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squash

 
rachael hamblin
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I'm wondering what the advantages are of planting squash in mounds (perhaps companion planted with corn and beans) versus in beds (might be harder to companion plant?).  I'm also wondering if anyone knows anything about benefits of planting nasturtium with squash, as I've seen this done but don't know why.  Thanks!
 
                    
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Groups of squash or beans were planted in dirt mounds. Small mounds of dirt were planted with several squash or bean seeds. Seeds were placed in the top of the mound. At the base of the mound, dead fish were buried as fertilizer for the growing plants. Since squash plants are vine-like and need to grow along the ground, dirt mounds gave room for these plants to grown out in all directions.
-from Native American Traditions Art and Culture

Due to extreme aridity, it is necessary for Hopi farmers to minimize moisture losses in non-irrigated fields. New data indicate that the traditional Hopi farmer reduces moisture loss by controlling processes that affect vadose zone hydrology. Fields are located on naturally stratified soils that comprise barriers to vertical drainage and bare soil evaporation. All cultivation activities serve to preserve or enhance the soil profile. Field clearing and weed removal eliminate competitors for water without disturbing natural soil profiles, and reduce transpiration loss. Windbreaks control eolian transport and improve soils of nearby areas, therefore, allowing field expansion. Planting techniques place seeds into zone of optimal moisture, while protecting sand mulch. Planting in widely spaced clumps provides each clump with water from a large, discrete volume of soil.

-from VADOSE ZONE HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES AND TRADITIONAL DRYLAND FARMING TECHNOLOGY ON THE HOPI INDIAN RESERVATION, ARIZONA Steven Dominguez
 
                    
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Squash – As with cucumbers, 2 or3 icicle radishes planted in each hill help prevent insects on squash.
Again, let them grow and go to seed. Nasturtiums repel squash bugs. Also, squash planted either earlier or later
than usual will often remain insect free.
-from Companion Planting Cornell Cooperative Extension
 
rachael hamblin
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Great, thanks!  What would be the best arrangement for the nasturtiums to keep them from being choked out by the squash in a mound arrangement?  I'm thinking it would either be at the top or around the edges of where the squash will grow to when it starts producing. 
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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I'd be interested to hear other folks experiences with the Three Sisters (corn, beans, & squash polyculture) in the Northwest. Out on Orcas Island we've had numerous people try it, but no one succeed. Our take is that the climatic differences between here and the Southwest US throw a monkey wrench in the works. We've found that the beans tend to outgrow and smother the corn. Amount of heat and length of growing season may also play a factor.

Has anyone west of the Cascades had luck growing the Three Sisters as a polyculture? Do you think it actually produced an equal or greater volume of food than growing the three crops separately in the same amount of space would have?

I'll be interested to hear more...
 
Leah Sattler
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I am not in the NW but I didn't have great success with the three sisters method.  If  you are very limited on space literally or due to water than it probably is great. but I get much more yeild by planting things seperate.

I didn't know about radishes and squash bugs I will have to give that a shot.  squash bugs are my main nemesis.
 
Kelda Miller
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To Alexis post: the squash/dead fish guild makes sense. But practically I'm thinking 'when do you have a bunch of dead fish handy in the spring?' There's usually plenty in the fall. Maybe they've got some great spring fish runs in California, or its warm enough there for squash to be planted anytime through the year.
 
              
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You could always freeze a block of fish in the fall for spring use.  Or maybe dry them on racks in the sun if you have space for it.
 
Leah Sattler
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I'm sure that there are fish at your local grocers or fish market that go past their sale-ability date and would probably be free for the asking.  I can just see the queer look on their face when you ask if they have any old fish to give  if you want to have some fun do your best to avoid telling them why you want it, just let them wonder......"may I have some rotten fish please? these nice fresh ones at the counter just won't do"
 
Kelda Miller
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great idea Leah! why not tap that enormous waste stream happening at the local grocery store?

and to Dave's above post about three sisters in the PNW: this year my beans went ahead and pulled over some of the corn, But I've been eyeing the garden of some Mexican-American folks down the street. They have an awesome corn and squash combo going on. The best corn in the valley, and the squash look very happy.
 
                            
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Location: FL
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Toby Hemenway, who apparently lives in Oregon, said he had success with the "three sisters" guild in Gaia's Garden:

http://www.patternliteracy.com/gg3sisters.html

He also cites research that corn yields are 20% higher than if grown in comparable plots by themselves. In the book, he doesn't mention anything about the beans outgrowing the corn (is pruning possible?). But he does recommend specific cultivars of corn that are short and multi-stalked: Black Aztec, Hopi white, and Tarahumara sweet corn. He also recommends planting Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata), which Anasazis used to attract beneficial insects that pollinate beans and squash.
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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I haven't done this, but a friend who has says you can't plant them all at the same time, which appears to be a common mistake, as the beans start growing faster than the corn.  This is her method:

Plant the corn first, four or five seeds in a small circle.  Plant each group about four feet apart in a block of at least five sets each way.

When the corn is 10-12" tall, plant six pole-type beans in a wider circle around the corn, about 6" away.  When they are well up, thin to three bean plants.

When the beans have sprouted, plant the squash seeds  (running type, not bush, and usually winter varieties that will keep) in the center of a square formed by four corn/bean sets.

One observation she made was about the mounds that everyone seems to want to plant them in. The standard idea is to make flat mounds, about 20" across at the base and 10-12" across the flattened top.  She said in the dry conditions of the Southwest, she just can't believe the Native Americans planted in mounds.  While they may warm up faster in spring, they also dry out incredibly fast.  She said she has read that the Southwest Natives planted in shallow beds, either excavated about 4" deep, or they mounded up the soil AROUND the growing area, to keep the precious water confined to the root zones.  She said these are BEDS that are recessed or have mounded edges, not individual wells like people often make for tomatoes (etc).  Once she started doing it this way, her plants did much better. 

It took her several years of trial and error to come up with this method.  Maybe it will help you.  But always keep in mind that you may have to adapt standard ideas to suit your personal soil and climate. 

Sue
 
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