Thank goodness for order. After a summer of coming and going, anything goes and the "later, Mom" I kept hearing fall from my children's lips, I welcome the ring of the school bell, the crackle of the brown paper lunch bag and the little nip in the morning air.

The spider webs I bump into on the porch, only to discover in my hair later, I can skip, but I'll tolerate. Other signs of fall, such as the occasional slug in my boot or lone deer in our yard searching for fallen apples seems kind of innocent. My mind is full of order - it's time for ducks in a row, "i's" to be dotted and "t's" to be crossed.

I've been reading up on an orderly planting system for corn, beans and squash and wanted to share it with you. Gardeners have long practiced interplanting, a system of growing plants that benefit one another. Native Americans from different parts of North America labeled one such trio planting of corn, squash and beans as "Three Sisters."

The corn supports the bean vines as they grow upward and the squash covers the soil, helping control weeds and to deter predators who might feed on the corn. The beans can convert nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. Remaining nitrogen will be available for next year's corn. As for nutrition, the crops complement each other by supplying carbohydrates (the corn), protein (the beans) and squash (vitamin A). The three crops, indigenous to the Americas, can grow in most North American gardens.

A Hampshire College student studied Three Sisters gardens by planting separate corn, bean and squash gardens and then plots combining the three crops. She found that more weeds popped up in the single-crop plots. And while the crops grown alone seemed to fruit more, the student farmer discovered that even if the yield of the three interplanted vegetables grown together was only 40 percent each, that equaled a 120-percent yield for the plot.

To grow a Three Sisters garden, create a round raised bed in the garden and plant a half dozen corn seeds in a small circle. You can also plant corn starts. Around the corn, plant four to six pole bean seeds. Outside the bean seeds, plant three or four squash seeds or starts.

When the plants begin to grow, you will need to weed out all but a few of the sturdiest of the corn plants from each mound. Also keep the sturdiest of the bean and squash plants and weed out the weaker ones.

As the corn and beans grow up, you want to make sure that the beans are supported by cornstalks, wrapping around the corn. The squash will crawl out between the mounds, around the corn and beans.

Healing stonesIn honor of the annual Healing Circle's Victory Over Child Abuse camps, held last weekend and next, I'm including the garden foot stone recipe that has proven so popular with the young campers.

Each fall, the Healing Circle, a local organization devoted to serving sexually abused boys and girls, transforms Camp Kiwanilong into a safe wonderland full of swimming and s'mores, canoeing and crafts. The annual summer gathering is an island that the youngsters can get to every year, a safe place to unfold and let guards down.

The craft cabin is a popular place and one activity that has stood out year after year is making the foot stones. Festooned with precious rocks and pretty cut glass, these little healing circles, made of water and concrete poured into a pie tin, have no doubt found homes in many local gardens.

Creating your own "healing circle" is simple following this recipe:

• In a small bucket, add enough water to five yogurt containers of dry concrete Ready Mix so you have a nice, thick material. If it gets soupy, add more concrete.

• Spray a straight-sided pie pan with non-stick spray. If you are using a disposable pie pan and forget to spray, you also can tear the pan away from your stone once it dries.

• Pour your cement mixture into the pie pan and start pressing your treasures into the stone. Marbles, rocks, shells, broken glass or china are great. You might consider adding a leaf or two or a feather to make an impression. Pull the feather out but leave the leaf in, scratching it out once the stone dries. Glitter gives your stone sparkle.

• Wait about 24 hours for your stone to dry. You can make multiple batches of concrete in one bucket, just add more water as it dries.

The Healing Circle has run its VOCA camps for more than 10 years, serving hundreds of youngsters, providing training for countless volunteers and educating the community about child abuse issues. The organization is supported by community donations. Opportunities for involvement abound - call (503) 325-2761.

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online at peterson@pacifier.com

Take part in a Fall Fungi FestNEHALEM - A pair of workshops this weekend features North Coast temperate rain forests and fall fungi.

Both sessions are offered at the Wanderland Rainforest. Nancy Eid, biologist and field botanist, teaches a workshop Saturday, Sept. 20, on temperate rainforests, including how to identify trees, examine forest soil and a discussion of ecosystems.

Sunday, Sept. 21, Rhia Weinhaus, mycologist, offers a Fall Fungi Fest. Learn about the life cycle of fungi, mushroom gardening and take and an identification walk.

Each class is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $20. For registration and more information, call (503) 368-6389.

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