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Getting to more than 3 sisters

 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Apologies in advance if there is a topic about this already, I did a search and couldn't find one. I just thought this would be an important topic to discuss if we are ever going to evolve from USA to HUSP. ( hope you don't mind the use in this context Paul, if so let me know and I will fix it)

So long story short most people know of the three sisters; corn, squash and beans. Somewhere there was a topic about how some Indians used a 4th ( don't remember the name ) to attract pollinators. This got me thinking, what if we could make the 4 sisters 5. So I am going to throw out two suggestions and see what everyone thinks, maybe we can get it worked out before next spring.

Red clover. I was thinking this because it is a nitrogen fixer, the flowers attract bees, foliage helps suppress undesired volunteers, and the flowers make a nice tea.

Catnip. Helps repel many pests, can be used for herbal treatments, helps suppress undesired volunteers, and can be used in an herbal smoke mixture.

Anyways these are just my ideas, I would like to hear your thoughts on them, and maybe your thoughts on other plants we could use.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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If you study the milpa system as practiced in Mexico and Central America you will find a bunch of other companion plants either planted or allowed to grow among corn. Even in North America, sunflowers (which would be good at attracting pollinators) and gourds were in use.
I've found that I can add plants based on the architecture of the three sisters....you need a tall plant, a vine, and a creeper. So I've successfully used sunflowers and okra for the tall plant, and sweet potatoes, gourds, and melons as the creepers.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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[quote=Alder Burns]If you study the milpa system as practiced in Mexico and Central America you will find a bunch of other companion plants either planted or allowed to grow among corn. Even in North America, sunflowers (which would be good at attracting pollinators) and gourds were in use.
I've found that I can add plants based on the architecture of the three sisters....you need a tall plant, a vine, and a creeper. So I've successfully used sunflowers and okra for the tall plant, and sweet potatoes, gourds, and melons as the creepers.[/quote]

Yes I understand the concept of substituting one plant for another, what I'm trying to do is to add to the architecture, to make more nitches we can fill. Basically to make three sisters five or more.
 
Rion Mather
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The Three Sisters is an Iroquois companion planting method.
 
John Wright
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I think you can add okra, sweet potato, potato, sunflower, amaranth, nasturtium, cucumber.. etc.. there are lots of crops you can add.. but the efficiencies in harvesting and getting the physical structure to help with that can often be the most difficult part.
It seems like your implying that you think there is already a niche open in the 3 sisters planting that you want to fill.... I think you should identify what is lacking (what niche) and then you can come up with something to fill it.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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Off the top of my head in my " more than three sisters garden" I have or had( already harvested)

Corn
Beans
Pumpkin
Amaranth
Sunflower
Hot pepper
Tomato
Chickpea
Chard
Wheat
Barley
Tomatillo
Garlic
Shallot
Lettuce

I know there is more out there too.

Each plant has it's planting time. Or seed tossing time. It takes practice and knowledge to get it going. The biggest failure I see is overcrowding with dominant plants like the corn if planted like the paper bag says. Dense sunflowers can stunt some plants, amaranth doesn't seem to care.

I would start with to make it easy

Corn, beans, squash, amaranth, sunflower, lambs quarters, hot pepper and a few tomatoes dotted here and there.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think the 4th sister in some areas was Rocky Mountain bee plant Cleome serrulata.
 
William James
gardener
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Location: Northern Italy
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Jordan,

How do you manage the tomatoes? They don't climb vertically and I imagine them crawling across the ground with no supports. Plus harvesting might be weird, since they are ripe and hidden when the corn, beans, and squash are just getting started.

John,
Wouldn't Cucumbers climb above the corn? And they would be heavy I'd think.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
William
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I think the 4th sister in some areas was Rocky Mountain bee plant Cleome serrulata.


I don't believe that it was intentionally planted. The Hopi let it grow with their corn (for an early spring green).
If it is not fall planted (or frost sown) the soil will be too warm for it to germinate.

It was just a permanent weed they learned to utilize: food, medicine, paint, etc.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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John Polk wrote:
It was just a permanent weed they learned to utilize: food, medicine, paint, etc.



Seems like permaculture would mostly be made of permanent useful plants.....not sure they would be considered "weeds"....
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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Things like tomatoes and peppers and things that need constant harvesting need to be in specific areas you can get too. Along paths and so on through the patch. Sometimes they weave themselves up the stalks of amaranth and corn.

Recently we are designing a new system with Swales instead of mounds. Were also adding rice to the polyculture in the lowest part of the Swales for when we do flood irrigation every now and then.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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