My current home doesn't have a verandah but I'd like it to! A long porch surrounding the entire house. With a porch swing, potted blueberry plants, and a long strong dog laying at my feet. The sweet smell of lrosemary and freshly-turned soil wafting across my yard. The chickens clucking contentedly as they scratch for goodies in the fertile dirt. Knowing we have a full root cellar, trees in the orchard about to drop their bounty, and soup made all from hand-picked harvests bubbling in the crockpot. Heaven.

Please move with me over to my current blog, www.rosemary-ridge.blogspot.com ... thank you!

Growing the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, Squash

I hope this picture isn't too confusing. It's the best I can do.

The Three Sisters is growing corn, beans and winter squash as the Native American people did for many centuries. Each plant has it's own job, and not only work well in the garden, but when eaten together, are excellent nutrition and complete protein.

How to plant: Plant your corn seed in blocks of 4 feet, 1 corn seed every 12 inches (1 foot) each way. At the same time, plant your winter squash seed, one in between every 1 corn seeds. Water well, and tend. Be careful when weeding as you might pull up a corn or squash seedling!

When the corn seedling is about 6 inches high, plant 2-4 bean seeds (that's the green "B" in the pic) around each corn seedling. You want to wait this long because if not, the quick growth of the bean will outstrip the corn, and the corn will never get to it's complete full height.

Make sure you don't plant just 4 long rows. You need to plant in blocks of at least 4 feet x 4 feet so that the wind can pollinate all of your little corn tassels. And do you need to plant lots and lots to get a little corn? NO! In our first garden, we planted about 40 corn seeds, and about the same of beans and, well, don't get me started talking about our mistakes with the squash. But the corn was cross-pollinated excellently. We pulled about 60 ears that were pretty-well pollinated. Many we ate right there in the garden... just pulled back the husk and munched it down!

We also planted a couple of different kinds of corn... Blue Hopi, Bloody Butcher, and Early and Often Sweet Corn. They had somewhat different maturing dates, so there was only a little cross-pollination. Those that did were hilarious to look at! We found an odd blue kernel on a sweet corn, and finding the red kernels were great fun.

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Okay, back to info. Be careful when choosing your seeds. Get corn where the stalks will be sturdy enough to handle the winding of the beans. The new hybrids didn't seem to have stalks thick enough. Be careful with the beans too: you need beans that won't strangle the corn stalks.

For our next growing season, I chose Black Aztec corn (good when young to eat as sweet corn, and once it dries, it is good for making cornmeal and good for livestock).

For beans I chose Missouri Wonder Pole Bean (see: http://rareseeds.com/cart/products/Missouri_Wonder_Pole_Bean-1244-119.html )as they didn't strangle the corn when we grew them last. Experiment. These beans make a good fresh string bean, but also a good dried bean.

For squash, grow ONLY winter squash - those that vine! I made the mistake our first year of growing all kinds of squash, including summer squash like zucchini, and believe me, it was a mistake. The zucchini just pushed over the corn stalk to make room for it's own self! If you don't care about pollination and keeping seeds, you could plant all kinds of winter squash, like spaghetti, butternut, pumpkin, acorn, and more. If you do prefer to keep varieties separate, carefully chose to keep from cross-breeding.

I hope this wasn't too confusing. Vikki

2 comments:

Really Rose said...

This is wonderful advice. Thank you so much or sharing! I am confined to a 10' X 20' community garden spot. I'm on the waiting list to double my space this next growing season, but I won't know if I get that additional space until maybe May. With raised beds of odd shapes and sizes, I'm delighted to read that I can grow corn, beans and squash together in the same space.

Even if I get the extra space, I'm planning on taking out my large pallet board compost bin in the spring and adding my compost to the community pile. I'll use your method to plant corn, beans and winter squash in the space where my compost bin was. It's about 4' X 4' so I hope that'll be enough room.

Thank you so much for providing the diagram along with your instructions. Very helpful! Can't wait to see how it turns out!

Vikki said...

Rose: I hope you'll update us mid-summer and again at the end. Here's a thought: You could also plant, on the north-side of your 3-sisters plot, a few of the mammoth sunflowers. Be sure to give them a few extra inches because they are a real space hog! However, it's worth it. Sunflowers put down very long and strong roots, which makes it perfect for clay-ey soil as the roots will push just about anything aside. Be sure to paper-bag the heads after they droop and turn brown, or else the birds will get to your crops before you do!

Have fun! Vikki