First of all, I've been looking at this plan for the three sisters garden and I'd love to give it a try. The diagram there is perfect for where I plant - a 10' by 10' area, but it looks disappointing to me in that it only allows for 28 corn plants. Currently in my 10' by 10' area I have twice the number of (sweet) corn plants. And I like having a lot of sweet corn. Cut it off, blanch it & freeze it.. I end up eating it all during the following winter and wishing that I had more.
And, I HATE squash. I'm wondering if I could do the top and bottom line of mounds ALL corn/beans and do the middle one with a single pumpkin plant growing from each squash mound (2 pumpkin plants total) instead of the squash. Do you think the pumpkins would die from lack of full sun? I *could* plant the two pumpkin plants on the south end of the area and just train the vines up into and around the corn plants so at least some of the pumpkin plants would get full sun.
Maybe I should just do beans in my standard corn rows and forget the ground cover, and continue the constant weeding. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud here.
Here's the diagram btw. Each corn/bean mound has 4 corn plants and 4 bean plants.
Squash is satisfying to grow, poke it in the ground and duck...it is even more satisfying to inflict on neighbors who have kids you do not like....or put a big bag of it on the porch..knock on the door and run...
My solution? I grow alot of squash and trade it to the baker lady at the farmers market for cookies. She makes squash bread out of it.
Much of the "pumpkin" people buy in can is squash. Buttercup if I recall. Same basic flavor, if not better, but less stringy.
There is a common squash down here that everyone shares seeds from, pretty much proof from bugs, best "winter" squash I have ever had, though we have no winter. You eat it young like summer squash, or wait till it matures - it is so sweet it needs no sugar in my opinion.
Not sure it would work outside of the tropics though - I have no idea how long it takes to mature since we just through the seeds in a likely place, and then just wait for fruit to appear.
Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:Sorry Randy Chi but this isn't really helping towards your original question but it's still on the 3 sisters line....
Why is it necessary to make mounds?
I don't really know. I was debating whether or not to do the mounds. When I was searching around for info on 3 sisters, I found a lot of people referring back to that same link to the page I linked to myself. Since I've never done it myself, I thought maybe I'd just go with what people were saying was the best.
Although since I'm going to do significantly more corn/beans than the diagram (I'm only really planning on doing 2 pumpkin plants total) maybe I'd be better off just doing my standard rows..
Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
Why is it necessary to make mounds?
I don't actually know, but I'll have a guess
Considering the three sisters method was designed as a way to plant and leave winter storage crops to their own devices, mounding may have been more about putting down enough nutrients to get the plants through an entire season. Corn and squash are pretty 'hungry', and I can't imagine a bit of nitrogen from the beans'd do it.
By the way, I get really confused with some American's use of the term 'squash'. Randi, we are talking winter squash, what NZers call pumpkins, right? I think Zucchini would be a total pain in a three sisters bed.
I'm not much of a fan of pumpkin myself, although I'm training...I've found that pumpkin is a fruit where I can really tell if it's a good variety, well grown.
It's not the funnest answer, but for me, I think I would have got better production if I'd kept the pumpkins out of the mix and stuck to drying beans, drying corn, a few sunflowers, zinnias and lots of mulch.
I also think that trying to adapt the original concept, where the plants were left to dry in place, by using fresh picking varieties could be a real hassle.
My 3 sisters garden got extremely, er, dense, and if I'd crashed around trying to harvest things, I would have done lots of damage.
*edit* Randi, if the plants are staggered like the '5' on a dice, there's heaps more room
In one of Bill Mollisons pamphlets he talks about the three sisters 'mess'. His suggestion is to plant the corn in a large circle with the beans and pumpkins in the inner circle. The corn would be available on the outside. There were more details as to why he thought this was a good idea but I don't remember what they were. And I am not sure that he actually did this - I believe he was just making a suggestion.
I did a 3 sisters garden last year... in fact, currently baking corn bread from the corn...
1. Do use clumps of corn... when the beans wind around them, they make a tripod and won't fall over. Single corn stalk with beans on it are unsteady.
2. I can barely grow corn in my microclimate... need the best microclimate and maybe little cloches or transplants to get good yield... that is what the hills would do for me. I had to pull and dry the corn before it was fully mature.
3. More corn, less squash... I did 4' rows, alternating corn-bean clumps with squash every 3 feet. It formed an impenetrable stand over time, but I bet I could have gotten another crop, or a mulch crop out of the space for the time it took the beans and corn to grow... Lamb's quarters would have fit in nice. There was continuous squash canopy, almost overwhelming my poor little corn that didn't like my cold ground to start with. You could get away with a lot less squash.
4. When the deer came for the beans they missed the ones growing below the squash leaves.
5. Think shelling beans. The planting turns into a jungle... I think the idea was: you show up at the river flat after flooding, stick you seeds in the ground, stick around long enough to get stuff big enough to compete, then go hunting and gathering for the rest of summer, come back in fall and gather up storage crops.
Consider styrian hull-less varieties... they make the green pumpkin seeds.
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards