The Iroquois Planting and Agriculture System

The Iroquois Planting System

(1996 Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education)

  • When the leaves of the dogwood are the size a squirrel’s ear it is time to plant.
  • Seeds are planted from east to west, with kind thoughts three days before the full moon. A small hole is dug. Three to four kernels of corn are placed in that hole and then loosely covered with an inch or two of soil. As the corn germinates and begins to grow, the small seedling comes up above the ground surface.
  • The Iroquois would return periodically and as they weeded, they would hill up the soil around those young corn plants. The hills were arranged in fairly uniform rows. The distance between the rows of hills would be approximately three feet.
  • Usually two to three weeks after the corn have been planted, the farmers would return in the same hills, they would plant two to three bean seeds. This is called interplanting. The bean plants are able to fix nitrogen. They can take nitrogen out of the air and turn it into a form that plants can use, especially corn, which needs a lot of nitrogen. The corn plant, in turn, offers support so bean plants can grow up around the corn stalk.
  • In the area between the rows, many Natives would also plant a low growing crop such as pumpkins or squash that would cover the ground area between the hills. The advantage of the pumpkin or squash seems to be primarily weed control, it covers the land and is able to choke out any submerging weeds.
The Iroquois Planting System