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rainbowgardener
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Failing at three sisters, so far!

I wanted to do a three sisters planting of corn interplanted with beans and squash. I had always read about that and never tried it. So I planted my corn. When the corn plants were a few inches high, I planted beans next to them. And waited... And waited... Finally ONE bean plant popped up, out of about 30 I planted. I waited some more to see if any more were coming. When none did, I soaked some more bean seeds over night and planted them. And waited... And waited.

Finally I went digging around to see what was happening. The few beans I found (these were green bean seeds, this year's) were nothing but mush, rotted out. I have been watering almost every day,if there isn't rain in the forecast for that day or the next day. My planting mix is very loose and well draining and we have been having warm weather and lots of sunshine. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I think corn needs pretty much water, being shallow rooted.

I think I will try pre-sprouting some beans, see if they will do better if they have a little head start first.
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jal_ut
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

The way to do "Three Sisters" is to plant 3 rows of corn spaced 30 inches, move over and plant 3 rows of beans spaced 20 inches, then move over and plant some squash. Give them all room to grow and they will do fine. Oh, the soil needs to be warm for the bean seeds to germinate.
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imafan26
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

I've only done two sisters. I have done corn and squash. I wait until the corn is a couple of feet high otherwise my squash will bury them. I do the last sister, beans, about a month later so they can use the corn as bean poles. I like to plant sunflowers around the perimeter of the corn. It works well with that combination and it attracts bees. Sunflower and corn will go in together.
I water every day but only lightly. Corn actually can go a couple of days with deep watering especially in a moisture retentive soil (clay + compost). The beans I planted came up all right but the snow peas took longer and by then the beans had overwhelmed the pot.
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Allyn
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

I've done a two-sisters -- no squash -- with beans and corn. I let the corn get so high and then plant the beans to let the bean use the corn stalk as its pole. I always start mine inside and plant the beans out when they're ready to be up-potted out of the solo cups so I can't speak to direct sowing at the base of the corn.

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applestar
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

It might be temperature issue like James mentioned. It might be getting too cold overnight even though it's warm enough during the day, especially with the sun. Being raised beds, the soil might cool down more quickly when it's cold.

That and watering every day could be keeping things a bit too wet. When I pre-germinate beans, I use the "rinse twice then drain completely" method. By the time I rinse again -- and you need to do this at least every 8 hours when it's warm (75°F and above) -- the surface of the beans are dry because I'm using the sprouter designed to create air flow from bottom to top.

You want the corn to be reaching for the moisture, too, so it's probably better to soak thoroughly, then not water for a couple of days.

So I agree -- pre-germinating should help get the beans going.
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digitS'
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

I don't have additional ideas for the beans but wanted to note some experiences with the 3 Sisters. I went through a number of tries before ideas occurred to me and I had some success.

First off, I imagine that the Native Americans were growing beans and corn to be harvested fully mature and dry. The squash was a keeping variety, for winter. Taking this approach kept me out of the 3 Sisters corner trying not to step on and reach through all the vines. I could wait until the end of the season and instead of harvesting sweetcorn, I had a flour corn and used the beans for soup!

Second, why think that the beans had only the corn to climb on? In Southeast Asia, "pole" beans are grown around large rocks and climb on rock piles in the garden. I don't see anything wrong with adding a little additional support and take some pressure off the corn.

I didn't have a 3 Sisters garden last year but the winter squash grew into the corn patch. Weeding wasn't very easy but a central idea to 3 Sisters gardens is that the squash tend to suppress weeds. There isn't much need to plant it directly under the corn since the vines travel so far.

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tomc
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

Three sisters was planted out later, and not intended for green corn or green beans.
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Mr green
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

I had the same thing happen with beans. And i read that they can easily rot in the ground before germinating if the conditions are right? I don't know but it seems that it happened to me last year. This year i think will pregrow them beans, rather than loosing a couple of weeks of my short season.

Im growing corn this year and zuccini so i might try this method. However is not many i will grow, and the zuccini doesnt make long vines.
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imafan26
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

I use butternut squash as the squash or kabocha. I think zucchini will have to be planted on the outside to get sun and be polinated so it won't be as useful as a living mulch.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

Yeah, I wasn't planning on zucchini, either butternut or acorn.

I may plant zucchini somewhere else just to try the tanglefoot as a vine borer prevention that was mentioned in a different thread.

I take it that one way three sisters works is that after the corn and beans are all done the winter squash is still growing and can have the bed to itself. Since I am talking about a 4'x4' bed, I was thinking about ONE squash plant.
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Taiji
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Re: Failing at three sisters, so far!

Even here in my arid climate I have had some instances where beans, peas, and sometimes corn turn to mush in the soil before sprouting. I think it was just because I was watering too much.

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