Thursday, July 10, 2014

UPDATE: The Three Sisters

As I previously mentioned on our Facebook page,  this is our first year growing corn. We opted for the traditional Native American "Three Sisters" method. For a more detailed description and history, click here to visit Wikipedia.

For our "experiment", we planted:

*Peaches and Cream Hybrid Bi-Color Sweet Corn
* Self-Saved Greasy Pole Beans
*American Seed Dark Green Zucchini

We planted the corn in groups of 4 seeds in each mound roughly 18" apart in late May.Within about a week, little grass-like stalks popped up after a good, soaking rain. I wish I could find the original packaging for the brand-name, every last kernel we planted germinated! (We purchased the seed at Rural King.) 

After our corn stalks were about 5-6" tall, we then planted 3 beans and 3 zucchini around each group of 4 stalks, about 6" from the stalks in a circular pattern. (Although the traditional method calls for Yellow Crookneck Squash specifically, we opted for Zucchini, since we prefer it.). And then, we waited... Then waited some more...

Two weeks had went by when we finally got a few days of steady rain and seedlings began to appear. We've had a fairly dry, cool summer thus far, so I figured that was part of the delay. But in the end, our self-saved beans, who have never given me a problem in the past, germinated at a less than 85% rate. Granted, we used some leftover 2012 stock, but it shouldn't have been an issue.

I made a very big mistake with the Dollar Tree American Seed packets. A less than 50% germination rate occurred for the zucchini. Of an entire packet of White Lisbon Bunching Onions I planted in my herb garden, not a single seed germinated! I wouldn't recommend them and won't purchase them again. I figured I'd give them a whirl. While you really can't beat $.25 per packet, you really do get what you pay for...

Anyhow, as you can see by the photo, the drier than usual conditions haven't been helpful. We don't have an irrigation system, nor a hose that can reach from the house to the garden, so it's been hoofing gallon jugs full of water from the end of the hose to the garden. Interestingly enough, however, the neighbor's field corn seems relatively unaffected and I really haven't seen their sprinklers operating at all.

Since we don't use any chemical pesticides, there have been a few insects (probably grasshoppers) feasting on the bean leaves a little here and there, but nothing of major concern. Since our garden was previously a horse pasture just 2 summers ago, we're still fighting a war against weeds. But, all in all, the plants that did germinate, while perhaps a bit stunted, are growing along steadily.

So far, other than the poor germination, we're pleased and plan to employ this method again next year, assuming the harvest will be average or better for the number of plants we do have. I'll keep everyone posted!

P.S. Be sure to keep your goat away from the corn, they find it delicious!