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3 Sisters

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:49 am
by BP
I was just wondering if anyone has or does plant the 3 sisters method?
I want to try it. Thinking of switching the 3rd plant "sister" to cantaloupe, cukes, or watermelon because I haven't found a squash I care for.
Anyone have any experience with this?

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:21 am
by soil
works pretty good as long as you plant them in the right order. don't plant them all at the same time it wont work out well. plant corn, wait some, plant beans, wait some, then plant squash( or other)

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:49 am
by mansgirl
I've never heard of this three sisters method. What is it?

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:07 am
by rainbowgardener
type three sisters into the search the forum and you will find lots written here about it. But in a nutshell it is the Native American style of growing corn, bean, squash all together in one plot. Let the beans grow up the corn stalks and the squash wander around the ground between the corn stalks.

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:04 pm
by TZ -OH6
I can't really recommend interplanting the three sisters as there is little benefit. I have grown mellons next to my corn and let them grow into the corn patch, but most of the melon were out in the sun. I also worried about the melon/squash vines climbing up and pulling down the corn.

The modern crops are much differnt from the Native American crops.

Corn hills were 4 ft apart and the corn varieties were not as robust so there was more light in amongst the corn for the squash and beans. Modern watering, fertilizing and corn varieties usually result in a more dense planting, which is also better for pollination within a small plot.

Modern bean varieties are more productive which means they need more light, so they don't do as well in with the corn. Also, it is a fallacy that the beans help the corn/soil with nitrogen. Beans are very poor nitrogen fixers, and the nitrogen from growing legumes comes from turning the entire plant under at the end of the season and letting the nitrogen rot/compost out of the vegetation back into the soil.

Native Americans had to abandon fields after using them for 2-3 years.

This is a detailed first hand account of Native American three sisters agriculture

For pdf download

Several of the same varieties are still for sale if you want to go native

Hidatsa shield bean
Hidatsa Red bean
Great Northern Bean
Yellow Arikara bean
Arikara squash
Mandan squash (improved variety)
Mandan Bride Corn

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:22 pm
by garden5
I must admit that I've been on the fence about trying a three sisters garden for some time. Now, I will say that I've read of members here who've had success with it, and I also know someone who planted squash in with his corn the keep the raccoons out.

I think the key is to make sure you have an over-all long enough growing season and that you space things out a bit. Like Soil said, you don't want to plant everything all at once, you want to do it in stages. This tells me that you want to make sure you will have enough growing left by the time you plant that last stage.

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:47 am
by jal_ut
I have tried it and was not at all impressed. My idea of three sisters is 3 rows of corn, 2 separate rows of beans, and put the squash at least 6 feet away from either of the other crops. You will do better all around.

Corn, beans and squash provides complete protein, so they are a good combo, but interplanting them may be a mistake.

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:07 pm
by BP
Wow, a few conflicting reports. Maybe I will try it on some corn, but not all so I can get my own opinion. thanks

I tried it with out success

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:44 pm
by runfox
I read a little on it and was intrigued by the idea. I tried it , planted corn, green beans and yellow squash. I didn't do it quite right because I planted them all at the same time. The corn grew too slow, the beans did so so, the squash of course out grew and took over the whole thing. It was hard to find the beans when they ripened and something ate my corn, haven't had success growing corn yet.

Posted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:45 am
by soil
if you can and your not doing a huge area, you can start the beans in trays ahead of time. so when you put them out they are already 5-8 inches tall. the corn should be about 10 inches when you put the beans in. and then a squash seed or a small start is planted in the place at the same time, by the time its big enough to do serious groundcover the corn and beans will be well out of shade range.

Re: I tried it with out success

Posted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:48 am
by rainbowgardener
runfox wrote: something ate my corn, haven't had success growing corn yet.
I don't have space for corn now, but when I used to have a bigger garden, I tried growing it. EVERY critter loves corn, birds, squirrels, deer, raccoons, possums, chipmunks, mice etc. Half of the five acres I lived on was woods and we had ALL of those critters and more. If you live with wildlife, the only way to grow corn is in a well fenced garden and even then you have to watch out for the birds...