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3 Sisters Arrangements

 
Brandon Greer
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I'm reading a PDF which shows some setups for 3 Sisters. The ones of interest are the Wampanoag and Hadatsa arrangements. These arrangements don't have any paths but they do have decent space between each mound. I'm guessing the squash will fill in these spaces between mounds, so is it bad to step on the squash (vines?) which spreads out on the ground?
 
Leila Rich
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Brandon Griffin wrote: so is it bad to step on the squash (vines?) which spreads out on the ground?
In my experience, squash really don't like their vines being...squashed...
But since you're doing a traditional three sisters, I'm thinking you pretty much don't need to clamber in there till everything's drying out in autumn? (ok, fall then )
 
Brandon Greer
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Good point. I tried to choose varieties which hopefully work well in time together. My corn is Reid's Yellow Dent which is 110 days. And my beans (Gaga Hut) and Winter Squash are both 95 days.

What about watering? Does it require some type of drip irrigation as opposed to hand watering to avoid having to get in there?
 
Roger Taylor
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Brandon Griffin wrote:I'm reading a PDF which shows some setups for 3 Sisters. The ones of interest are the Wampanoag and Hadatsa arrangements. These arrangements don't have any paths but they do have decent space between each mound. I'm guessing the squash will fill in these spaces between mounds, so is it bad to step on the squash (vines?) which spreads out on the ground?

Can you share the PDF? Or give the name at least?

I currently have 3 three sister plots sized 3 meters by 3 meters growing. There are islands of four corn interplanted with beans, separated by islands of two squash. All in all there are twenty islands (4 wide by 5 long). Not only does the squash cover the ground and keep it from drying out, but some squash plants have made a break for it and may extend 2 meters out sideways. It's possible for me to step between squash plants and vines, the corn plants are what make it hard to get in there. I hand water with a watering can.
corn patches - 2014-03-04 - 05.jpg
[Thumbnail for corn patches - 2014-03-04 - 05.jpg]
 
Brandon Greer
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Hi Roger, I've attached the PDF. Hopefully, it's allowed here. The info about 3-sisters starts at page 6.

I'm glad to hear it's possible to hand water because I'm not really ready to setup permanent irrigation.
Filename: ATTRA companion planting.pdf
Description:
File size: 342 Kbytes
[Download ATTRA companion planting.pdf] Download Attachment
 
Roger Taylor
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Brandon Griffin wrote:Hi Roger, I've attached the PDF. Hopefully, it's allowed here. The info about 3-sisters starts at page 6.

I'm glad to hear it's possible to hand water because I'm not really ready to setup permanent irrigation.

Thanks. I've just gone out and taken a picture of my plots and attached it to the post above. It's looking quite rough at the moment, as we've had extremely strong winds for the past 24 hours. But you should be able to see the running squash vines. A closer picture would show the amount of space for stepping in to water the inner plants, but as I indicated the winds have shifted the squash plants and it's not looking representative of how it usually is anyway.
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks! It's very cool to see it. This is my first year growing anything so I didn't even know what it really looks like. Awesome landscape too! I wish I had hills like you have. When do you harvest? I'll be interested to hear if the yield is a success or not.
 
Roger Taylor
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Brandon Griffin wrote:Thanks! It's very cool to see it. This is my first year growing anything so I didn't even know what it really looks like. Awesome landscape too! I wish I had hills like you have. When do you harvest? I'll be interested to hear if the yield is a success or not.

Other than the beans, some of which are already ready, I'm not expecting to be able to get a harvest of corn or squash at this stage.

The squash has likely been inhibited by the shade of the corn. Take the rightmost patch, it is a smaller corn, and some of the plants were planted out later. The pumpkin here are larger and has fruited better than the middle patch of taller corn.

Our summer was mild, and as soon as autumn even just starting has had colder days. This is also likely to be responsible for the lack of progress with fruiting squash. I wouldn't be surprised if it frosts and the plants die before the corn and squash are ready.
 
Brandon Greer
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That's a bummer to hear. Do you think you might should have done some things differently? Timing, spacing etc? What varieties did you use?
 
Roger Taylor
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Brandon Griffin wrote:That's a bummer to hear. Do you think you might should have done some things differently? Timing, spacing etc? What varieties did you use?

I'd do two things differently. Avoid the bad planning that came from inexperience, and modify the approach.

I did most of my propagation by sowing the seed in seed trays, and then planting out when it looked ready. I did do some sowing in-situ, but that had a very low germination rate. And that lead to me doing the rest of the sowing in seed trays, which had a 98% germination rate (guestimated). Next year I need to have amended soil that better suits in-situ planting. Because I did seed tray sowing, this meant I badly miscalculated the numbers of different types of plants that I needed to sow. Which led to two to three plantings for each patch, and staggered pollination of parts of each patch because of it.

I also knew very little about seed saving. If I had, I would have moved the patches a minimum distance apart.

Given the experience with squash, I'm not sure three sisters really suits my location. What I am considering is having the squash on a hugelkulture raised bed separately, and having the corn and beans in patches together. And I am considering trenching the corn (discussed here). Strong winds have often blown over corn, and I hope that trenching will ameliorate this. And I hope it will reduce the amount of watering I have to do.

The corn varieties (from left to right in the photo): black navajo, bloody butcher and blue aztec.
The bean varieties: Dwarf cannelino. Cherokee Trail of Tears. Gila Indian.
The squash varieties: Galeax D'Elysines. Hopi Grey Winter. Australian Butter. Saved supermarket. Long Island Cheese.

The dwarf cannelino were used because they were all I had at hand, and I was lazy. Given the beans are said to help the corn falling over in the wind, they are likely not the most helpful choice. Then again, maybe just the dwarf level support helps enough. I should go out and look. There are two squash with vines that have climbed up, one is a saved supermarket and the other is according to my records Galeax D'Elysines. There's at least one squash fruit that is hanging in mid air. I'm not sure if this is usual for squash in three sisters, or just normal for squash in general. It's all new to me.
 
Brandon Greer
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I appreciate all the info. I've read a lot about bad experiences with people using 3 sisters but I still want to try. I'm going to try the Wampanoag method.
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