Our interns Aliah and Sunkmanitu have been recording the growth of the corn over the past month and much of the corn grew around 2 feet within 2 weeks! There are a few that have sprouted ears and we will begin the hand pollinating this week.

The beans are doing well and have begun climbing up the corn and providing even more needed nitrogen. The squash is finally getting off its feet, but we discovered nearly 400 Squash Vine Borer eggs already laid on them and painstakingly removed all of them with tweezers. A few eggs inevitably fell into the soil as we were doing this, but hopefully that will be a barrier after they’ve hatched and that we’ve reduced the probability of an infestation dramatically. 

Time for Tea!

To build the organic soil in our gardens, we will be making a routine batch of compost tea. The tea is definitely not for human consumption, unless you like to eat compost, molasses, and fish immulsion (pureed fish parts that smell as bad as, if not worse than, you can imagine it would). The goal of making the tea is to make nutrients already in the soil more readily available for the plants through the hard work of microorganisms. These little critters are already living in compost and making the tea speeds up their reproduction exponentially by providing the food (molasses and fish impulsion) along with oxygen. We first screened the compost from our compost bin, filled a pantyhose sock with it, suspended it in a five gallon bucket of non-chlorinated water, added the food, and finally aerated it with aquarium pump from the pet store. We let it brew for 24 hours and removed the pantyhose sock and ended up with a deep brown solution that was then diluted about 4:1 with water. You can use a water can and pour it on the roots as well as the plants themselves. We will be doing this every 2-3 weeks to help build the little ecosystem we would like to have for a healthy soil to make healthy plants!

Three Sister’s Garden Expanded for 2013!


This season we’ve expanded the Three Sister’s Garden and will be able grow at least 3 times as many corn, beans and squash plants as we have in the past. It was a lot of hard work getting it ready in time for planting on May 24th. This involved tilling up the sod in the expanded portion, adding new topsoil, and an organic soil building mix of compost, peat moss and lime for all of the corn mounds.

Squash Vine Borer Averted!

With the awful luck we’ve had in the past few years of Squash Vine Borer infestation we decided to wait until later in the season to plant our squash. The borers emerge in late June to early July and quickly lay their eggs on the squash. We didn’t plant our squash until late June, so the plants had just germinated by the time the borers were ready. That may seem really late to plant squash, but as you can see we already have one fully grown Lakota squash which has begun to ripen and many, many more in development. We probably have another month or more before the first frost, so we should be able to harvest quite a few squash this season!

Tassel ear?!
Have you ever heard of a tassel ear? Neither had we, but it looks like we have one growing on the Oto corn we planted this season. There’s always something new to learn in gardening and apparently this does happen to corn occasionally. Corn flowers are both male and female when they first appear, but as they develop, the female flowers abort on one and the male flowers abort on another leaving the male tassel and female ear, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and so in this case the female flower did not abort on what became the tassel which was then fertilized by the male flower and formed this ear. They also tend to develop on the sucker stems; those stems that are offshoots of the main stems. It seems that usually these aren’t very useful since they tend not develop fully due to not having the protective covering of the ear, but it looks like the one on our corn has produced some nice big kernels!

Tassel ear?!

Have you ever heard of a tassel ear? Neither had we, but it looks like we have one growing on the Oto corn we planted this season. There’s always something new to learn in gardening and apparently this does happen to corn occasionally. Corn flowers are both male and female when they first appear, but as they develop, the female flowers abort on one and the male flowers abort on another leaving the male tassel and female ear, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and so in this case the female flower did not abort on what became the tassel which was then fertilized by the male flower and formed this ear. They also tend to develop on the sucker stems; those stems that are offshoots of the main stems. It seems that usually these aren’t very useful since they tend not develop fully due to not having the protective covering of the ear, but it looks like the one on our corn has produced some nice big kernels!

ningiimakakokemin! We made birch bark boxes!


This summer we made wiigwaas (birch bark) makaks for our summer project to learn more about the proccess and materials involved. We use some old birch bark for this project and so had to use the iron to heat the bark to make it pliable again. The whole process took a series of afternoons usually working inside because of the 100+ degree weather! In the end our makaks turned out rather nice, with Chaz, one of our interns this summer from the American Indian O.I.C., adding his initials with wiigob (the inner bark of the basswood tree).

With the bee balm in bloom, we picked some of it to dry on the drying stage. This plant has many names in many languages. It’s common name in English is Bee Balm or Bergamot. It’s Dakota/Lakota names are hehaka tapejuta or wahkpe wastemma. It’s Ojibwe names are bibigwanakak or wabinowak and its Latin name is Monarda fistulosa.

The leaves and flowers are dried to use to treat headaches, colds, fever reducer among many other things. We will be drying this for use as a tea.

Next »