3 Sisters, a companion planting concept used by Native Americans for centuries, is a new concept to me and something I wanted to try.
The oldest sister, corn, gets planted first. (It’s customary in some areas to bury a whole dead fish under the corn, but I didn’t have a dead fish, so I skipped that part. Disintegrating fish make an excellent fertilizer.) Once the corn gets some height, the 2nd sister, beans, are planted around the corn. Then the 3rd sister, squash, is planted around the other sisters.
I planted Hopi blue corn and a kind of bean grown only in some parts of the south, called turkey craw, (thanks Sam!) and the squash are spaghetti, zucchini, and patti pans. Miigwech also to an internet friend who is Native American, for some advice he gave me, since he remembers his grandmother planting her 3 Sisters exactly the same way every year.
I probably should have planted more corn than I did, but this is the first year experimenting. The wind blew so hard here for about a week, that the beans were getting ends ripped off, holding on to corn that was flapping in the breeze. So I had to give them a pole and some strings to start to climb on. Now the wind has calmed down and the beans are climbing on string and corn both.
This is more than saving space. The sisters all help each other. The corn supports the climbing beans, the beans set nitrogen in the ground that the other plants need, and the squash spread their lush leaves over the whole area, helping to hold moisture in the soil.
The first squash flowers, like the first cucumber flowers, are male flowers and have the pollen. Then female flowers follow and the bees can go to work pollinating those flowers, which will set the vegetables. There are lots of blooms so hopefully there will be female flowers and some little squash soon.
Cross pollination might be a problem since the three kinds of squash are so close to each other. That won’t affect this year’s squash, but might affect the seeds they produce. Plants from their seeds might not be true, so I won’t be saving seeds from these squash. (Also, since the beans make nitrogen for the other plants, you shouldn’t use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like blood meal, which is so good for most plants other than legumes, on 3 Sisters. The plants can get too much nitrogen.)
Hopefully we’re going to have squash. You know that story about having so many zucchini that you knock on strangers’ doors and put down a bag of squash and then run…..? Maybe that will happen to us, and that would be ok, cos I love to share some of what I grow. That’s one of the best things about gardening.