Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Sisters Review


This summer, two beds were planted in the 3 Sisters method of gardening.  Corn, squash, and beans are those three sisters.  Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet Corn was planted in both beds…not all at once.  The seeds were planted weeks apart to insure ears of corn throughout the summer.  The first planting was in the east and gradually worked westward. Both beds were planted with Borlotto Solista beans.  The eastern bed was planted with Lemon squash.  The western bed was planted with Jarrahdale pumpkins.

Here’s the critique: 

The corn sucked.  No matter when I picked it, it had a doughy texture.  The taste was fine.  How can you go wrong with butter and salt?  The texture was always bad.  It could be the variety or it could be the gardener.  This is my 1st year growing the stuff.  Although the critique rates corn as bad…very bad, I consider this summer a success.  My goal was to get at least one ear of corn.  I surpassed that; but I will have to think carefully if I want to grow corn again.  It does take a lot of water.  Several rows were planted to insure pollination.  Elvin Bishop plants his 3 Sisters garden in a circular pattern; but I’m completely satisfied picking up a few ears at the Farmers’ Market during future summers while humming a Bishop tune.  Let the professionals mess with the mess. 

The beans produced less than last summer when more seeds were sown this summer.  Not good.  Sure the plants climbed up the corn stalks just fine; but I would like a lot more beans to show for the effort.  These beans are great dried and I’m disappointed that not many were produced.  If you plan on using this method, make sure the corn has sprouted about 6” before planting the beans.  Their growth catches up to the corn quickly; so giving corn a head start will provide a nice bean pole for the vines.

Lemon squash produced but not as vigorously as last summer.  It could be that the seeds were left over from last summer.  I would recommend using a squash that trails all over the place when considering the 3 Sisters method.  Bush varieties do not serve the purpose of providing shade on the garden floor beneath the corn stalks.  Aphids attacked the squash in this bed pretty badly this summer.

One success is the Jarrahdale pumpkin.  They have produced quite a few blue-green squash and provided nice shade for the garden floor.  Aphids were around for a brief time.  A power blast from the garden hose seemed to clear things up with the help of ladybugs.

Right now, in the tail end of summer heat, I wouldn’t plant a 3 Sisters Garden again.  Once I have the time of a cool winter to reflect, I may come to my senses and rise again to the challenge.  Maybe I need to go all the way and put a dead fish in the planting bed like Indians did long ago.  Nah.  This pale (or pail) face steers clear of fish.


Sue said...

I just love when people review what worked well (or didn't) at the end of a season, and I found this review particularly relevent as I was going to try this. But, you trials reminded me that I tried corn, on more than one occasion, and was ALWAYS disappointed and ALWAYS thought afterward--it's too cheap and too easy to buy it at the farmers market to ever grow it again. Thank you!!!

Amy said...

Sounds like you learned a lot from growing the three sisters. I have never tried growing anything but tomatoes and only had two or three this summer. Right now, in Austin...if I planted 3 sisters they would just be hot and mad at each other all the time.

Unknown said...

Interesting - thanks for sharing. This is the first year I have heard of the 3 Sisters and I was considering it for next year so I like reading others reviews.

Our corn sucked too and it wasn't in a 3 sister bed, if it makes you feel any better ;)