Companion Planting forum: Growing The Three Sisters Discussion

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Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Mar 25, 2010 7:10 AM CST

Moderator

After conversation on the companion planting forum, I thought it would be good to start a discussion about this popular Guild.

Does anyone have first hand experiences to share?

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Mar 25, 2010 7:32 AM CST

Moderator

I have the seeds! Drooling

The corn is an heirloom, Golden Bantam corn.

The beans are called Rattlesnake, an heirloom pole bean.

I have several options of squash, most of which are heirloom varieties, either summer or winter squash.

My delima right now is where to plant. I know corn is a heavy feeder and I really don't have an area of "improved soil" where I can plant it right now, so I was thinking of planting with beans to help feed the corn. The Three Sisters Guild seemed perfect!

The subject came up over here: http://cubits.org/CP101/thread/view/1039/

I don't really want a mess of tangled vines to deal with. How can we make this work right?
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
The WITWIT Badge Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Birds Bee Lover
Dragonflies Herbs Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Composter Hummingbirder
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wildflowers
Mar 25, 2010 10:58 AM CST

Moderator

This was offered on another site and is interesting reading:
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden...

Also learned: The corn should be a sturdy variety that will support the bean vine.


May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Ontario, Canada (Zone 6a)
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Steven
Apr 8, 2010 5:56 PM CST
Good idea Christine! I wish I could try it out but our yard is TINY! Our beans are bush beans and no squash this year just cucumbers and as for corn there isn't enough room to plant enough for good polination Blinking But please try it for the rest of us! We'd like to see how it is done!
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Feb 13, 2012 10:35 AM CST
I think that this will only work well if you're growing corn and beans that you intend to harvest at the mature dry stage -- like corn to grind into cornmeal (or maybe popcorn?), and beans that you want to harvest the dry beans for cooking with. Everything should essentially be ready to harvest at the same time then, at the end of the season. (I too tried doing sweet corn and string beans, along with pumpkins, years ago -- which was a huge mess and impossible to harvest; since then I've thought about it and came to the above conclusion) Smiling
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
The WITWIT Badge Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Birds Bee Lover
Dragonflies Herbs Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Composter Hummingbirder
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wildflowers
Feb 14, 2012 8:12 AM CST

Moderator

Hi Sandy,

Thank you for the insight! I still haven't tried myself. I think I'll try growing corn first! Hilarious! and maybe work my way up!
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Feb 14, 2012 9:11 AM CST
wildflowers said: I think I'll try growing corn first! Hilarious! and maybe work my way up!


So to speak! Hilarious!

Nothing better than your own home-grown sweet corn, but every time i try it it either seems to get blown down or attract raccoons, which we normally have no problem with, so I've all but given up on it ! I did have good success growing some decorative "mini colored corn" last year, though, so maybe I'll have to try the sweet corn yet again. (On the other hand, last year we bought corn now and then at local farm stands and froze quite a bit, which seemed much less stressful and gave me more room in my own garden...)

Name: Donna
NC
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
dmac
Feb 25, 2012 8:36 AM CST
What is "The Three Sisters"? Just stumbled across this thread and am in the dark:lol:
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Feb 25, 2012 9:00 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Three Sisters are Corn, Beans and Squash and they grow great together.

Corn takes nitrogen and beans actually produce nitrogen. Moreover, a tall corn plant is the perfect trellis for pole beans. But who wants to have their corn growing on dry exposed dirt? So plant squash or pumpkins under the corn and you've got a nice living mulch that protects the ground from drying out and shades the land so weeds can't grow.
Name: Donna
NC
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
dmac
Feb 25, 2012 11:48 AM CST
Thanks--I didn't realize any of that! Makes perfect sense though---may have to try it--small scale for my tiny garden:lol:
Name: Elisabeth Black
Pittstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)
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elisabethblack
Jan 10, 2013 10:30 AM CST
I have used this method for two summers now. My garden is 20x40 feet.

I've done sweet corn, usually hybrid, but I've also done a couple of heirloom varieties. (Martian Jewels are so pretty!) It can become a jungle in there, but the corn ears tend to "stick out" and seem to do well. Last year because of a major squash bug infiltration I lost all my squash and pumpkins, but the corn and beans produced well.

Late in the season after all the corn had been harvested, the weight of the beans began pulling down the corn stalks but at that point all the corn was gone so I was good with it, it was still strong enough to keep the beans off the ground which was all I really wanted. I harvested green beans until well past first "light" frost. Finally being taken out by our surprise Halloween Snow.

Last summer I did my corn in rows of about 10 feet long spacing the rows about 1.5 feet apart.

The first year I followed the native American plan with hills where the center of each hill was about 36 inches apart. This produced thick strong stalks and 4-6 ears per stalk of True Platinum and Silver Queen.That plan called for 1 corn kernel in the center of the hill, 4 bean seeds around the hill at 12, 3, 6 & 9 and the squash planted in the valleys.The pumpkins and spinning gourds produced well that year the beans were tougher because the birds kept stealing the bean seeds. I replanted time and again only to have them stolen time and again.

This past year I over planted beans and corn expecting them to be stolen then protected them with 3 ft. stakes and bird netting, then I had to thin, and thin again and again. There's some oldwives tale about planting three seeds when you plant. One to sell, one to eat and one for the crows. Don't do that if you're going to use bird netting! :)
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Jan 10, 2013 3:06 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

That's great information, thank you for sharing that Elisabeth!
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Jan 11, 2013 6:24 PM CST

Moderator

I agree

I agree, Elizabeth; thank you for sharing your experience with this method.

I do lots of companion planting, but still haven't tried The Three Sisters. Your info will be very helpful to me, and I'm sure others who may be interested in trying.

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

So Cal (Zone 10b)
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OldGardener
Apr 19, 2013 9:40 PM CST
I have used the 3 sisters since the 1970's (?? Blinking ). I use a modified French Intensive system coupled with companion planting so, each year, I rotate using 4 major groups. I consider the 3 sisters to be 1 group, tomatoes, peppers, basil, and borage a 2nd, a modified 3 sisters consisting of cukes, sunflowers, okra, melon and bush beans is the third group and the last group is actually 2 groups that I combine so that it takes up about the same square footage as the previous 3 (if that makes sense). Group 4a is salad greens, celery, carrots, radish, etc and the other, 4b if you will, is potatoes, horseradish and onions. I also use a group system for autumn/winter crops. As we eat a lot of garlic, garlic is used to border each group. Because all but the mini-pumpkins are so aggressive, the pumpkins are planted at the feet of our grapes (we rotate the row each year).

What works best for me is corn on 10-12" staggered centers, 5x5 min to 8x5 max, with the pole beans planted on the intersection followed by a squash and then repeated. I also string corn along the back-most and front-most edges of the squash. After all of these years, it would be foreign to me not to plant them together Smiling

In all fairness, our soil is really rich (years of manure and compost) so we get away with the intense planting. I have found that within a few weeks after planting, the weeds have no room to sprout and the soil stays relatively cool/retains moisture due to the thick covering (especially important in my zone 10 garden where we get 115 degree temps at the height of summer). The beans that are in the middle of the bed are left alone until the end of the season (dry beans) but the beans that are easily accessible are picked green.



"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
The WITWIT Badge Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Birds Bee Lover
Dragonflies Herbs Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Composter Hummingbirder
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wildflowers
Apr 20, 2013 8:00 AM CST

Moderator

OldGardener, thank you for all of the great info. I really hope I can have such an organized gardening plan (and nice rich soil) some day. I like the idea of picking just the beans that are easy to get to and leave the rest for dry beans. Thumbs up I also like planting companions such as borage and marigolds with my tomatoes and peppers. Sunflowers sure would make a really good climing stalk for cukes, I would like to try that. Smiling

And, I would love to see pics of your three sisters growing, if you have any. Or any of your gardens for that matter. Do you have pics posted somewhere?


May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

So Cal (Zone 10b)
Cat Lover Forum moderator Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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OldGardener
Apr 20, 2013 8:36 AM CST
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have only started to take pictures the past month or so. I never have been much of a camera person until joining this site (this site was my motivation to pick up a camera for the first time - oh wait, I did have a polaroid "snap and go" back in the mid 70's, too Rolling on the floor laughing ). I will, however, be sure to get pictures this year.

I do have other pictures posted that I think are accessible through my profile (?) but they are mostly of flowers that have started blooming this past month (my best half is responsible for the the 2 December pics).

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
The WITWIT Badge Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Birds Bee Lover
Dragonflies Herbs Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Composter Hummingbirder
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wildflowers
Apr 20, 2013 9:11 AM CST

Moderator

That is so funny because I have the exact same story! Rolling on the floor laughing I put the camera down back in the 70's because I was NOT any good at picture taking, plus the cost of film and development, it was too expensive! I'm still not a great picture taker, but I'm better, especially since digital cameras came along, I can take as many as I want, keep the good ones and delete the rest. I delete a lot of pictures! Hilarious! Hilarious!

I look forward to the pictures you get this year. Smiling
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

So Cal (Zone 10b)
Cat Lover Forum moderator Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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OldGardener
Apr 20, 2013 9:17 AM CST
That is so funny! I am the same way. For every 10 pictures I take, I may keep one!
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
The WITWIT Badge Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Birds Bee Lover
Dragonflies Herbs Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Composter Hummingbirder
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wildflowers
Apr 20, 2013 9:47 AM CST

Moderator

Me too! nodding

And how lucky for us that you started taking pictures because now you can share the beauty of your gardens and flowers. Smiling
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

[Last edited by wildflowers - Jan 20, 2014 7:56 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #393446 (19)
So Cal (Zone 10b)
Cat Lover Forum moderator Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Level 1
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OldGardener
Apr 20, 2013 12:32 PM CST
Your photos are sure beautiful!
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." -Abraham Lincoln

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