Monday, May 25, 2015

The jury is still out

El B has three sisters
Ingemar asks:
What are your thoughts on the Three Sisters?
For those unfamiliar with the reference, Three Sisters Agriculture is the practice of planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn grows up, the beans climb the corn while fixing nitrogen in the soil for the corn, the squash spreads over the ground and smothers the weeds.  This is actually a very old method of planting, practiced by a number of New World cultures.  Some peoples added sunflowers, giving Four Sisters, while others buried a fish beneath the corn, but the idea is the same: the plants each provide something for the others.

When I began experimenting heavily with companion planting this was one configuration I passed over, mostly because I'm not fond of corn in the garden and I don't generally eat squash.  We tried it in one 4'x10' bed this year because a) while the lovely and gracious Rogue is fond of corn, she is not fond of weeding, and b) I can always give the squash to the old ladies at church.  Though just in case something bad happened* I planted green beans in another bed as well.  I also used three very different kinds of squash** to see if one performed better than the others.

Pictured above is the experiment thus far.  I waited until the corn was 6" high before planting the companions and they are just now coming up.  Because the ground is not yet covered, I have a bit of weeding to do, including a bunch of little maple seedlings, but it's nothing too troublesome as the good plants are all organized into obvious groups at present. Based on the speed of my pumpkins' growth, I estimate that within 3 weeks this whole bed will be covered by squash leaves.

So with that as background, my thoughts: I am inclined to favor any practice that both sounds good in theory and has lasted a long time.  I'm also confident that I'll be able to find a way to make squash edible, at least by someone. Still, I can boast no actual experience until the harvest comes in, and am therefore loth to recommend any more than that you try it.

* See "Potatoes in a barrel."
** Zucchini, acorn, and an oblong, orange type whose name escapes me. Pretty sure I won't get any true seeds from that arrangement. No loss.


  1. Get over the Potatoes in a barrel thing bro. It didn't work. Ok. It's now like a millstone around your psyche or somethin.
    Ha Ha

    1. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of vegetables, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the potatoes of Satan to buffet me...

  2. I love squash. And it's so easy to make and eat. I'm not a soup eater, or even really into stew... at least yet... but I hear some squash even holds up well in that, might even thicken while adding bites of vegetal goo. As I work up some jerky recipes, and get going with camping, I would guess I may have to relent and get into soups and stews out of necessity. Hopefully in time for fall crops, including those, and tubers of various sorts.

    Good luck. Still sounds like too much work. Burned out trying a garden a couple years in a row. Allergic to weeding, and there is no shot for it now. :p

  3. My guess would be Butternut for the third. My aunt used to make pies with it for Thanksgiving. Tastes like pumpkin.

    Zucchini can be used in salads if you pick it small enough. We had a "little old lady" at church once (you DO realize that most of us are within 10 years of you, n'est pas?) who ate it like a carrot, celery or cucumber--sliced and popped in the mouth.

    I always wanted to try the three sisters but we never did. Can't now due to corn allergies. (Two are allergic to eating it and I'm allergic to the pollen.) Watch for those dreaded squash bugs. They seem to get everything and don't really care too much if there is Seven on it or marigolds around it.

    I think everyone here is allergic to weeding.

  4. Watch for those dreaded squash bugs...

    Indeed. I have them even where I don't have squash. This year I'm going to try diatomaceous earth on them. I'm trying to stay away from Sevin where possible, though I have some, just in case...