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Question About Corn Mounds  RSS feed

 
Brandon Greer
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Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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As mentioned in another thread, I will be re-attempting a 3 sisters garden this year. I will be using the Wampanoag method which calls for 18 inch diameter corn mounds which are 4 inches high. I will be planting on terrible clay soil and I'm thinking 4 inches of good soil isn't quite enough. So I am wondering if it would be good to dig an 18 inch diameter hole down about a foot or so and then fill with compost to grade + 4 inches. To me this makes sense but I have no experience with gardening whatsoever so maybe I'm missing something. Can someone with more experience give me some feedback on this before I start digging up the yard?

And how deep should I go for corn and how deep for winter squash? I read squash has deep roots but I don't really know what the definition of deep is.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Beware the fish bowl effect. Going down into a profile of clay soil with good soil may result in water with no way to drain. The roots may drown. They like moisture but need air, and will drown if submerged. Make sure the hole's side walls are permeable or stay at ground level.

Dig a few test holes and fill with water. How long does it take to drain? hours or days?
 
Brandon Greer
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Jack Edmondson wrote:Beware the fish bowl effect. Going down into a profile of clay soil with good soil may result in water with no way to drain. The roots may drown. They like moisture but need air, and will drown if submerged. Make sure the hole's side walls are permeable or stay at ground level.

Dig a few test holes and fill with water. How long does it take to drain? hours or days?


Jack, great point...I did not think of that! When I conduct the test, how long is too long?

Would maybe using 5 gallon buckets above grade with weep holes be better? Would those provide adequate root space?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I always plant corn into clay. It thrives. I highly recommend not planting into pots, whether those pots be a hole dug into clay, or a 5 gallon bucket. In their natural state, corn roots extend about as deep underground as the stalk is high, and about that far outwards. The mound should be thought of more as a place for the seed to germinate than as a place for it to grow.
 
Brandon Greer
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I always plant corn into clay. It thrives. I highly recommend not planting into pots, whether those pots be a hole dug into clay, or a 5 gallon bucket. In their natural state, corn roots extend about as deep underground as the stalk is high, and about that far outwards. The mound should be thought of more as a place for the seed to germinate than as a place for it to grow.


Well this is promising news indeed! Do beans and squash do well in clay also? I might also try mixing in some cucumbers and/or watermelon. Are those okay in clay? FWIW, I will be creating the mounds out of compost at least so at least the first 4 inches will be well drained.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Clay is my favorite soil because it holds onto nutrients and water so well. Sucks trying to dig root crops in the fall after it has dried out...

I have spent years selecting for plant families that thrive in clay soil, so I might be biased. Watermelons are a tough crop for me... Don't know if they just plain old can't tolerate my soil, or if it's more of a climate issue. The others you mentioned grow great for me. I figure that any squash like viney thing can be substituted for squash in a 3 sisters planting.

 
Ann Torrence
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And here, because of our wind and aridity, I have much better success if I make a waffle pattern in the plot and plant the corn an inch or so below grade, because that holds the moisture for germination just a little bit longer. I do circles about a foot in diameter, plant 4 corn seeds and thin to 2-3 if they all come up. I went into my 3 sisters strategy in depth on my blog a couple years ago. Kind of a rant on using the method to grow sweet corn, zucchini and string beans is akin to using a vacuum cleaner to cook a turkey but also some other observations about density, etc.
 
Brandon Greer
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Ann Torrence wrote:And here, because of our wind and aridity, I have much better success if I make a waffle pattern in the plot and plant the corn an inch or so below grade, because that holds the moisture for germination just a little bit longer. I do circles about a foot in diameter, plant 4 corn seeds and thin to 2-3 if they all come up. I went into my 3 sisters strategy in depth on my blog a couple years ago. Kind of a rant on using the method to grow sweet corn, zucchini and string beans is akin to using a vacuum cleaner to cook a turkey but also some other observations about density, etc.


Ann, I enjoyed your article which you linked. I am actually curious about the nixtamlization process which you mentioned and posted in another thread (http://www.permies.com/t/46365/cooking/Making-Hominy-Wood-Ash-Lye) asking about the risks associated with it. I am guessing that it didn't burn a hole in your stomach after eating?

I'm also curious if your goats liked the squash or perhaps you found another use for it? I am not a huge fan of it but like the idea that it keeps out critters but what to do with all the squash? I still haven't decided.
 
R Scott
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Goats, hogs, cattle and chickens all loved pumpkins and squash. You have to break them open, at least at first, but then the learn to smash them themselves.

We picked a bunch for free at the end of the season at a you pick, they ate their own body weight in a day or two. Seriously, they went through four tons in a couple days (they froze and wouldn't store). I hoped to get at least a few vines the next year from all those seeds scattered, but nothing survived



 
Ann Torrence
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Brandon Greer wrote:
I am actually curious about the nixtamlization process which you mentioned and posted in another thread (http://www.permies.com/t/46365/cooking/Making-Hominy-Wood-Ash-Lye) asking about the risks associated with it. I am guessing that it didn't burn a hole in your stomach after eating?

I'm also curious if your goats liked the squash or perhaps you found another use for it? I am not a huge fan of it but like the idea that it keeps out critters but what to do with all the squash? I still haven't decided.

Brandon, I used pickling lime (found in the canning section of the grocery occasionally), not wood ash. No stomach holes. If you are really worried about neutralizing the pH, do a final rinse with a little vinegar before cooking. Rubber gloves to do the washing. It was SO MUCH better than dried posole.

The goats are spoiled brats, the chickens liked them more. This year we are trying pumpkins that produce the hulless pepitas. We eat those a lot on yogurt and oatmeal. Finding short season varieties is my challenge. Try more squashes, it took a half dozen varieties before we found a couple favorites. Or substitute something useful to you, like gourds. One could do an interesting experiment on a semi-permanent "extended-family" bed with a vine something like hops that dies back each year, planting the corn and beans around a central hops vine. If the 1491 book is to be believed, the traditional plantings used dozens, not just 3 plants. Hops might make a nasty tangle. At least you'd have all summer to sharpen your machete for harvest.
 
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