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three sisters

 
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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I live in New Jersey and I want to do three sisters garden this year. I wanted to grow sweet corn to pick in the summer but I want to grow beans that will dry throughout the Fall. Does anyone know if sweet corn stalks will stand long enough for the beans to finish drying or do I need to plant a different variety of corn?
 
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The corn stalks should last long enough for your beans to dry. We had a soggy, wet summer here in GA last year, and the sweet corn crop was a bust, but the stalks still stood.
 
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From both personal experience and what I've read, the Three Sisters technique works best when you plant so that they are all harvested at the same time. What that typically means is that you're choosing varieties that dry in the field, including the corn and beans. So for corn meal, soup mix, and pumpkins, it works really well. If you bother either of the others trying to harvest one early, you will likely run into problems.

-CK
 
Adam Buchler
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Chris Kott wrote:From both personal experience and what I've read, the Three Sisters technique works best when you plant so that they are all harvested at the same time. What that typically means is that you're choosing varieties that dry in the field, including the corn and beans. So for corn meal, soup mix, and pumpkins, it works really well. If you bother either of the others trying to harvest one early, you will likely run into problems.

-CK

my 3 sister plot is 15x15. Any idea how much corn meal I could potentially get from that?
 
John Elliott
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Adam Buchler wrote: my 3 sister plot is 15x15. Any idea how much corn meal I could potentially get from that?



That's just about 1/200th of an acre, so if you can get 200 bu/ac yield (possible if it does well), then about 1 bushel of corn (60lbs). That doesn't factor in if you have to give up some corn yield for the yield of the other two sisters, but even still, that's a reasonable ballpark number.
 
pollinator
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That's a pretty high corn yield. I'd only count on a crop like that if I could be sure of ideal conditions.....an adapted variety, really rich soil, adequate moisture, no major bug attacks, etc.
The bean vines will tangle the cornstalks together into a jungle, and the squash cover the ground likewise. You'll have trouble getting into the mess to harvest any of the three in an immature state. The only way I would try it is to lay it out in long "beds" with fairly wide access pathways which you could go along and reach into the corn for access.
Sweet corn is often shorter-stalked than the old heirloom field corns traditionally used. I've shored up cornstalks for heavy bean and pea vines by tying together three or four adjacent stallks at the top, in the form of a tipi, which makes a stronger scaffold. Another way, which also improves access, is to plant the corn in groups of three or four, and then leave 3-4 feet of space each way to the next clump. The beans will then climb the corn stalks as a group and tie them together on their own. But this assumes you have enough space.
The other key is timing. Plant the corn first and let it get a foot tall or more before adding the others. That way it can stay ahead of the beans as they grow up and not get broken down in the overwhelm.....
"Three Sisters" wasn't always just three. At different times and places other things were added, sunflowers being the first to come to mind. These would add additional strong supports for bean vines.
 
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