Author Topic: Three Sisters Planting  (Read 776 times)

plotstoeat

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Three Sisters Planting
« on: April 09, 2019, 18:59:56 »
I am intrigued by this method of planting that I only recently found out about. So I am going to plant sweetcorn, courgettes and climbing beans/mangetout in the same bed. Apparently they have a simbiotic relationship. I am going to add a fourth sister, sunflowers, to attract the flying insects. Has anyone had experience of this method and can recommend varieties to plant and tips about making it work? All I need now is another summer like the last one!

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Three Sisters Planting
« on: April 09, 2019, 18:59:56 »

Paulh

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2019, 19:58:04 »
I've successfully grown trailing cucumbers and butternut squash with sweetcorn. It's a good use of space. Just be careful where you stand when picking the cobs. I'm not sure how the beans would work if they are suppose to be supported by the sweetcorn - mine would be ahead of the corn.

cambourne7

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2019, 21:27:36 »
I had sucess in the allotment before i gave it up, it was a windy site and i think the beans protected the courgettee behind and pumpkins underplanted. Never had any sweetcorn sucess had plants no cobs. The lovley Jannine sent me some indian corn and beans sadly the first lot did not germinate but might try again next year.

BarriedaleNick

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2019, 07:40:08 »
It failed miserably when I tried it and frankly I think it is a waste of time.
You need to space your corn quite widely to allow light to the squash and I just don't have that sort of space.  Also the types of beans, squash and corn (as well as the environment) that we grow today are very different to what was grown by native Americans.

plotstoeat

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2019, 09:34:06 »
It failed miserably when I tried it and frankly I think it is a waste of time.
You need to space your corn quite widely to allow light to the squash and I just don't have that sort of space.  Also the types of beans, squash and corn (as well as the environment) that we grow today are very different to what was grown by native Americans.

the replies so far are mixed and I don't want to waste my time. I may limit my experiment to two sisters. Perhaps beans and corn. I think hand pollination may be advisable. I am in the North of England so start with a handicap. Experimentation is part of the fun of gardening for me.

ancellsfarmer

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2019, 12:17:54 »
It failed miserably when I tried it and frankly I think it is a waste of time.
You need to space your corn quite widely to allow light to the squash and I just don't have that sort of space.  Also the types of beans, squash and corn (as well as the environment) that we grow today are very different to what was grown by native Americans.

Allegedly, Trail of Tears bean (from realseeds) would be correct, it matures later than runners, cropping as both green & then  dried bean well into autumn As to using sweetcorn as support, I agree it would be difficult to get them up enough to support and outrun the runner bean.  Dense curcubits would certainly suppress any weeds, should you have any.By planting these together, the possible decision to water would be well justified.
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Plot 18

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2019, 12:37:35 »
With our modern, shorter, corn varieties, I would think the bean leaves would stop pollen falling on the corn silks, so no, or very poor corn pollination.
Vining squash/courgettes planted around the outside of the corn, but rambling throughout the bed, does work very well here :)

johhnyco15

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2019, 16:33:34 »
id give it a miss  i really dont think you can cater for 3-4 plants in the same place and give them 100% of what each variety needs to flourish  if anything beans up sunflowers ie single giant could work  but its a lot of work rather than just putting up a A frame  if your worried about weeds in your sweetcorn plant thru black membrane it holds the heat so will improve yeild  and the same goes for squashes  hope this helps
johhnyc015  may the plot be with you

Beersmith

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2019, 19:17:22 »
I grew squashes and cucumbers under sweetcorn one year but it was not a great success. Sweetcorn need a lot of moisture, and it was a year when rainfall was below average. The under planted stuff just struggled for moisture.

Not saying it cannot work but you may need to keep the watering can very busy.
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squeezyjohn

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2019, 22:38:22 »
I have also tried this ... I've managed successfully to get a crop of squashes trailing through the sweetcorn ... but have never managed to persuade a bean to climb up the corn stalks ... the problem is that for us to get a decent bean crop in the UK they need to go in at the same time as the sweetcorns, but want to start climbing before the corn is big enough.  I've tried it with sunflowers and had more success.

Vinlander

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2019, 13:10:21 »
I agree that modern sweetcorn plants are much too dwarf to cope with rampant beans and even more rampant squash. Apart from the fact that squash in the UK need all the sunshine they can get (unlike in mesoamerica).

However the system works perfectly with cucumbers and the kind of dwarf beans that do climb but only a metre or so. I had a couple of dwarf borlotti strains that do this.

I posted this before and someone suggested another type of dwarf that is halfway - was it the so-called dwarf runners? I can't remember and I haven't time right now to wrestle with the search engine on this site (which does different things on different days but hardly ever treats A B as A or B).

It also occurs to me that courgettes don't need full sun (even here) so a climbing/creeping courgette might be a reasonable choice - as would any squash you pinch out to take as courgettes (not as many fruit but a great nutty flavour).

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ancellsfarmer

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2019, 18:48:19 »
The Cherokee  Indian squaws who allegedly grew their crops  that way would have needed to be intensive inso far as needing to visit their plot, plant and move on. It appears that they travelled forward, returning periodically to the tribe.They also needed to fence in their plantings against herds of deer- who could eat the lot! Their nomadic lifestyle following the herds , which in turn followed the seasonal flush of natural grassland ,was supplemented by their crops. This lasted for around 1500 years, before being dislodged westwards by the burgeoning hoards of European settlers into North Carolina
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plotstoeat

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2019, 19:27:30 »
Just as I had hoped, this subject has had some excellent replies with a variety of different experiences. Have really enjoyed reading them. Esp liked the historical background from ancellsfarmer. I will continue with the experiment.

galina

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2019, 09:15:31 »
The most obvious problem is harvesting the corn.  As most of us do not grow flour corn, the cobs must be harvested at a certain time.  And beans are winding closely around cobs and stems alike.  Loosening the vines to get the cobs out would be a major difficulty.  :wave:

ACE

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2019, 11:36:14 »
Surely this is just hippy stuff, something that you would do in a commune where after having a smoke of your other crop you would not really give one if it did not  work anyway.

Deb P

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2019, 22:00:27 »
Sweetcorn with trailing squash I have grown together with success, never with beans as well. As I understand it, the beans used in the three sisters was a drying beans, that natured late and were left to dry on the vine, so it was just left after the corn was harvested.
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woodypecks

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2019, 10:07:59 »
I agree with Debp and Galina  :coffee2: I have found that growing Beans on wigwams and the Squash all scrabbling about (some raised off the ground over pigwire ) in the same area works well for me ..but I prefer to grow my Sweetcorn in blocks ..yes hard to harvest beans if growing up the sweetcorn . Good luck and have fun with your "three sisters " ! Debbie  :wave:
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breenalipally

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2019, 06:22:23 »
I have done this for a good few years now and have slightly changed the process every year and last year was a great success so I'm hoping to repeat it this year (famous last words). Anyway this is what I done last year. I chitted the sweetcorn between damp kitchen roll for about 10 days in mid May then planted straight into the ground 2ft apart in a block, I did 24 plants by 6 x 4. When the corn was about a foot high I planted Franchi purple climbing French beans (I'm trying yellow as well this year) about 6" either side of the corner corn plants so I had 8 bean plants and then planted cucumber seeds (I used Marketmore) 6 inches either side of the corn plants in the middle of the outer row, so 8 cucumber plants. I grew a few extras of each in pots in case some didn't germinate. I found just planting the beans and cucumbers on the outside row meant the corn had more room to breath and made harvesting of everything easier. Hope that made sense.

ACE

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2019, 11:39:00 »
I like to plant sweetcorn in a block. Planned out the plot this year and as usual came across something else I wanted to plant. Used the designated sweet corn patch, then realised my mistake. After reading this I though why not plant the sweetcorn in the amongst the peas they can be cropped well before the corn and it will give them a bit of support.

Digeroo

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Re: Three Sisters Planting
« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2019, 15:39:12 »
I have tried this several times.  it was originally for cereal corn, dried beans and winter squash.  Choose a type of bean which produced small plants and small beans, because otherwise they can pull down the corn.
I find the squash takes too much out of the soil.
I therefore have a modified format.  I put the squash/courgettes plants in a ring around a block of corn.  If you choose rambling ones they soon wander amongst the corn.  Courgettes seem to like the wind protection provided by the sweetcorn.  I put green beans on the outside of the sweetcorn and drying beans towards the centre.  I try to ensure that the beans keep to their corn plant and do not wander between plants.  One bean one corn,   The whole thing is given a large amount of manure.
I have always rather believed that the three sisters system it was used as a toilet so well fertilized.